Editor’s note: This is the second essay in a 12-part Father’s Day series entitled, Honoring Fathers Who Serve. In May, we asked readers to submit essays about the men who have served our country.
My husband, Lance Corporal John Hill, joined the U.S. Marine Corps when we just began dating in ‘05, at the age of 18. He trained in the School of Infantry where he became a machine gunner and from there, was stationed in Twentynine Palms, California. We got married in January ‘06 and I moved from a small town in Southwest Missouri to California. A place I thought sounded beachy and tropical, I soon discovered that it was indeed sandy, just not the “sandy” I had expected. The dessert was the complete opposite of what I had in mind.
That summer my husband trained to deploy. He trained with his first unit the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines Weapons Company. Then, last minute before Mojave Viper he switched to the 3rd Battalion 4th Marines H&S Company M.A.P. (Mobile Assault Platoon) Platoon. That August they deployed to Al-Qa’im, Iraq on an “extended” deployment for 9 months. I can’t even begin to describe what he and his unit went through, what they saw, and what they did. I just know that they did their job and they did their job well. Something that neither I nor any other civilian would ever understand. What I do understand is that war is something that you must experience firsthand in order to fully know what it means. My husband participated in sleepless nights, illness, missions, patrols, firefights, and was hit by several IED’s.
Being a machine gunner, lead machine gunner at that, his permanent seat was up in the turret of the Humvee, he was jolted a lot while hit by IED’s. This caused him to break his back in two places, and TBI (traumatic brain injury) but still he pressed on without complaining or seeking medical attention, finishing out the deployment. Upon his return in 2007, he was eventually diagnosed with TBI, PTSD, and his broken back was confirmed. He struggled a lot with the transition of being home but we always put it in the back of our minds. Soon after, I became pregnant with our first son.
January 16, 2008 our world came crashing down when I gave birth to a four pound, nine ounce baby boy. He was stillborn. Though my husband and I were already going through a lot during that time, post deployment, I never seen pain in my Marine’s eyes, even considering he was in a lot of pain due to his back, until the day we lost our son. But even so, I never stopped acknowledging that my husband was a father, he was the daddy to an angel, and I was proud of him and still am to this day.
Two years after the loss of our son, my husband was finally Med boarded and Medically Retired from the Marine Corps. Today, four years later, he has been and still is receiving service-connected benefits from the VA, which we couldn’t be more grateful for. Our son would be hour and half years old now and we miss him dearly every day. He has taught us both things about life that we would have never been able to teach him. It took us years to even consider having another child, and we are now expecting twins at the end of July! Through all the trials and tribulations that we have faced in our six and a half years of marriage, we always managed to stay strong every step of the way. The military lifestyle taught us that. I know our twins will be just as proud of their daddy as both I, and their brother in Heaven are!
Lamai Hill is John’s fulltime caregiver with support from VA’s Caregiver program. For fun she enjoys playing golf, walking their French Bulldog, and gardening. The couple reside in reside Nevada, Missouri.