MDB supply sergeant supports others despite personal loss
February 11, 2009
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo.-Her job as supply sergeant at the 100th Missile Defense Brigade (Ground-based Midcourse Defense) headquartered here was always more than just a paycheck for Army Staff Sgt. Kristine Bombard.
The military had been a way of life since she was 19 and the past five years serving in this unit has cemented her feelings that the Army is her extended family.
She runs her supply room like the proverbial tight ship, everything in its place; everything signed for; everything neat and organized. From her first day in the unit, she fully entered into the life of the unit, volunteering for both the hard work and the fun times with equal vigor. She began serving as a National Guard Soldier pulling a short six-month tour that turned into an Active Guard tour.
When Bombard announced her first pregnancy in mid-2006, the unit shared her joy. Literally, in many ways - attending a baby shower, chipping in for gifts, cuddling baby Eliana when mom brought her in for frequent visits. At a unit hail-and-farewell ceremony, Eliana (aka "Ellie Belly") was formally and happily hailed as a new member of the 100th MDB family. She smiled placidly when held up for introductions, an earmark of her sunny, peaceful nature.
At five months of age, Eliana came down with bacterial meningitis. Within 48 hours, she was dead.
The unit reacted as a family, mourned as a family and attended the funeral en masse in Class A's.
Bombard and her husband Mike took time off to mourn. When she returned to work, fellow Soldiers were amazed at her quiet strength.
Maj. Laura Kenney, who had been on leave during the baby's illness but had called back to check on her condition, didn't know how to approach Bombard when she returned.
"I'd never known anyone who had lost a baby and as a mother myself, who had also held and loved Eliana, I knew it would be hard to face Kristine. I couldn't understand how she could be still standing, still doing her job, still being her wonderful self," Kenney said.
Bombard's answer when the Soldier who'd been on leave finally got up the fortitude to ask'
"I'm looking at this as sort of a long business trip. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'll see my daughter again. I have my faith, and I know she's being well taken care of and loved," Bombard said.
In her grief, Bombard did not retreat. Instead, she reached out to others. Hearing of a mother in her former playgroup who had lost a baby to sudden infant death syndrome, Bombard attended the funeral and afterwards approached the mother, whom she had not known.
"It turned out, the mother had prayed for someone to talk to who could understand what she was feeling. And that was me," Bombard said.
A member of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Bombard and her husband also helped a similarly bereaved couple from the congregation work through their initial sorrow at the loss of their eighteen-month-old child.
Today, the Bombards are again parents of a beautiful five-month-old baby girl. Her name is Eva, and she shares her middle name, Kaye, with her older sister.
When asked, the Bombards plan to tell Eva about Ellie, and the girls' mother said, beaming, "Oh, we've already told her. We show her pictures, and talk about her big sister..." At this, for the first time, her eyes filled.
"What's going to be the hardest is, watching all of Eva's firsts and wondering what Ellie's would have been like, knowing that we won't see them. But they are very different children - Eliana was very peaceful and laid back, while Eva is very demanding; she wants what she wants when she wants it, and makes sure she gets it," Bombard said, ending with a smile.
Bombard just reenlisted for six years. She loves her job and she loves the unit, both for its individual Soldiers and for its mission.
"When I first got here, I had no clue as to what the unit did; something about missiles was all I knew. Now I'm very aware of what missile defense is all about, and I couldn't be prouder that we are the ones keeping America safe. Every time I see an Army commercial, or someone comes up on the street to thank me for my service because I'm in uniform, I feel proud to be part of something so huge; defending our freedom.
"They were there for me, every single one of them, when I needed them, and I am there for them," Bombard said.