Why do Gold Star families matter so much to me? To you? To any American?
Because their sacrifice, their deep loss, is what has built this great Republic. They are the very legs your freedom stands upon. Since Lexington and the Revolution and the War for Independence…to this very day on foreign soil…your every single breath of freedom has been bought with the blood of patriots willing to give their last breath. These families matter.
These families inspire me to fight through my own battles, my own challenges, because the ability to succeed in any part of my life in this great nation comes from the heartbreak of such loss and cost. I must prevail, in their honor.
So let me share with you a story one Gold Star wife, Jennifer, sent me as I asked about her love story with her now hallowed hero of a husband, Marty Bettelyoun. This is one example of the kind of woman we are blessing this Valentine’s Day with our American Sweetheart bouquets.
THIS IS WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO.
In Jennifer’s own words:
I’ll start from the beginning. I love to write, so it may be long! I met my husband, Tech Sgt Marty Bettelyoun in January of 2007. I was working at a local restaurant on the beach, a single mom with two beautiful girls bar tending trying to make ends meet, and he was in AST (advanced skills training) at Hurlburt Field about to receive his first duty station as s combat controller. He was previously SERE (survival, evade, resistance, escape), but he wanted to cross train and do a more fulfilling job! Something more exciting!
We met in January, fell hard and fast, and he proposed in June. We got married in July, pregnant in August and moved to England on orders in November! It was a whirlwind, we welcomed our son in May, our daughter Isabella in the following September, and Mollie 17 months after that!
We traveled to 17 countries with all of our kids in tow, soaked up every minute of living in the UK, and we grew as a family and a couple. We were there for five years, and Marty was TDY (temporary duty assignment) for most of it. I had to learn how to be not only a military wife, but an ST wife, and it wasn’t easy. I made friendships that I will have for a lifetime.
I learned how to run a household on my own with five kids and a husband whom I felt like would visit from time to time, and I learned how be a proud, loving, supportive wife who supports her husband no matter what because he had to miss birthdays, holidays, anniversary’s etc. to defend our freedom and our country.
After our five years were done, we got orders to return to Hurlburt Field. I was beyond excited. My family lived there. I lost my mother in 2008, and my father was living alone in Florida and in poor health, so moving back home was important to me. My father passed away three months after we moved back home.
We moved home in 2012, bought our dream house with a pool, and settled into the beach life. We loved the beach, we spent many afternoons there as a family. Marty settled into his job at the SOG (special operations group), and I started working part time at my old job that I had before we moved away. Life was busy, we had two in cheer, one in football, and one in soccer. Most of the time we were going in two different directions, a kiss on the cheek when passing each other in the doorway. It was a struggle but we were making it.
Life was pretty darn good.
We had a lot to be thankful for.
In June of 2015, Marty drops a bomb on me. We got orders a year early and we were heading to Okinawa in September. Hold the phone… What? You want me to move these five kids across the world AGAIN? This can’t be for real… But I put on a happy face and did what I had learned to do. Say goodbye to my friends, pack up our house, and get a move on!
Our 8 year anniversary was on July 17th. My husband took our family out to the beach around sunset, just to watch it like we often did, and he got down on one knee and reproposed to me. He bought me a gorgeous engagement ring and promised me the wedding I never got to have since we were married at the justice of the peace. I, of course, said yes and jumped right into planning this small beach wedding that was supposed to take place two days before we flew off to our new lives in Okinawa!
We were in the full swing of starting to PCS (permanent change of station), Marty was at his last day of work for week. It was Monday, and it was 90 degrees outside, and he went into work to do a jump so he didn’t go pay hurt. We were supposed to meet at the mall at 2:30 to get my wedding rings sized. His jump was supposed to take place at 12:00.
At 2:30, I still hadn’t heard from him, I called him… Nothing.
At 3:05, my phone rang. It was an 884 area code so I thought it was Marty. I answered the phone, anxious to talk to Marty and yell at him for standing me up, and I hear “Jen, Jake Miller here”….
I dropped the phone, my heart sank, and I knew… I freakin’ knew… I started saying “No. No. I won’t talk to you. Jake, please… No”. He informed me that Marty was alive but his situation was bad, really bad and he was coming to escort me to the hospital straight away…
I shook the entire way to the hospital, I prayed, I cried, I panicked, I tried pinching myself…
My kids were in a van on their way to the hospital about 10 minutes behind me. When I got to the hospital, I spoke to a very rude, blunt Doctor who told me that the prognosis was bad, Marty wasn’t going to make it, and go say my goodbyes…
When I walked into his room in ICU, he was coding. I grabbed his hand, and at that instant his stats went perfect. They were perfect, for about 4 minutes, and then he coded again. I grabbed his hand, boom, perfect. It was crazy.
Meanwhile, my children had arrived at the hospital and they were scared and confused. Another doctor pulled me into a room and we discussed Marty’s injuries. He felt they were too severe to recover from and they should stop trying to save him. I reluctantly agreed, scared and confused… And alone.
I went to go explain what happened to my children in the chapel, and while I was gone, Marty passed away.
My two oldest girls and I said goodbye to him… And we loaded up a van to return home to our house and our life that we built together…to see all of his belongings just the way he left them when he left to go to work that morning. I thought my husband was invincible. I thought he would out live me. He was an adrenaline junkie, he loved to jump. He loved adventure, and he loved his family.
Marty and another jumper collided in mid air and they both passed away. He died doing what he loved the most, and ironically enough, our relationship died the very place that it started. He was such an amazing man, he loved his kids, he loved me. He loved hard, and he loved deep. He put us before himself in everything he did. He was the best daddy! He spent good quality time with the kids, and he bragged about them non stop.
I’ve never met a man like him, and I’m fairly certain I won’t ever meet a man like him again. He was my soul mate, my best friend, my other half, my life. I do the best I can to get through everyday, and I do it because I know he wouldn’t have it any other way.
The photo of the guys on the plane about to jump was taken minutes before my husband died… He’s the first one on the right.
If this woman’s words don’t light your fire, then your wood’s wet. She lost her husband, killed in a training accident. He had served faithfully. He signed his life to serve and protect a nebulous 300,000,000 people. An ideal. A constitution. And every opportunity at life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness.
The very least we can do is send her a small token of our love and affection this Valentine’s Day. A day for sweethearts is another painful moment in the life of a military widow. Our little bouquet will let her know that this nation is indeed grateful. Purchase one here in our buy one/give one fashion or simply donate to the cause. Every gift, no matter how small, is significant in helping to cover the costs.
God bless you for participating and God Bless America.