Scott DeLuzio 00:00:00 Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast, where we’re focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or family member, this podcast will share inspirational stories and resources that are useful to you. I’m your host, Scott DeLuzio. And now let’s get on with the show.
Scott DeLuzio 00:00:22 Hey everybody. Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Diana Soriano, Diana, and I actually share a similar story and that we both lost a loved one in Afghanistan while we were stationed there while we were deployed there. Diana lost her fiance, Bobby Pagan, in 2010, which also happens to be the same year that my brother was killed in action. She also has gone on to write a book about her experiences, which is titled In Loving Memory: A Story Of Love Loss And Living On. Welcome to the show. Diana,
Diana Soriano 00:00:59 Thank you, Scott for having me.
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:01 Yeah, absolutely. When you reached out and told me a little bit about your story, I was eager to get you on the show and dig into your story a little bit more and find out about it just because, well, first off, anyone who has gone through a loss like this certainly is a story worth telling. There’s a lot of lessons that I’m sure you’ve learned along the way. I know I have. In the aftermath of combat-related deaths like this, the unexpected deaths that take place. There’s a lot of lessons to be learned and I think it’s great that you’re willing to come on and share your story and talk about your experiences, and really get that information out there to help other people who may be going through similar circumstances.
Scott DeLuzio 00:01:57 Whether it was in the last 20, some odd years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the world. Unfortunately with war comes situations like the ones that we’ve both experienced. I think it’s great that you’re willing to share your experiences to hopefully help some other people. Before we dig into your story and your experiences, let’s start with a little bit about yourself. What got you into the military? What got your interest in it, and how did you end up meeting Bobby?
Diana Soriano 00:02:46 I was raised in a house of domestic violence and my parents met when they were teenagers. they’re actually in middle school, and my brother is in high school. There were a lot of issues between them and my dad was on and off drugs. My mom, when they split, was an alcoholic and she was very abusive towards me and my brother. My background was really rough and it came to a point where I was living with other family members to kind of get away and try to get a break. But I found myself always kind of moving back and forth ever since, sixth grade, actually. At 17, between my sophomore and junior year, I finally just had enough and ended up living with one last family member. Then from her, I lived with my first boyfriend and he ended up cheating on me and we broke up, of course.
Diana Soriano 00:03:56 He kicked me out and I was pretty much homeless and I was in high school and I was just determined not to end up on the streets and not to end up doing nothing with my life. My parents made some pretty bad choices growing up. I just took that as an example of what I didn’t want to do. I wanted to do the complete opposite and be successful in life. I joined the military because I was running out of options. Thankfully I was part of a church program called Celebrate recovery in Henderson, Nevada with Central Christian Church. I went there for abuse recovery because I was a survivor of abuse. My sponsor Molly helped me out because, like I said, I was homeless. She put me in an extended stay hotel until I turned 18, which was, I think about three or four months.
Diana Soriano 00:04:53 After I was 18, she helped me get into my first apartment, down the street from my school. I had to work two to three jobs to pay for the bills and the rent for that. That kind of showed academically the stress, what I was going through. My grades started to decline a little bit, but I was still on track to graduate and I was determined to graduate. I also had to stop playing sports. So I lost all my scholarships. You had to have a certain grade point average. I think it was like a 3.5 or 3.8 to get a certain scholarship that I was trying to go for. I lost that. I think I graduated with like a 3.0 or something like that. I was running out of options and I felt like all the doors were closing in on me.
Diana Soriano 00:05:48 It scared me because I was so determined not to turn out like my parents and to make something of myself. I was like, how am I going to afford to pay for college? Like, what am I going to do with my life? This isn’t it for me. My older brother had moved out a few years before me and joined the military and he seemed to be doing great. He was kind of the lead on that. I kind of always followed in his footsteps as a kid. When he was successful in it, I said, if he could do it, I can do it.” I never pictured myself in the military honestly. But it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. I stand by that, to this day. I joined the military and off I went to boot camp.
Scott DeLuzio 00:06:32 I’ve heard that from a lot of people where they came from, a troubled home that things weren’t the picture-perfect life that people are hoping for. They feel like they run out of options. They joined the military, and it completely changed the trajectory of their life. It works out for the better like you said, it’s one of the best decisions that you’ve ever made. It’s good that there’s something like that out there for people who are in that situation where they feel like, I don’t know what else to do. It’s a noble thing to do to serve your country, but it also helps you out as well. it’s kind of, one hand washing the other kind of thing, or you’re helping the country out countries helping you out and everyone benefits from it. I think that’s incredible that you found that and went down that path as opposed to, like you said, going down the wrong path that would have had you continuing in the footsteps of the life that you were growing up in. That’s great that you did that. What about your fiance? How did you guys end up meeting and what was that all like?
