Commentary

September 3, 2013

All things happen for a reason

Tech. Sgt. Keith Connella
336th Recruiting Squadron

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas – Most think that we have complete control over what happens next in our world. Life can always throw obstacles at us where we have to adapt and overcome. At times we can feel as if the whole world is about to crumble in front of us.

To be able to make the best of these situations is always easier said than done. In today’s times keeping up with the pace of the rest of the world can seem as if our lives are measured by major events that happen.

Looking back it’s easy to see that the most memorable occasions to mark times were really good or terrible bad. The birth of my children and almost having one of them die in front of me is something I will never forget.

While stationed at Kadena Air Base in Japan, I worked as a jet engine mechanic. Like all other maintainers, I loved the job and took a lot of pride in what I did.

My wife and three daughters loved living overseas and experiencing the Asian culture. The second year we lived there my 2-year-old asthmatic daughter Reagan came down with a really bad case of pneumonia. It progressively got worse and she was finally admitted into the intensive care unit where she stayed for a week.

Although she was released from the hospital she still stayed sick the remaining time we were there. Exactly a year later we were back in the intensive care unit. This time she had double pneumonia which quickly took a turn for the worse. Our other two daughters left their youngest sister at the hospital thinking she would be back playing with them the next day.

After being there five days we went from having a very sick daughter to a little princess fighting for her life. Her heart and lungs had worked too hard to give her enough oxygen so the doctors decided the only option was to intubate her and put her on a ventilator to give her body a rest.

Before they put her under, her heart rate and breathing were so rapid she couldn’t talk or cry even though she wanted to. The doctor injected her with a sedative to put her under and before she closed her eyes I whispered in her ear, “I love you.” She put her three little fingers up signing back “I love you,” which is something we always did. That was the absolute lowest part of my life.

The doctors told us at this point that things weren’t good. They then called in a chaplain to talk to us. Her vitals continuously got worse until they said the only thing left to do was pray. I kept thinking, “How are we going to tell her sisters that she’s not coming home to play with them again?”

On the third day her eyes and face started swelling and didn’t even look like our baby girl. My wife and I cried for seven days straight. We had commanders, supervisors and friends try to visit us while we were there. I didn’t want to see anyone. This was by far the worst event we could ever experience.

On the seventh day the day the doctors decided to take her off the ventilator to see if she could breathe on her own. She awoke after seven days and looked at us and just smiled. The doctors decided she needed to be transferred to a hospital that specialized in her condition. They called in a Reserve unit from Montgomery, Ala., to fly her on a medical evacuation mission to the Henrietta Egleston Hospital for Children in Atlanta. She made a two-week recovery there. We were told she had to remain there near the specialist.

Two months later I left my family in Atlanta and flew back to Japan to finish my tour there. The commander called me in his office and asked what I wanted to do. I told him I would stay there and finish up my time and join them after I got back stateside. He said he would make some calls to get me back there.

The next day he said he got me a job in Atlanta. He said I could do postal duty or recruiting. I told him I was jet engine mechanic and I didn’t know anything about either of those jobs.

He then said “Before you came in the Air Force you didn’t know how to be a jet engine mechanic and now you’re one of the best. You have to step out of your comfort zone to grow.”

I said yes, I would do recruiting to be back with my family. A few months later I started recruiting school. It was obvious my personality didn’t fit what Recruiting School was looking for. I struggled through and finally got through it.

After arriving at my office like all other recruiters I wondered what I got myself into. After a few weeks on the bag I was getting the hang of things. A year later I was Rookie of the Year, and six months later I was No. 1 in the 336th and in the running for a Gold Badge.

The point I want to make is everything happens for a reason. I loved being a maintainer. I was happy to finish out my career on the flightline for 12 hours a day. Now I’m in a job where I love going to work every day.

Having my daughter get sick was the worst thing I’ve ever been through, however, as I’m typing this article she is showing me her artwork form her first day of kindergarten.

Today her condition has been perfect since being back stateside. The doctors say her asthma was brought on by the climate in Japan. My family and I are closer now than ever. It’s strange to see how the worst thing in my life could lead to a great start to our next chapter of my career.




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(U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Brett Clashman)

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