'Moving forward without forgetting'
April 2, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. --Alashia Quick's dreams of living a long life with her Army husband were dashed suddenly on a Sunday morning in August 2006.
A bride for only three years, she answered the doorbell that morning to learn her husband, Sgt. Marquees Quick, had been killed in Iraq.
And with that news, the couple's dreams of buying a house, starting a family and doing all the things that young military couples do simply vanished.
On Aug. 19, 2006, Quick's 28-year-old husband was killed in Ramadi, Iraq, while conducting security and observation operations. His unit came under attack from enemy forces using multiple grenades.
"The loss never goes away." Quick said. "He died on my brother's birthday. When I lost him, it just hurt."
Today, Quick is still dreaming, although her dreams are different. Stronger and more independent, she has learned to live with the deep hurt her husband?'s death has left in her soul. Her dreams now include making a difference in the lives of veterans who she helps through her job in retirement and separation services at the Defense Finance and Accounting system at the Garrison?'s One Stop, being part of Redstone?'s Survivor Outreach Services program and the Arsenal community, and, hopefully, someday finding love and getting married again.
Saturday is Gold Star Wives Day in the U.S., a day designated by Congress to honor the spouses and families of fallen service members, and to recognize the contributions of members of the Gold Star Wives of America. In honor of the day, Quick and other wives of Redstone's fallen service members will spend time together in a creative spirit painting activity hosted by Survivor Outreach Services.
"It?'s a healing time for us when we are together. It's our time when we can talk about our loved ones and what has happened without being judged," Quick said. "It's a time for us to talk, to have a good laugh and to share. It really helps me."
Gold Star support
Quick was the first Gold Star wife from the Global War on Terrorism to locate in North Alabama. Originally from the Birmingham area, Quick was living in Germany when her husband was killed. Although she decided to move back to Alabama in late 2006, she chose Huntsville over Birmingham as her new home because of Redstone Arsenal.
"I wanted to be close to a military installation," she said.
"When I got here, a lot of people didn't know my situation. There were military widows here, but their husbands had died of natural causes. So, I was different and there wasn't a support group here for people like me."
In December 2006, Quick and the couple's dog, Molly, moved into their new home in Owens Cross Roads.
"It was hard at first, very, very hard. I didn't go out much at the time," she said. "Everything sort of sunk in. Right after he was killed, so much happened so fast that it didn't seem real."
Slowly, she started to put her life back together without her husband. In July 2007, she began a new job with the Garrison's Finance Office. The job not only gave her a way out of thinking about her loss but it also gave her a work family where she feels loved and supported.
Then, a 2008 Redstone Rocket feature on a new widow's support group at Bicentennial Chapel connected Quick to a group of three women who lost their husbands in war. They would later be the first members of Redstone's Survivor Outreach Services, which is part of Army Community Service. SOS provides events, activities and other support programs for SOS families. Recently, SOS celebrated the unveiling of its Wall of Honor at its new home at the Community Welcome Center, building 3443. On that wall is a picture of Quick's husband, who is among 46 fallen service members from North Alabama.
Meeting her best friend
Quick met her husband in Birmingham in early 2003 when she was taking a computer class at night in hopes of advancing her career at a local bank. Marquees Quick, who ran an online computer business during the day, happened to be her teacher.
"He told the class one night that he had a hard time meeting people, especially nice women. I invited him to my church and told him it had a singles ministry. I told him, 'There are still good women out there.' So, he attended church one Sunday and came back the next Sunday, walked me to my car and asked me out," she recalled.
From there, they were inseparable. Their first date was Feb. 9, 2003, and they married on Valentine's Day a year later.
"He had old-fashioned morals. He was big on family. He loved his grandmother," Quick said. "He was polite and courteous and opened doors for me. He was a driven, very ambitious professional. Everything he did, he went above and beyond."
Besides loving his wife, Marquees Quick also loved computers and the military. He had enlisted in the Army right after graduating high school in 1996. But after his enlistment period, he transferred to the Alabama Army National Guard and opened a computer business with his brother in 2002.
Quick's dad had been in the Reserves all the time she was growing up, so her husband's Guard career didn't give her any reason for worry.
"He asked me how I felt about the military. He asked if he deployed, how would I feel. He wanted to make sure I would be OK. That was an important part of our relationship," Quick said.
Returning to the Army
Two months after they married, Quick?'s husband went back to active duty.
"The National Guard was getting called up to deploy. Marq said that if he was going back to the Army, he wanted it to be his choice," she said. "He loved his country enough to make the choice to go back to active duty."
