Author: Darla Grese
When you’re a twin, loneliness is somewhat unfamiliar because you’ve always had each other. So when a twin passes, the other is left unprepared. Our loyalty was steadfast and our devotion to one another, solid. Our love was unconditional no matter what the circumstances. I’m so grateful every day for the memories of the joy and laughter that we shared together. I know the bond that Kelli and I shared is impossible for anyone to replace.
This memoir has become something so much more than initially intended. It’s become a documented journey barely scratching the surface of the love between two sisters. And surprisingly, it’s also become an outlet for me to speak candidly and honestly about my struggles with the cause of Kelli’s death. This is a love story turned tragedy. An exposure of one of the greatest healthcare failures killing Veterans and civilians, and a cry for help to remedy the fiasco.
I’ve stressed about who I would mention in this book, nervous that I would hurt someone’s feelings by not mentioning their names. But I’ve realized that it’s impossible to do. Kelli had so many great friends, some I’ve never even met.
I need each person to know who has taken the time to reach out to me in whatever capacity that if it weren’t for your heartfelt show of support and love, I don’t know that I would be able to muster the energy to even get up each day. Kelli, we did it.
Darla M. Grese is a twin sister who lost her better half to side effects from prescribed medication. As a U.S. Navy Veteran, she is an advocate of Veteran X and Veteran Hope programs that address mental illness, PTSD, and unintentional addiction issues. Both programs are sponsored by the Veteran Affairs Medical Center and focus on Veteran recovery and independence. She raises money for Team Kelli and annually participates in the Out of the Darkness Walk at Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach (http://www.sos-walk.org/sos/). While continuing to bring awareness to this cause, being a loving parent is her favorite passion and the main focus of her life. Darla’s love for the arts has been expressed as a talented actress with appearances in The F.B.I. files, The New Detectives, Diagnosis Unknown, Wicked Attraction, Discovery Channel’s The Haunting, and the movie Atlantis Down. She currently works full time as a respiratory therapist at a trauma center in Norfolk, Virginia.
He was extremely short with a goofy mustache and a mousy voice. I can still hear that tone today and it makes me cringe. A female who towered over him joined in the attack. They were our company commanders, our CCs. From then on, we referred to them as Ma’am or Sir. “On the line!” they synchronously shouted. Bewildered, we lined up with bed hair, bad breath, and all. We were then whisked off to the barracks, our new home for the next twelve weeks. The barracks was just like you’d see in the movies; A large, bare room filled with bunks. We were instructed to pick a rack and stash away our clothes quickly into foot lockers. Of course I chose the bunk with Kelli. She took the bottom and I took the top. “On the line!” We hurried to our positions, standing erect with our hands perfectly positioned at our sides. Down the line they went, examining our footlockers, our stance, and toe alignment. Our anxiety increased with every bit of verbal battering. I was so distraught even my fingers were tingling. Some of the recruits’ belongings were tossed into the middle of the room. Other recruits were being screamed at and openly berated which only added to my panic. One CC stood in front of me nose to nose. He glanced at my name, my face, and then at Kelli’s name, face, and then back to mine. Yep, he figured out that we were twin sisters. I was waiting for the same excitement and fascination we have always known that usually came with this discovery. I was expecting the same three questions that were always asked in the same sequence, “Are you related?” “Are you sisters?” And then finished off with, “Are you twins?” But I couldn’t have been more off. Instead, he blurted to the company in a foreboding tone that there were a set of twins amongst them. Just what I didn’t need-more focus on me-on us. He mockingly shouted that because Kelli and I looked so much alike, we would have to be separated to avoid any confusion. He then ripped all of my belongings out of my locker and insisted I move to the opposite end of the barracks. Yet another moment when I wanted to deliver Kelli an I-told-you-this-was-a-bad-idea beating.
Later that day after we were unpacked and settled in, Kelli came down to check on me. I informed her that I was leaving. I was going to tell our CC that I was suffering from some sort of mental illness and that I wasn’t stable. Kelli didn’t take it seriously until several minutes later when she saw me in their glass-enclosed office. It was designed this way to enable them to have eyes on us at all times. Through the glass, I saw a horrified Kelli watching. I thought I did a pretty damn good job at pleading my case but they didn’t buy it. They motioned for Kelli to come in and I knew from the look on her face that Kelli just wanted to curse me out, right then and there, but couldn’t, which was more than satisfying to me. Kelli, as dutifully expected, confirmed that I wasn’t crazy and requested to talk with me alone which the Chiefs’ reluctantly permitted. Kelli did her best to convince me that I could handle boot camp and that it would only get easier with time. I didn’t believe a word she was saying. To me, it was a stubborn trap-I was stuck there. And for the record, it didn’t get any easier. And anyone who claims that boot camp is fun is delusional. Just sayin’.