farewell jonah

by Amy

it has been a rough week. life in the military is a different life for sure. not better or worse than “normal” life…you know, civilian life.  it is just different. one of the many things that makes life different is your friends. sure we have our friends from long ago, back in the school day friends and college friends but we have very unique friends. they are like family. they are military friends. we meet them in random places at random times and may spend a week or a couple years with them but, no matter what, we make sure we stay friends for life. we don’t talk every day or even every month, but we think of them all the time. we tell them we love them after a long conversation filled with giggles. we tell them we are praying for them after we hear about tragic news. and we make sure to visit them if we are even in the same state. we may not have ever met their parents or siblings, we may not know their birthday or their middle name…but we love them, hold them dear to our heart and feel totally connected to them, no matter how many bases or countries comes between us.

we met nina and jonah in alabama while mr ballard went through his flight training. he spent six weeks in the south without me and kept telling me about this guy jonah and how i was certain to love his wife. i hate set ups. but i adore nina. we met at the spouse training course and were instant friends. she is nothing like me… she is quiet, graceful, feminine. but we became friends and took care of each other for our first time living away from ‘home’, living together for the first weeks while they waited for their house to close.

phil and jonah were good friends. phil respected jonah in every way and they spent many a time studying together as they made their way through flight school. jonah was quiet but silly and would teach our sweet 1 year old how to do things like unscrew the salt shakers at restaurants so she could pour all the contents out. or he would sneak her lollipops at inappropriate times. or tickle her and wind her up right before bed time. or show her how to hide her veggies under the seat of her high chair. she called him uncle wiggles (nina shared the history behind that name given to him by his own nieces and nephews back home) and he loved the stuffin out of her.

jonah died in a helicopter crash in afghanistan last week. i thought about wording that last sentence differently so it didn’t sound so harsh or cruel but…that is what happened. it is harsh and it is cruel.  it happened. and it has been a hard week.

we were able to attend his viewing and funeral in his hometown about two hours south of where we live. as much as i wanted to save the amazing moments i witnessed to be able to give them to nina, it didn’t feel right. i felt like this time, i was there as a friend…not to be doing anything but letting her know i was there. no clicking of my camera to distract or positioning myself for the right moment. just. be. there.

nina is so strong. i watched as a continuous string of people would come to her, wrap her in their arms and bawl on her shoulder. she would rub their back, tell them not to cry and smile at them with her amazing dimples. she cried on the phone with me but i didn’t see a tear fall the entire time i was there. she told me that she is just being carried. God is just carrying her along this, her three beautiful children, her family…they are all just carrying her along. and she is happy for jonah. jealous for him, of course, but more so just happy that he is perfect now, resting safe in the arms of Jesus.

mr ballard wore his dress uniform to honor his good friend.  he was nervous about his shoes, the length of his tie and the pleats in his shirt…and it made me smile.  jonah would have laughed at him if he was here.  but i adored how particular he was for his friend.

Image courtesy Battle Ground Press

there was said to be over 5000 people total (between the two churches) in attendance to say good bye to jonah.  flags were ordered to be at half mast on wednesday through out washington state for him.  the city of battle ground came together to show their respect for him.  it was beautiful.  all of it.  it was so touching to see that so many people were not only affected by him but so many that were thankful for his sacrificing service.

farewell dear jonah. we will miss you but forever hold our memories of time with you close. to live is Christ but to die is gain.  until we meet again…