Diana Soriano 00:08:00 I had a friend who I met in basic training. Her name is Randell Logan now, Brenda, Logan, Tori. She and I got stationed together at Fort Carson. We went to basic training together, AIT together, and got stationed at our first duty station together, which is rare. I had never met her before basic training. It was kind of cool. She got there before me about a week before me, and she had met this guy named Bailey. That was his last name. Bailey happened to be at the defect, military cafeteria for those who don’t know, happened to be at a defect with a bunch of guys in a booth. We were leaving Deepak from the in-processing center. As we were leaving, she came across Bailey in the booth of guys and Bobby happened to be with. She introduced me and was like, Hey, is this Soriano and Bailey and countless other people, couldn’t pronounce my last name.
Diana Soriano 00:09:05 They say like, Serranos, some weird names or whatever. I just laughed because people always chop up my last name and Bobby spoke up and he was like Soriano. He rolled them off and I smiled. He smiled back and liked my attention. I read his name tape and then Bailey said something smart, and the whole table laughed, but I don’t know what he said. Because I was like focused on Bobby and reading his name tape, and everybody just laughed. After that, we left and as we were walking back, I guess somebody wrote to Logan, I don’t know if it was Bailey or Bobby or who asked if Bobby could have my phone number. And at first, I was like, hell no, I don’t know him. She was always like, you gotta live a little, she called me rhino. She would just be like, why don’t you just open up a little and whatnot. She was lecturing me the whole way back. By the time we got to the in-processing barracks, I was like, okay, you can give him my number.
Scott DeLuzio 00:10:15 That was the beginning of the whole relationship when you got to in-process there, you weren’t in the same unit as a body at the time, is that correct? Or do you have to end up getting transferred into the unit that he was in order to as when we talked before in order to deploy on the same schedule, otherwise you’d basically be, apart from each other the whole time, right?
Diana Soriano 00:10:50 Yeah. I was in three, four, and Logan Bailey, a few other friends that we met in, in processing. They were all in four, four. In three, four, we were part of a brigade, special troops battalion. That’s where I was assigned. They were geared to go to Iraq Bobby’s unit with four, four was going to Afghanistan. The people who were in my unit were already in Iraq returning. I was on rear D where they were gearing up going to NTC and all of that stuff to go out there.
Scott DeLuzio 00:11:23 You ended up getting transferred into the same unit. You ended up deploying at the same time to Afghanistan. Now, what was that deployment like? Were you stationed and what you were doing over there and everything like that.
Diana Soriano 00:11:47 The deployment itself wasn’t terrible. You hear horror stories. I really can’t complain a whole lot about my experience in the deployment, apart from what happened after I lost Bobby. Prior to that, he left most of my friends cause they were all in his unit. I had confided in an NCO the day after he left. about the whole issue with w let me give you a little bit of backstory. Before Bobby left, we spent a lot of time together on his last day there as a private. I didn’t know that I could ask my supervisor, Hey, can I have the day off? Because my fiance, well then-boyfriend, was about to deploy. I’m a private, and back then you just did, as you were told, you didn’t ask no questions, nothing.
Diana Soriano 00:12:41 Right. This was like 2008. I didn’t know. When I found out my NCC at the time, she yelled at me at first, and she gave me a one-second hug. Like I kid you not, it was like one second till she felt bad, then she pushed me off and yelled at me. It was like, Soriano, why don’t you tell me I would’ve given you the day off? My heart sank. I was just like, oh, I was so upset. I was distraught because he was gone. Another NCO told me that you guys aren’t going to be on the same deployment cycle. I was like, well, what is that? She was like when he comes back, you’re either already going to be in Iraq or where you’re going to be headed to Iraq.
Diana Soriano 00:13:24 I don’t want to be prolonged any longer. She was like, well, they’re always needing people because people get pregnant or things happen and they need females to replace the other ones. She’s like, if I were you, I would have changed the deployment cycles and volunteered to deploy for him, to get on the same deployment cycle. I did and thinking about it, I was like, what the hell was I thinking? But I totally did it all over again. I was like, okay, sign me up. She had a person who she knew who was her former soldier, staff, Sergeant Ocampo who to this day is like my favorite and CYC and whatever they did, they did the paperwork to get me over to a four, four, and then I deployed with them and I happened to be in the same exact S1 shop HR shop with Logan. That was cool because like you go to basic training AIT, the first duty station ended up in the same exact shop in Afghanistan. It’s crazy. I feel like I personally have a woman of faith. I have religious beliefs and I believe in God and I feel like God did that on purpose. He was setting me up to have the support that I needed,
Scott DeLuzio 00:14:37 For sure. I’m sure that that is the case. That you had that, that friend there who knew you all, all along from basic training, all throughout the same journey you guys went on, basically the same exact path. You had a lot of the same experiences, the same people that you were with and everything, and you guys just stuck together. That’s pretty incredible, especially in the military where people move around and get stationed in different places, all over the world, really. You still manage to stick with the same person, throughout, that actually is pretty incredible, I think.
