Kelli Willoughby’s parents were hit by a drunk driver on Memorial Day 2003. Read her story and join her in remembering her mother this year:
Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation and although my mother was not in the armed forces, I honor and remember her, during this holiday.
On June 3, 2003, my parents were on their way to a friend’s house when they were hit head on by a drunk driver. My father was driving their SUV, my mother was in the passenger seat. The drunk driver, driving a semi, had passed out at the wheel and drifted into my parent’s lane on a curved bridge.
While my parents were out, I was babysitting my siblings. We had just ordered pizza and settled in for a movie, when I was called by the local Sheriff’s office. They asked me to come to the scene of the crash, and when I showed up it like the end of the world to me. All I could see were fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances. They informed me that my parents were being airlifted to Tampa General Hospital.
At two in the morning, my mother was going into her last surgery of the night. She had severe open breaks on both legs and the doctors had a very difficult time stabilizing her enough to perform any kind of surgery on her. When they finally got to operate, a tiny piece of tissue lodged into one of her blood vessels and stopped her heart for six minutes. After about three weeks in the ICU, it was determined that she had no brain activity and according to her living will, we took her off life support. Even though this was an act that she clearly wanted, giving up the desperate hope that she would open her eyes again and speak to me was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. A little over a month from the date of the crash, my beautiful, smart, wonderful mother, Rhonda Davis, died on July 11, 2003.
My father, a member of the United State Army, suffered injuries that he continues to battle through to this day. His personal and professional life was shifted off course by someone else’s decisions.
I started this blog by referring to Memorial Day and its association with my mom. Every year when Memorial Day comes we see countless pictures of heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery, families laying wreaths at headstones, and faces of men and women who gave all to protect our country. My mom was not a Soldier who died in Afghanistan or a Marine who was killed in Iraq. However, she was my hero. She was the person who made me who I am, who taught me right from wrong, and who loved me unconditionally.
She was a dedicated military spouse who put her family above all else and who did her part to serve alongside my father. She faced frequent deployments, frequent moves, and held our family together just the same. Her final resting place is at Arlington National Cemetery, an honor she earned through her 23 years of being a military spouse. Even though she is not a service member, I am proud that my mother, my hero, is forever among the greatest heroes of our nation. On Memorial Day and every day, we should remember the brave souls who gave their life for our freedom, but I will also forever remember the bravest, strongest woman I have ever known.