I will never forget Ron Williams. We met in Okinawa, Japan, where we were both stationed in the United States Air Force. He was a kind, funny and gentle soul. He was about 5 ‘ 10 and slim. His smile was contagious, when he smiled, you smiled. When he told his corny jokes of course I laughed. That was the best, I truly thought his jokes were funny resulting in his thinking he would be the next Dave Chappelle. He always checked on me, he was the brother I never had. He committed suicide shortly after I left Okinawa.
I left the island quickly and did not have a lot of time or energy to catch up with all my peeps before leaving. But he and I did have a long talk before I left and he shared his dreams of wanting to get married and have a son! When I learned of his choice to kill himself with the very pistol given to protect our country it messed me up. The truth is it fucked me up bad.
I did not want to leave my friends in Okinawa. I had a crew of people there and we held each other down. I think each of us was experiencing a life transition, aside from being stationed overseas, that we had that one thing in common, transition. Although, we did not spend lots of time together when we did we had fun and we laughed.
There were so many fun things to do in Japan, you could island hop, which was beautiful. All by boat of course, and most of the small surrounding islands to Okinawa were not even inhabited full-time by people. It was so romantic and spooky at the same time.
View of the Pacific Ocean from Okinawa, Japan
Henry (affectionately known as the old man in our crew), adopted his teenage nephew and became a single father in the military. Maria was going through an ugly divorce with her daughter’s father, while Maria remained a single parent. I was a single parent to Xaviar. Ron was a single guy on a mission to find a wife, and have children. He loved Xaviar like a son! Then there was Todd. He was going through a breakup yet wanted to be married and had since met our mutual friend, Kenya. Momma Bev was the only one who “had it all together.” She was my rock! I met her at church; her professional work was social service, and counseling, which was her passion so naturally she was our counselor outside of work!
When you walked into Momma Bev’s office it was like a shrine of Japan, with Japanese swords and sculptures of Buddha, you would also see elaborate wall pictures of scenes of Japan; she had been In Japan for many years and fell in love with the culture. I still think she should have married some cute little Japanese man. We have not seen each other since Japan. I would really like to see her before either of us meet our maker.
I love to travel and I very much ended up enjoying Japan. Though, it was hard to be away from everything I knew. I had never really left St. Petersburg, Florida, for the first 20 years of my life. I was so excited to receive military orders to Okinawa, Japan, and I was even more excited at the thought of seeing the world! I was certain that I would become some badass FBI agent, so I was on a mission.
I will never forget our second night in Japan, laying in the base quarters for active duty families transferring in with dependents. Cold, plain spaces without color, plants, or personality. Unlike a hotel, it is more like a glorified dormitory room with extra rooms. Sleepless, the only thing on my mind was, “What have I done?” I was scared out of my mind and even more scared because this little person laying next to me sound asleep trusts me, I thought. Yet, he has no idea how afraid I am, away from everything I have ever known.
I don’t remember who I called that night, but I do remember calling Chapel 1 the next morning to request a ride to church that Sunday – the one constant thing I knew!
This is where Maria and I met – the only other white girl at the gospel service at Chapel 1 on Okinawa Air Base. Maria is a beautiful, intelligent and extremely kind person. Tall with long brown hair, and an Italian flare, we immediately connected in several ways. After separating from the military we reunited when she moved to Florida, however, we experienced a difficult place that caused derision and broke our relationship for a time. While in Japan we grew close, we laughed and grew as women and mothers. Our children were a few years apart and had a sweet relationship while they were young.
Ron held me down, when I considered suicide myself he was there to tell me all the reasons why I should not commit suicide. Where was I when he needed to hear all the reasons not to kill himself? I felt like I was not there for him. How could he then go and do the very thing he encouraged me not to do! I was so angry when I learned of this. I felt so cheated and robbed. I felt angry for his wife (yes he did end up with a wife) that he eventually married and whom I did not have the pleasure of meeting, unfortunately! She lived in Indiana, where he was from. He talked about her often, though and I know it was difficult for him to leave her back in their hometown while he was so far away.
Military life is not for everyone. The only thing constant is change, and most definitely in the military.
Ron’s life was a gift to Xaviar and me. Strangely, I feel closer to him because next week I will be Michelle Williams. I will have his last name! He would have thought this was the best! I love him like a bro! And just like my cousin little David, who was like a bro to me, and is also no longer here on earth, I truly miss their presence in my life and especially in a moment like this!
We all need friends who will tell us the truth. Not to tell us what to do but to talk through life’s decisions. He was proud of me that I was fighting to get out of the military because I wanted to be a mom full time, I felt like I was missing too much with Xaviar, just too costly, and my dreams to become an FBI agent were laid to rest as I had made the decision to focus on motherhood rather than my professional aspirations. But Ron told me I am doing the best thing because my decision to separate from the military earlier than my commitment was about caring for Xaviar.
I understand some say suicide is a sickness or is the result of a sickness. I think suicide, intentionally killing yourself, and leaving the hard stuff for those left behind is really messed up, and cowardly. I am very disappointed in anyone who makes this selfish decision. Especially given I have considered suicide myself at various times and could have easily committed such an act but chose not to. I am not any better than Ron or my high school best friend, Julie who I also learned committed suicide a few years ago leaving behind a husband and two school age sons to grapple with why their mother is not there anymore.
I realize it may not seem so, although, I am very sensitive to mental health and the reality of real-life problems that we all face. I believe though that there is still a reason to be alive if we are alive and it is not our place to remove life from anyone including ourselves.
Ron will always be my friend! Ron left his mark on me, his life mattered! And so I will remember him and all his smiles, and corny jokes.