Diana Soriano 00:15:19 Okay. I taught out there and everybody thought I was brand new out of AIT. They didn’t know that even to this day, some people are like what you were in another unit. they don’t know that I was in three, four this whole time. I got out there and they put me on casualty operations. Basically, it was on the personal readiness management side of the house. I had to check casualties. I had to work with the medics to get the information on the casualties, send it up to hire, send it back to the states, and whatnot. The first one was a bit difficult because my first casualty that I had to deal with was like a person who was killed in action. I think it was somebody on, COP if I’m not mistaken, I think it was like their commander or one of the lieutenants or something.
Diana Soriano 00:16:08 When you first get the reports, it’s kind of vague. I think I got this. When you start getting more of the details, that’s when it starts getting hard. I can only imagine what it was like for the people who were actually there. My first casualty, I had to get myself mentally prepared for that. My NCO, her name was Sergeant Wang. She pulled me to the side and she just said, Hey you gotta have thick skin to be able to work on this side of the house. I believe you had that thick skin, but you can’t let it get to you. I know some of these reports are going to be very difficult to read. but you have to do your part. She told me the importance of the job, without going into specific details.
Diana Soriano 00:16:56 She told me the importance of the job and said, I can do it just drive on. I did. It was really sad getting a lot of those reports because you hear about dismemberment or like shrapnel and crazy areas. It’s just insane, like what these people experience and what they go through. As I was going through, I was constantly reaching out to Bobby like, Hey, please be careful. Like, this is crazy, but I never thought I would lose him. I was naive to the fact that he was an infantryman. I just didn’t fully understand it back then. Like what it all entailed and what they actually do. Here I am an HR with frickin internet and telephones. We’ve got like green beans down the road.
Diana Soriano 00:17:48 We didn’t have a whole lot in Jalalabad, which is where I was, but there were Green Berets. Like you can go across the airfield and get like cinnamon naan. It was so different compared to what he had experienced, where he was like out there building a COP and like had nothing and rarely had internet and like nothing. It didn’t even have an MWR or we had hot chow. It was crazy. Our conditions were very different, but I didn’t really understand it at the time. I used to get upset sometimes when I didn’t hear from him. I was just like, well, don’t you want to talk to me? Like, why aren’t you talking to me? He had these little push-button Afghani cell phones that everybody had.
Diana Soriano 00:18:30 That’s how we would communicate with each other. You don’t have that out there. He was like, no, man, I don’t have this shit. It was definitely a transition for me. I’m trying to understand that it was just completely opposite for him. He was actually down south, below Kandahar. We were in the Eastern region in Jalalabad. We were completely separate from his unit. His battalion was the only one in our brigade that was pushed down south. It was weird. I don’t know why he was, he was very far so nowhere near each other, which was a surprise to us because we thought we’d be seeing each other here and there in passing or whatever. That just wasn’t the case.
Scott DeLuzio 00:19:19 Well, and it’s interesting too, because, when you get to Afghanistan, I know for me anyway, you don’t realize how isolated certain areas are in Afghanistan, even though it may only be 10, 20 miles away. Which is around here in the United States, 10, 20 miles away. Just hop in the car drive and you’re there and a little bit, but 10 or 20 miles away, it could be like a really, really long journey depending on the mountain terrain and things like that. If you were to get in the truck and drive that way, you might have to go all the way around all these mountains to get to where you’re going. Because there’s no way you’re going over the mountains because they’re just so crazy over there. Things are very isolated. Even my brother and I, when we were in Afghanistan, we were both in Eastern Afghanistan, but we’re about 80 or so miles apart and you’re 90 miles apart. We never saw each other once when we were in Afghanistan, we never had the opportunity to see each other.
Scott DeLuzio 00:20:29 I was in Torkam which was right on the Afghan border. Actually not too far from Jalalabad. We actually drove there a few times to get resupplies and drop things off. It’s funny, you were talking about the cinnamon flatbread. I know exactly where you’re talking about because then we’d stop there. We knew where it was and we’d all go in and pick out that stuff. Because we didn’t have that stuff on our base. But then he was in Paktia province, which also was near the Pakistan border. It was just a little bit further away from where we were. We were both there and kinda interesting how we all kind of spread out, but it’s really not that far in the grand scheme of things, but it is when you’re talking about Afghan distances, because you just can’t travel that far.
Scott DeLuzio 00:21:31 One of the questions that I always get from people is that they wonder how two brothers wound up deployed to the same country. At the same time, they’re usually under the impression that, based on the movie Saving Private Ryan, they can’t possibly let the siblings deploy together because of everything that the people went through in that movie, trying to get people out and everything like that, comes up again. It turns out that they can deploy it together and they do obviously because my brother and I did, but even if that were true in the eyes of the military, you and your fiance weren’t technically related up until that point because you weren’t married. You had some great leadership that managed to get you on that same deployment schedule so that you guys could be together, at least as much as possible. At least if you weren’t together while you’re deployed, you could be together while you’re home. But as far as the military was concerned that you weren’t actually related to each other at that point in time.
Diana Soriano 00:22:43 Yeah. I just volunteered that when we came back that we could have that time together and proceed forward with whatever plans we had.
Scott DeLuzio 00:22:54 Yeah, exactly. I know this is, probably a hard situation to talk about, but what was the day that he was killed? What was that like for you? What happened when you were notified and how did you get notified and what took place during all those events?
