Life after death: How the family of a fallen military hero found peace in an unlikely place
Masking tears behind dark glasses, Aimee Myers sat in a folding chair on the manicured lawn of Arlington National Cemetery staring at a casket draped with the U.S. flag.
Beside Aimee was her daughter, Dakotah, 5, frozen by heartache. Her son, Kaiden, 2, squirmed next to her.
Aimee’s thoughts darted back and forth from the full pageantry of the military funeral unfolding around her to the last time she was at Arlington a few months before — when her husband, Phillip, was still alive.
Phillip had returned, reluctantly, to Washington, D.C., for a weekend trip to pick up a technical award for his bomb disposal work as a tech sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.
On what was supposed to be a casual day to reconnect at the picturesque resting place for America’s heroes, Phillip had confided in her for the first time.
“If something ever happens to me, I’d like to be buried here," Phillip told her.
Despite the danger of his work, he’d never broached the idea of death beyond dutifully updating his will before each deployment — standard military procedure.
Phillip’s somber instruction that day added to Aimee’s mounting anxiety. She had heard that bomb disposal robots were increasingly unavailable or useless in the remote terrain on his most recent missions.
“I think he knew something was going to happen," Aimee says, with the benefit of hindsight.
A few weeks later, Phillip sent Aimee his first batch of pictures from deployment in a career spanning a decade. Then, Phillip paid off all the family’s bills.
A week after that, he was dead — killed instantly trying to disarm an improvised explosive device by hand in the Helmand region of Afghanistan. For his valor, he was awarded the bronze star.
Phillip, 30, had only one month left on his final deployment.
The ceremony was everything Phillip would have wanted, but all Aimee could feel was anger, doused by icy waves of grief.
A Random Place On The Map
A few weeks later, the anger had not abated when military officials tried to help her make a decision about her family’s future.
While Phillip had been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Aimee and their two children had been living on a British Royal Air Force base at Lakenheath, England.
Aimee’s military liaison pulled out a map to help her pick a new home in the United States, and she could hardly care.
Aimee pointed to a spot where she had no friends, no family, and no reason at all to live: Anderson, South Carolina.
The only thing Anderson offered was a straight shot up Interstate 85 to Arlington, Virginia, and Phillip’s grave.
It wasn’t a decision, really, more like a surrender to fate or whatever arbitrary forces she thought controlled the universe at the time.
But, in hindsight, Aimee knows it would be hard to call what happened next random.
In 2009, Aimee and her children moved into a brand-new subdivision right across the street from a young family that attended NewSpring Church.
The Stricklands had seen Aimee and her children come and go, and they would smile and wave, but Aimee always seemed quick to enter the house, Chasity Strickland says — almost like Aimee was dodging them.
Their first conversation happened the day the Stricklands’ house caught on fire — like an intervention from heaven itself — and it proved the beginning of a fast friendship.
Slowly, Chasity learned the tragic details of Aimee’s life and the circumstances that led her to Anderson, and she felt a growing sense that she was to play a small part in a story God had already written.
Watch the video above to see how God brought the Myers family out of the prison of their past and its pain and gave them hope for a future.