The couple moved to Germany, where he was assigned to the 1st Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division in Friedberg. Soon after he got there, the unit deployed, but he was assigned to the rear detachment. When the division returned from their deployment, Marquees Quick spent a year training with them and then deployed with the division in January 2006.
"He was proud of his service to his country. He loved the military. His granddad had served in the military and he wanted to be like his granddad," Quick said. "He loved the camaraderie of Soldiers. He took his role as a leader very seriously."
But he also knew how to have fun. Quick recalled one time when her husband was out in the field on a training mission and he called her from his cell phone.
"He kept talking and talking, and asking me what I was doing. Before I knew it, he was right outside the door. He surprised me good that time," she said. "He loved to laugh. He lived every day as if it was his last. He made every minute count. He really enjoyed life."
Quick remained in Germany during her husband's deployment, working in finance for the Army. She spent her free time working out and losing weight so that she could surprise her husband when he made a trip home in July.
"I was so excited when it was time for him to come home for a visit because I had lost a substantial amount of weight," Quick said.
"I picked him up from the airport in a new BMW X-5. He didn?'t even recognize who I was because I had lost so much weight. When he finally recognized me, he just threw me over his shoulder. That?'s the kind of funny guy he was."
Planning for future
During his two weeks of leave, the couple talked a lot about their future together.
"We were looking at houses and talking about having kids. We were a young military couple looking forward to life with Marq moving up in rank and me being the supportive wife," she recalled. "We didn't make it to that chapter."
They spent time together at a retreat center for Soldiers and their wives. The time was idyllic.
But there were a few dark times during that visit, too.
"I had never seen my husband cry," Quick recalled. "He told me some bad things about the war, and then he broke down and cried. I had never seen my husband that emotional before."
On Aug. 3, Quick took her husband back to the airport so he could return to the war. She didn't expect it to be their last goodbye.
"He wasn't even back two weeks," she said. "The day it happened, I was with a co-worker. We went to work out and then we went shopping. I was over at her house and I kept looking out the window. The wind was blowing so hard.
"I went home and that night, his dog Molly and I were in the master bedroom when the door just slammed. I thought, 'What?'s going on?' Sunday morning, I woke up without the alarm clock. I looked at the clock and it was 8 o?'clock on the dot and that's when the doorbell rang."
The next few weeks were a whirlwind as Quick traveled back to Birmingham for her husband?'s funeral. She remembers the support of lots of family and friends as well as support from the Army, she remembers being part of television news interviews with the Quick family and she remembers the Patriot Guard Riders keeping protestors at bay.
But then, Quick returned to Germany to decide her future.
"I had to go back. I had to finish up my job and pack. I had a good support system in Germany that helped me," she said. "But I was leaving at the same time when Marq's buddies were coming back from the deployment. That was the hardest thing for me. It hurt a lot."
Life moves forward
Quick travels to Birmingham whenever possible to visit her husband's grave at Zion Memorial Cemetery. Those trips have gotten less frequent as time has gone by and her life has taken her in a new direction that includes involvement in patriotic programs in Huntsville, including Veterans Day activities and SOS-organized programs.
"It's important for us to remember our fallen service members because they paid the extreme sacrifice," she said. "Everyone is called at some point for something in their lives. These fallen service members loved their country so much that they went to fight for their country. That's not an easy decision. But they go because they love their country and they love their families.
"Freedom is not free. Someone paid the extreme price for us to be here and enjoy the luxuries we have every day."
Since her husband's death, Quick has also mourned the loss of his father, who died of cancer, and his beloved grandmother. She also lost her husband's dog, Molly, to skin cancer.
"Molly was part of Marq. It was the last part of him that I had with me. So, that was very hard," she said. "But I still have my memories of him."
Quick said moving to the Huntsville area was a good decision for her.
"The closeness of the military family here really helps me," she said. "I am around people every day who know the military world. That gives me a lot of comfort. I don?'t know how I would have made it if I had gone back to Birmingham. I don't know how I would have made it without the support of the military."
And she would not have done anything differently when it came to loving her husband.
"I didn't get mad at the Army when Marq was killed because I knew my husband. He loved the Army and being a Soldier, and I loved being his wife," Quick said.
"What has happened has made me stronger. I've learned a lot. Being a military wife is not easy, and it teaches you to take the good with the bad. You have to take things in stride and keep pressing forward."
Redstone's SOS has helped Quick with pressing on as she learns how to live a happy life without her husband.
"When I first joined the group, it really felt good knowing all I was going through were things others felt, too. It was good to know I wasn't crazy for how I felt. There was a period when it hurt like the dickens just to see a Soldier in uniform," she said. "But I've gotten past that. The group has helped me with trying to move on, with moving forward without forgetting."