Diana Soriano 00:23:22 This is a very touchy subject, but basically, they had moved me from the casualty section to awards. Did all that had literally the cough Keating incident, which was insane. Then we had a person come from rear D out Afghanistan and she kind of took over. She was a specialist, I was a PFC. She kind of took over my position and casualties and I got pushed to awards. When the report came in I kinda already knew how the folders go. We had blue folders and red folders. Red folders meant it was a very serious Angie injury or the person was killed in action. A blue folder meant that they were injured, but it wasn’t like a grave situation, or they were seen at a hospital and could be returned to duty shortly.
Diana Soriano 00:24:26 It was one of those types of things. When the reports came in my former coworker, Sergeant Lamping, she looked up and looked straight at me like, oh, that was the best way I can describe her face. Like, oh shit. That look triggered something in me just to be like, oh my gosh, what happened? I’m watching her trying to do my work. I know you’re not supposed to have headphones in, but I had an earpiece in one ear plugged into, listening to music and I’m watching her grab folders and she grabbed three red folders and two blue ones. There were two others who died with Bobby that day. I was praying and talking to myself in my head, like, please, God, let it be a blue folder.
Diana Soriano 00:25:26 The whole time I was on casualties, I never saw his name. I know it’s sad to say, but I was so thankful that it was never him. When I saw her face, I was like, oh my gosh, he’s a casualty. I just don’t know what it is. When you’re in that section, you cannot say anything until the family is notified. Regardless. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the same shop, in the same unit, whatever, you can’t say anything at all. It’s like a blackout which means no communication until the families are notified. I’m freaking out and I’m like, what is it? Is it red? Is it blue? Is he injured? it sucks to say this, but in my head, because he’d get dismembered. Are his legs blown off?
Diana Soriano 00:26:13 Is his arm broken? Is he okay? I can handle that. I’ll deal with it as it comes, but they weren’t saying anything to me. I went out to the hallway and I grabbed a bottle of water when I came back in, Sergeant Lamping was talking to the major and they were whispering and I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I knew something was wrong. I’m freaking myself out. I’m starting to get anxious. I started to feel tears well up in my eyes. Back then, you were not allowed to show emotion. You just weren’t the only emotion that was acceptable for some reason was anger. people applauded you if you fucking went off on somebody, I dunno, it was insane. I went to the bathroom to get my life together.
Diana Soriano 00:27:01 I went through my tears, wash my face. I was like, okay, stop freaking out. You’re okay. I go back in and she is leaning over talking to my NCO at the time who was Sergeant to HEDA. She had a very concerned look on her face. I was like, fuck, like something going on, people are starting to look at me like they’re concerned. How is it that they know what’s going on? We’re not supposed to tell anybody. That’s how I knew. He’s for sure injured. Something is wrong. They had called in my best friend Logan and told her to distract me. I didn’t know this. Of course, honestly, it wasn’t until like a year or two ago that she finally admitted to me, Hey, I knew.
Diana Soriano 00:27:45 She just carried that guilt for years. But on the back end of the story there, they called her and said, Hey, we need you to take out Soriano and distract her until we figure out what we’re going to do. They told her Bobby was a casualty, but they didn’t give her the details. She really couldn’t. Then they threatened her. You’ll get an Article-15 if you say anything. Rules and whatever. She is stressed out and she has to lie to me and I’m her best friend. She came in and I typically, at that time I was working a swing shift, but I typically went to lunch, which was my dinner. Then I would go work out. We went to the defect and I just couldn’t eat. I just had this terrible feeling.
Diana Soriano 00:28:26 Like I knew something was really wrong. I was trying to hold back the tears. I told her, Logan, something’s wrong. She said, don’t think like that Soriano. I guess ink sticks or like alerts to me. Because she never called me Soriano. She always called me Raynaud, which is a nickname for me. Because she was one of the ones who used to screw up my name. She just thought, we just, she knows how to say it now. But her nickname for me is Riano. She doesn’t call me Soriano. Like, and she was kind of jittery and stuff. She was just like, you got to think positive. I’m like, something’s wrong? Like something’s off about the situation, but they let me go. I’m like, okay, maybe he’s not killed in action.
Diana Soriano 00:29:14 Like maybe he’s really seriously injured. She goes back to the office and I go to my room and I change into PTs because I was going to go work out. It was typically my routine. I’m looking at his pictures that I had taped on my wall and I’m just pacing back and forth. I’m like, please God, like, please let him be okay. He has to be okay. I’m thinking this in my head and then out loud, I just told myself he has to be okay. You promised me. He promised me he was coming back. He’s going to be okay. I heard a soft knock on the door. Oh, my heart. Starting to race right now. I’m starting to feel like the emotions, in my chest. I’m so sorry if I cracked your choke up a little bit.
