Episode 220 Natalee King Air Force Vet and Gold Star Wife Discusses Life After Loss Transcript

This transcript is from episode 220 with guest Natalee King.

[00:00:00] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for tuning in to the Drive On Podcast where we are focused on giving hope and strength to the entire military community. Whether you’re a veteran, active duty, guard, reserve, or a 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.

[00:00:21] Scott DeLuzio: Welcome back to the Drive On Podcast. Today, my guest is Natalee King. Natalee is an Air Force, veteran and tragically. She’s also a Gold Star Wife. We’re going to be chatting today about her time in the military and becoming a military widow and how that has affected her and her family. So welcome to the show, Natalee.

[00:00:43] Scott DeLuzio: I’m really glad to have you on.

[00:00:45] Natalee King: Thanks, Scott.

[00:00:46] Scott DeLuzio: Thanks for having me. Yeah, absolutely. So I guess let’s start off tell me about your military service. You served in the Air Force. What prompted you to join the military? And what was your job while you were in, what kind of things did you do while you were in the military?[00:01:00]

[00:01:00] Natalee King: Sure. So, I, you know, I never, my whole family was in the military. I had of course grandparents in the military, but my mom and dad, my sister and my brother were all in the military, so , and it was only five of us. So, I was kind, my mom wanted me to go to college, but my dad was like, oh, if you wanna do military, go ahead.

[00:01:24] Natalee King: So I planned at 18 to go to college, but then my older sister, she died from a drug overdose and in 2008. And so I was, I tried starting that first semester of college. And it got really hard. So I ended up dropping. And I was just overwhelmed with grief and I didn’t really know where to go from there.

[00:01:46] Natalee King: So I ended up joining the Air Force. It was in my blood, so I was like, I might as well do that. Right. And they sent me to Japan as my first duty station and I was a vehicle [00:02:00] operator and I really loved that job. It was a good job. I was, it was like a male dominated career field. So, I mean, I did have, you know, some hard times, but that’s with everything.

[00:02:14] Natalee King: and it’s nothing that you couldn’t get past. So anyways I moved to Japan and that’s where I met my husband. And he was also in the Air Force. He was a port dog. So he worked on the flight line and we fell in love pretty quickly. It. It was pretty fast. And I hadn’t I hadn’t had like a serious relationship like that, so it was amazing.

[00:02:36] Natalee King: And it was a whirlwind. We got married in Japan and then we had a baby boy in 2012 at Andrews air or joint based Andrews. Now, I guess they call it in Maryland, you know, our president place. So, we got stationed there and that’s where I had my son. And my husband he was, he worked like on like the flight line.

[00:02:59] Natalee King: [00:03:00] So Air Force one and stuff, since that was our presidential base. And he went to work one Sunday. My mom was visiting, she was in town and she was due actually to leave the next day that Monday. So this was a Sunday. My husband. Went to work that morning and at around 9:00 AM, my mom had my baby downstairs and we got a knock at the door and it was my husband’s first Sergeant.

[00:03:26] Natalee King: And I mean, she was in civilian clothes, you know, stuff like that, but she told my mom I needed talk to John’s wife. And so I came down and you know, I thought maybe he was in trouble at first. Just knowing him, I don’t know. And You know, she ended up telling us that there was actually an accident at work.

[00:03:47] Natalee King: And so we end up really, we end up sitting around the house for a few hours because I was told that they were transporting him to a hospital. [00:04:00] And they didn’t know which hospital they, I guess they were gonna bring him to cuz there was one on base. There was one off of base. And then now at this time I also know that I think they were thinking about airlifting him.

[00:04:13] Natalee King: But then the accident, the first Sergeant made this accident seem like it wasn’t very serious, so that never really crossed my mind anything. Bad, really?

[00:04:24] Scott DeLuzio: So, and were you still in the Air Force at the time? Were you still serving or had you,

[00:04:29] Natalee King: you separated? I had just separated.

[00:04:32] Natalee King: Okay. Prior to this happening. Okay. And I was, and my plans were to get out will while the baby’s young and then re reenlist. That was my plan. Our work plan, my husband and I talked about doing that. So, so anyways where was I? So we’re a few hours go by and the mood’s very light, you know, lighthearted and we’re just talking with [00:05:00] his first shirt and she was wonderful.

[00:05:02] Natalee King: And she got a phone call. and she had stepped out front and got in her car and she was talking in her car for a while. And my mom and I were like, I wonder, what’s going on. Maybe this is the information we need to go see him at the hospital, or maybe he’s coming home, you know? And he is already checked out.

[00:05:22] Natalee King: Well, after a few minutes I, the commander and then the chaplain, and then the first Sergeant they had. Came, they had switched into their dress blues and came to my door. And my mom my mom was an MP for seven years in the army. And then she retired from the air national guard. So when they walked up to my door, my mom, she knew right away.

[00:05:47] Natalee King: She knew instantly and she started screaming and I knew too, but. I don’t think I wanted I think I needed to [00:06:00] hear it. I think I, I needed that confirmation. So I was just basically asking the whole time, you know, what’s going on, what’s happening over and over. As they were making the way through the house, you know, they just kept telling me, you know, let’s sit down, you know, Ms.

