Every week I am trying to show off the fantastic stories that build and shape what our tattoos are, why we make tattoos, and how those tattoos shape us. I asked you to send your stories on over so I could select the best of the bunch. Today we havet he story of Sgt. Roy Cunningham and his tattoo in honor of those he served with. It was sent courtesy his wife, Erica.
My husband, Sgt. Roy Cunningham, was the original gunner on his Bradley with Chris Moore, Paul Medlin, Travis Haslip, and Alex Varela. A few weeks before May 19th, Roy was asked if he would go to HQ and fill a spot there. He didn’t want to, but it was either him or another soldier. The other guy, Ramirez, begged with Roy to let him stay in the field. Nothing was really happening and we had a baby on the way. I was having complications, so Roy thought it would be okay if he went to headquarters, that way he could communicate with me more.
A good friend of Roy’s, David Behrle, took his spot that day. He was a 20 year old Spc. from Tipton, IA. It was a normal patrol when “it” happened. The Bradley that they were riding in was hit with an IED so powerful that it flipped the Bradley over completely.
Not only was that the deadliest day of 2007 , but that is the day our lives changed forever. My brother, Sgt. Aaron Kestner was in a neighboring base just south of Camp Liberty. His bed friend came running into the room and said “Hey Kestner, isn’t your sister’s fiance on Liberty in Red 3?” I believe Red 3 was the Bradley’s name. Mike said “Dude, you need to call her before we go on Blackout: Roy’s gone. There’s nothing left of that Bradley. They got hit hard.”
So Aaron, against ALL military policy, called me and said “Sis… you might want to sit down. Shit hit really close to home today and I wanted to be the one to tell you. I don’t know if Roy’s alive or not. I’ll try to get to you as soon as I can.”
At this point, I was 32 weeks pregnant and I went into labor. I drove myself to the hospital. to this day I don’t remember getting there. I didn’t hear from Aaron for about eight days. When I did hear from him, he told me that Roy was alive. The next day, Roy called me to tell him David had taken his place that day.
My husband has carried a tremendous amount of guilt over the past five years. It should have been him that day. when he came home March 2008, he started drinking heavily and at one point in time actually pushed me into a wall. I was three months pregnant with our daughter. The “D” word was thrown around a few times because of the alcohol.
He eventually came to terms with the fact that he doesn’t function right. He suffers from PTSD and we have made great progress in the past year. Kevin, his amazing tattoo artist, drew this piece after hearing about what had happened. After this tattoo was done Roy has come to the realization that everything happens for a reason. He wasn’t supposed to be there that day. Logan and Madison have a father because Roy came home. May 19th is a very difficult day for everyone in our family. Knowing what should have been hurts my heart and I feel so much sadness for the families that don’t get to hug their loved ones every day.
This day is a chapter in a book called “Tell Me How This Ends”. It’s Chapter 9: Knights of America.
RIP David Behrle, Chris Moore, Travis Haslip, Alex Varela, Paul Medlin, and Joe Gilmore. KIA May 19, 2007.