Diana Soriano 00:30:01 I was knocking on my door and she just said, They need you at the office. She completely tried to avoid eye contact. I locked eyes with her. I made her look at me and said, are you sure please start? Taita like, are you sure you don’t know what’s going on? And she just looked straight ahead at my door. She didn’t look at me. She moved her eyes and she just said, I’m sure. I grabbed my rifle and we started walking back to the office and the office was really close. I want to say less than 500 feet away. But it felt like it was a three-mile-long walk. I was just watching the best kids up on my feet there in the gravel.
Diana Soriano 00:30:53 It was the longest walk of my life. My heart was pounding. My chest is getting tight. I was shaking. Something is wrong. I can feel it. I just had this gut feeling. She opened, or she put in the punch, put to the talk, opened it. We went in and there was like this long quarter. You turn to the right. Then you make a left and it’s a long quarter down to our office. But before then it kind of cuts off and veers to the right. There’s an option for you to go to the right where the SAR mayor’s office was. As we get to that area, I see a Sarno couple, standing outside of the Sergeant major’s office. Sergeant Haidas kind of pushed me to the left, or like having me go to the, or to the right.
Diana Soriano 00:31:39 I’m holding these tears and I couldn’t hold it anymore. I just like it as an uncomfortable sign. He didn’t say anything. He just pointed to the office across from Sergeant Major. There was like this brownish-black leather couch and a table and like a foldout chair and another foldout chair, I think like towards the front entrance of it. I went in there and I just sat down and my Sergeant Major at the time came in, my Major came in with our Chaplain. I guess my hands on my thighs on my lap and he grabbed my right hand and just put it on the table. He looked at me, sorry. He asked me, he just said like, is Specialist Pagan your fiance? I said, yes.
Diana Soriano 00:32:44 At that point, like I’m tearing up. You’re not supposed to cry, but tears are flowing and I’m trying my best to hold it together. He just says I’m sorry to inform you. But specialist Bobby Pagan was killed in action. I felt like everything just went black for a second. I’m sorry. I screamed at the top of my lungs and I was just like, no, just screaming and Sarno, Koppel had sat down on that couch next to the major. He was in between me and the major and I just turned to my left where he was, and I grabbed his arm tight and I was like, please start an uncomfortable, like, no, like tell me they’re lying, please. He just hugged me, and I’m sorry.
Diana Soriano 00:34:05 He hugged me and then I looked like the Major got up and said sorry. The chaplain stepped forward like they were closing in on me. He wanted to hug me or something. I was like, no. I want Logan. Because our office was right around the corner. I’m in there crying and Logan just comes running in with her arms, wide open, ready to embrace me. I jumped up from the chair and I just clung to her. I was just like Logan. They killed my baby. She just hugged me so tight and she was like, I know Soriano. Everything’s going to be okay. AI was just like, no, no, it’s not. I just cried and cried into her chest. Like her whole uniform top was just soaked in tears, I was completely in shock and in so much pain at the same time. I wasn’t expecting that. I was expecting them to tell me like, Hey, he lost a leg, or Hey, he lost an arm or something, He can’t walk anymore. Don’t be in a wheelchair or something, but that he was alive and headed to Germany to launch in a hospital. I was not expecting them to tell me that he died.
Diana Soriano 00:35:39 I think I didn’t hear what Sergeant major said. I think it was when I returned that I actually liked reading the report and figured out kind of when I came back. Let me give you that story. I was going through the motions and then started, when I calmed down enough SAR major sat me down and he was like, we’re going to treat you guys as if you were married and we’re going to send you home. You can go on emergency leave to bury him. I didn’t realize how great and how amazing my leadership was to do that for me until I was in another unit later down the road. They sent you home because here I am just this private and I lost my fiance. They didn’t have to send me home. I didn’t realize that until later on. I’m so grateful that they gave me that opportunity. I don’t think I would have made it through. Had they not, if that makes any sense. I didn’t know.
Diana Soriano 00:36:53 They did. They told me that I could go home. He said that we’re gonna send you out bright and early in the morning. This was on the 13th. He said the family has not been notified. In the meantime, you have to be put in your room and it’s a complete blackout until we notify them. Of course, they didn’t leave me by myself. they put me on buddy watch, they had Logan in there with me. They had started to hate it and they’re with me and my roommate at the time. I was in there with them and they were talking to me about Bobby and I was just looking at her pictures and crying and reading the letters we wrote to each other. I just felt so alone, even though they were there, like, I don’t know how to describe it.
Diana Soriano 00:37:45 I just felt so alone. Like there was no one who understood. There was no one who could make it better. There was no one who could help me with whatever I needed help with. Right. I didn’t know what I needed at that moment, but I know no one could provide it, I guess, the comfort or, whatever it was that was in that moment. I was locked in the room, for 12 hours, 12 hours. It was the 14th when they finally let me out of my room and let me go. I subconsciously hate Valentine’s day because it was the next day. He was killed on February 13th, 2010. When they finally notified us, they started to hate us, and the family was notified. I don’t know if it was like a phone call or text message. I just know she was in the room and they said, they’ve been notified.
Diana Soriano 00:38:36 I grabbed my little Afghani cell phone and I called my older brother because he was a service member when I was a kid, I looked up to him a lot and I don’t know why I just, in that moment I needed to hear his voice. I called him and he was just like, oh man, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. But he didn’t really know what to say or how to come from either who does, in that situation. He was like, why don’t you just call mom. Me and my mom weren’t on talking terms at the time. But at that point, I was desperate for love at that moment. And so I called my mom and she asked me what happened and where I was going to be and was I going?
Diana Soriano 00:39:23 I said, yeah, I’m going to Texas. She just said I’m sorry for going through this, you’re going to get it, or you’re going to get through it and keep a chin up. But then they finally let me out of my room. Logan had packed like an assault pack full of just clothes. undergarments, it’s closest to get me through the next few days. When they led me out of my room, they took me to the office so they could do the paperwork and they were trying to get me out on a helicopter to Bagram. When I got to the office, that’s when I looked up the report and I was just like, okay, this is what happened. What happened was Bobby’s unit was on patrol and they were walking back to the base, where they were and he stopped to give candy to a mother and her children.
Diana Soriano 00:40:16 That’s totally how Bobby was. He was that kind, gentlemen, always trying to get people to smile, and as he was giving Kenny, an Afghani to him on a motorcycle, drove by and detonated himself. It was a suicide bomber on a motorcycle and he killed Bobby and two others as he detonated himself. Then he entered a couple more and it just broke my heart. It just broke my heart because he was doing what he does best, which was rendering an act of kindness and they just killed him. That was hard. I called his mom and of course, she’s crying and distraught. She’s like, are you sure it’s him? Or are they sure? I said, yeah, I’m sure, they verified it was him, but I was hopeful that there was a mistake because earlier that year there was a mistake with notifying the wrong family or casualty.
Diana Soriano 00:41:27 They had notified the wrong family for someone who they thought was killed. It was a big deal. My major was pissed and like, I dunno what happened. It was done stateside. I found out later by reading, through the obituaries and all that stuff, that another person was actually notified. Another family was notified of a different soldier in a completely different unit who was out there. It happened, but unfortunately, Bobby was in fact killed in action. I let her know that I was going to go home to Texas and be there to bury him. I had never met Bobby’s family before. This time we were planning on going on leave. The unfortunate part was we had two weeks left before we were supposed to go on RNR and we were planning to go to the Texas coast for a family vacation.
Diana Soriano 00:42:25 I was supposed to meet his family for the first time. He was going to introduce me as his fiance and that unfortunately just didn’t happen. I let them know, I was gonna take my leave and I was going to go on emergency leave. They gave me RNR in conjunction when we’re going to stay late. I was in Texas for about a month, which I’m thankful for because I was able to be there for the viewing and for his funeral and then for the Memorial that they had with the unit back on Rear-D. But I let her know. Then the rest of the way, the trip there was kind of like a blur. I was going through the motions, but mentally, I was just checked out. My mind was racing, trying to figure out like, is this real? This is really happening. I felt insane because I knew that this was real, but I was questioning my reality. Am I really going home to like, am I really going home to meet this family on my own? Did this really happen or is this like a really, really terrible, ugly, horrible dream? Unfortunately, it wasn’t.
Scott DeLuzio 00:43:43 I know in my circumstance and first off, thank you for sharing that I know talking about that situation is never an easy thing to do and everything, but I’m glad you were able to share that. I know from my situation when my brother was killed, it was like all the military bearing just went out the window, all of the saluting and, sir, ma’am to the officers and everything like that I didn’t care anymore. None of that stuff mattered to me. I think everybody that I interacted with, recognized that and nobody faulted me for it. All of those military customs and all that kind of stuff was like, I just didn’t care. I know what you mean like things just feeling like it’s either going in slow motion or like a blur or whatever. It’s just a really weird situation and a weird feeling that you have. But you said you went to Bagram, after leaving Joel, Alabama, were you able to attend the ceremony? Did they have a ramp ceremony where they bring the fallen onto the plane that takes them out of there? Were you there for that?
Diana Soriano 00:45:13 No, I wasn’t there for his own particular. Later on into deployment, they put me on a ramp ceremony, where we had to stand in salute as the airplane was extremely difficult. But at the time I had moved to the ball ground. The NCOC, their name was my Sergeant. Robledo he, in my opinion, hated like this man was out to get. I don’t know if it was because, at that time, all bearing left me. When I returned to Afghanistan, they had given me the option to come back or to go beyond Fort Carson, Colorado. There’s no way I’m going back to Colorado. There’s nothing for me. I’m going to finish out this appointment module for Bobby. I went back and everybody avoided me like a freaking plate because nobody knew what to say other than Logan.
Diana Soriano 00:46:13 I had a really good friend named Rob Wenzel. Unfortunately, Rob died recently. He pushed me in the gym. He was my workout buddy. He just let him vent all the time. I cried. He was like, okay, now we’re going to let it out with a workout. I was thankful for him. But other than those two, honestly, people didn’t talk to me. I don’t know if it was because they’re scared to talk to me because they didn’t know what to say. Or they were just scared of my wrath because if you pissed me off when I got back, I just didn’t care. I was gonna cuss your ass out. threaten you, like, get the hell out of my way. Don’t say shit to me. It was a really, really bad time for Barry and I got into it, my NCO shows and they just had so much patience and grace with me that looking back, why the hell did they not like to put me in my place, but demote me. Or like, I was a private. I’m Sergeant E five and like, oh man, it was just terrible, but I also understand the aspect that they knew I was breathing. They gave me that grace. I understand, but I feel like I will set you up for failure because I continued on my path for a hot minute like that.
Scott DeLuzio 00:47:37 Yeah. You went back to Afghanistan and you finished out that deployment, which, to me, is pretty incredible. I know when I came home after my brother was killed, I didn’t go back to Afghanistan. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have been able to go back, how I would’ve managed and I can’t imagine how you managed after, after that, that type of loss and then getting sent back, obviously, it was, it was your choice. You had the option of staying in Colorado or going back to Afghanistan. But to me, it just seems like that would have been an incredibly hard decision to make, but that’s what you did.
Diana Soriano 00:48:26 I feel like I’ve made that decision because my support system was in Afghanistan. Logan was in Afghanistan and there’s no way I would’ve been able to reach them on a daily basis or as needed if I was back in the states because communications back then weren’t very easy. We didn’t have cell phones like FaceTime and all that crap back then. This was 2008. well actually by then it was 2009, 2010. It was very different and I needed that support system at that time. I felt like I just needed to go back because that’s where they were
Scott DeLuzio 00:49:04 Yeah, sure. Now, what was the healing process like for you? You’re in Afghanistan obviously. You’re having a little bit of trouble while you’re over there. Unfortunately, the people who were there were giving you that grace and understanding that you needed to kind of get through that deployment. But what about when you got home? What was the process like for you and how did that take place?
Diana Soriano 00:49:34 It was very chaotic, to say the least. Of course in Afghanistan, you stay busy. You don’t really have much else to do but work and work out. I stayed really busy. When I got back home stateside, it was not so busy. You have work, your work hours. And then after that, you have your downtime and evenings. The evenings were so hard for me. I couldn’t sleep. I was struggling. I didn’t really want to eat too much. I didn’t want to go out. I was really grieving. I was really depressed. Back then, you weren’t really supposed to show any kind of emotion, but they accepted anger outbursts for whatever reason, back then they thought you were squared away. If you’re cussing out some person who was lower rank than you to get them squared away.
Diana Soriano 00:50:28. I totally took on that persona and was like that person who would just set you straight and they match you at regulations and all stuff I was very untactful, to say the least, toxic, I wouldn’t even say, but they were praising me for it. They’re like, oh man, well, far in your career now, like what the hell is wrong with these people? I’m over here dying on the inside, taking it out on y’all and y’all are telling me great job. You’re being NCO soon. What the hell? I was struggling and for some reason. I was underage, but for some reason, I always had access to alcohol and it’s sad to say, but I was numbing myself, honestly. I went to the redeployment ceremony for Bobby’s unit because I had gotten close to his friends before we left.
Diana Soriano 00:51:24 I just remember it being so emotional. It was emotional when I came back because, you’re out there and people are cheering and they’re playing like American soldiers and freaking red, white, and blue, it just gives you this super huge sense of pride. Then I’m just like dying on the inside because I now have a new fondness, like feeling and meaning behind things like the National Anthem and man. I went to the redeployment ceremony and one of his close friends, I would say best friends for who was in Colorado. He came back and I was there with his family and Logan and it was so sad to see this dad crying. This grown man, crying and shaking and embracing his son, so thankful that he came back and like his sisters and his mom, then he just came up to me and all he said was, unfortunately, Macias was on leave when Bobby died.
Diana Soriano 00:52:28 When he came back, he found out, It was just crazy, but he said, Hey, SIS. I just freaking lost it, like crying in his arms, and it was hard, but I was always with Macias and Bobby’s other friend Bradley, his last name was Bradley. Their reports were 21 and I didn’t turn 21 until that following January. Whether I was with them or Logan, they were all older than me, Bobby, Logan, all of our friends were older than me. I was the youngest one, but always had access to alcohol. I would just drink and get drunk and just talk about Bobby and cry and it would get bad because I would just pass out, used to just put me in his bed, and then he would sleep on the floor, which I was thankful for.
Diana Soriano 00:53:16 He took care of me in that sense. Like he always made sure I was okay and didn’t leave until the next day because I kinda got into one of my other friends where I didn’t make the very best impression on Wendell. When I told you about it earlier, I didn’t make the best impression on his wife, Kelly, and kind of made a fool of myself at their party, like just drinking and just being in my feelings. She didn’t make me feel welcome. And I was like F it’s like, I had the attitude back then I’m leaving. He was like, Nope, no, you’re not. You just drank, y’all not giving your keys. He took the keys and I was so mad. I was like, I want to get the hell out of here. This other NCO happened to be there.
Diana Soriano 00:54:03 I don’t remember his name. I just remember he was like a redhead and he just yelled at me, cussed me out in front of everybody. I was so pissed because someone finally put me in my place. Right. I was just like, oh, hell no. I’m on the verge of tears and I’m just pissed off. I stormed out and little did I know, like my wallet, my frickin ID card to get on a post, everything’s in my vehicle and fricking Wendell has my damn keys. All I have is my cell phone and I call Logan, I’m like Logan, he took my damn keys and I can’t get back. She agreed with him of course, because they’re sober and they’re like, you’re not going to drive drunk. I was so pissed and I was like, one of the only arguments I’ve ever had with Logan in my life.
Diana Soriano 00:54:47 It just got so ugly at that moment. I was just like, what am I doing myself? like I’m losing friendships. I seriously value both of their friendships, especially Logan’s. And I was like, I got to get together. But, unfortunately, it still didn’t stop. it wasn’t until I was sexually assaulted that I was like, okay, cold turkey. I’m done with this shit because my decisions are causing me harm in the long run. and I had to stop drinking. That was my wake-up call. Like Diana, stop it just shit together. You’re not an alcoholic. You just need to deal with this and find a different outlet. You know what I mean?
Scott DeLuzio 00:55:34 Yeah, for sure. Unfortunately, that is a coping mechanism that a lot of us choose to use, just self-medicating with alcohol, just numbing that pain and it works temporarily, but the pain doesn’t actually go away. It just makes it feel like it’s not there for a little while. That’s not the best way to go, is it right?
Diana Soriano 00:56:02 I would not recommend.
Scott DeLuzio 00:56:02 No. Exactly. If you were to have one message that you’d like to get across to other people who maybe experienced a loss, maybe not exactly the same way that you did. but maybe it’s a military-related loss or, or some other unexpected kind of loss like that. what would you like that message to be? What would you like to tell these people and have them take away from your story and your experience?
Diana Soriano 00:56:34 I guess the main message that I want to put out there is no matter how difficult the circumstances are. Even if you may feel like you’re just never going to get through it, God will get you through it. You know what I mean? If it’s one hour at a time, one minute at a time, like a moment at a time you’re gonna get through it. I would also say let it out. I stuffed and stuffed for years, those emotions trying to hide it, trying to be strong. And here I am going on 12 years later and I’m still dealing with these emotions because I stuffed it. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to let it out. I would say find a healthy outlet, whether that be writing, whether that be exercising, whether that be going to seek therapy, whatever it is that’s going to help you to let it out in a healthy way.
Diana Soriano 00:57:43 I recommend it. But know that you’re not alone for one. There are so many people who understand loss. They may not understand your particular situation or circumstance, but they understand the feeling that you’re going through with loss, with the grieving and the emptiness and the feeling of abandonment, honestly, because people don’t they don’t talk about that feeling of abandonment from your loved one. None of that, but people understand people care and it’s going to be okay. I honestly feel like the pain never goes away. At least in my experience, it doesn’t go away. You learn to live with it. You learn to live without your loved ones. There’s kind of like a void, you know what I mean? But life has to go on and you’re gonna go on with life. You’re going to be okay. One step at a time.
Scott DeLuzio 00:58:37 I think that’s a great message. Probably a great place to wrap this episode up. I know this is a difficult thing to go through for anybody., and for anyone who is struggling out there, I think that message was, spot-on, that there are people who care and that there are ways of dealing with this that are healthier than the ways that some of us have chosen to cope with these things. That loss is something that you’re going to learn to live with. You may not like it, you may not want to, but life isn’t going to be exactly the same. It’s going to be different and you’re going to learn to live with that different aspect in your life. Diana, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking with you, hearing your story. Really an incredible story. I’m glad you came on and shared it with us. For the listeners who are listening to this, the book is in loving memory, a story of Love Loss, and Living on, could you tell us where people can go to, to get a copy of your book and find out more information about you and your story?
Diana Soriano 01:00:07 Sure. It’s on all main platforms, Amazon, Apple, Barnes, and Noble. I think there’s like three other sites. Now, if you Google it, it’ll pop up. That has a lot more of the details in the book.
Scott DeLuzio 01:00:22 Yeah. And I’ll have a link to the book in the show notes so that anyone who is looking to grab a copy of the book, it’ll be there for you, please, please get a copy of the book, read it. I think it’s incredibly important that we understand what people like Diana and others,, people who have experienced this type of loss, have gone through. I really do appreciate, that you took the time, not only to come on the show and share the story, but that you, you sat down and wrote the book, because I know from my own experience that it’s, it’s not the easiest thing to do to, to write a book and, relive these experiences. But, I also think it’s an incredibly important thing to do to share that with the world, really. Thank you again, for joining us and for sharing your story.
Diana Soriano 01:01:11 Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Scott DeLuzio 01:01:14 Thanks for listening to the Drive On Podcast. If you want to check out more episodes or learn more about the show, you can visit our website, DriveOnPodcast.com. We’re also on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube at Drive On Podcast.