[00:06:17] Natalee King: King, let’s sit down. and I was like, no, I don’t wanna sit down. I don’t wanna move to the house. I just want you to tell me what’s going on and why you’re here. And you’re just loose. Right. And that’s when they told me he had passed away and that I could go see him now in the hospital. And that was kind of upsetting.

[00:06:36] Natalee King: I remember. I remember, as soon as I heard those words I felt down on the floor just screaming and my body felt physically, it felt sick. Like I, I was gagging. I was just, it felt like I was just about to throw up. [00:07:00] I mean, it. It was one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt.

[00:07:03] Scott DeLuzio: I can totally sympathize with that.

[00:07:06] Scott DeLuzio: And a lot of your experience in finding out about your husband and my experience my, my brother was killed in Afghanistan while I was serving also in Afghanistan. And a lot of that experience. Feels very similar to me. Obviously two totally different circumstances and things like that. However, when you said that, you know, it didn’t really cross your mind that something that bad could have happened and it seemed kind of lighter.

[00:07:35] Scott DeLuzio: It was like, okay, it’s an accident. He’s hurt, but you know, how bad could it really be? Exactly. When my commanding officer told me that my brother. Had been hit while he was out on a patrol, his unit got ambushed and he had gotten hit to me. I just thought, okay, well, how do I get to him to be there for moral support?

[00:07:55] Scott DeLuzio: You know, where did they take him? Let’s get me there so I can help him out. Right. Never even occurred to me. [00:08:00] And he was an infantryman. So was I like we knew that like front lines fighting think it’s possible. Right? That is a huge possibility. Absolutely more so for us. Being the frontline fighters and someone who’s working on a base.

[00:08:14] Scott DeLuzio: Not to say that, you know, someone on a base couldn’t get killed,

[00:08:16] Natalee King: but it just goes to show that how unexpected it was to me because we were home. We were on base. This was an every day normal every day work. So, of course it didn’t cross my mind, you know? No, that’s something this bad.

[00:08:36] Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. And all the safety protocols that are in place, they’re all there for a reason.

[00:08:40] Scott DeLuzio: So that things like this don’t happen. And so. Start to trust in those types of things and thinking, okay, well that stuff is in place. It’s my husband will come home. Right. I would imagine that’s the thought process going through your head, right?

[00:08:55] Natalee King: Absolutely. And, you know, I was in myself and so I knew, you know, the [00:09:00] safety briefs, every precaution that they take, you know, the yeah.

[00:09:04] Natalee King: Spotters, you have to have to have to move a GOV, you know, you just, everything. When they told me that he had passed from an accident, I immediately just thought like, how was this possible and what had happened? And I think that was really one of the most hardest parts about it. I don’t know about, you know, your experience too.

[00:09:28] Natalee King: I would, I’m curious, but you know, they, they, you know, they don’t tell you anything. Yeah, nothing and you’re in the dark and it, you just want to know so bad every detail and you can’t for months.

[00:09:45] Scott DeLuzio: Right. And that was one of the things. So I actually feel like I got probably more information than most people would just because I was there.

[00:09:53] Scott DeLuzio: At the time. But what I was told was that my brother’s unit was ambushed and that he was hit [00:10:00] in this ambush. Two soldiers were actually killed in that same firefight. One of them died pretty much instantaneously. The other one died while trying to evacuate. The first soldier who was killed.

[00:10:10] Scott DeLuzio: Oh, and I didn’t know which one was, which, so I didn’t know if my brother was the one who was killed instantaneously or if he was the one who was helping evacuate it turned out he was the one who was killed instantaneously. And so. Had I known that in the beginning, it would’ve made me feel in a way, a little bit better because I would’ve known that at least, you know, he didn’t suffer.

[00:10:35] Scott DeLuzio: He wasn’t like you know, under this constant stress at the last minute or whatever, but at the same time, I don’t, I also don’t know that it would’ve mattered because regardless he was gone and that, that was just. Devastating. And I know that feeling too, that you were saying, like, you felt like you were gonna throw up to me.

[00:10:54] Scott DeLuzio: It felt like a punch in the gut. Like if you’ve ever been punched in the stomach that like you, you lose your breath [00:11:00] and it feels like you’re gonna puke. And it’s awful. It’s such an, a terrible feeling. It is

[00:11:06] Natalee King: my knees buckled. I mean, my knees literally gave out it. I didn’t drop to the floor.

[00:11:12] Natalee King: My legs literally. Just gave out and you know how, like you’re doing pushups and you do so many pushups and you just wanna do that last one, but you can’t. And so your arms just give in. Yep. That’s how my legs just buckled. And I got so sick physically.

[00:11:31] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. It’s like they’re jelly and you just can’t, it can’t support your weight anymore.

[00:11:36] Scott DeLuzio: No, no matter. You do there, there’s nothing left there. And fortunately my commanding officer had me take a knee before I was told th the, this news. So I, you know, and I’m, I, meanwhile, I’m standing out there with body armor and, you know, the whole kit and everything outside you know, on this mission that we were on and.

[00:11:56] Scott DeLuzio: That would’ve been even worse. I’m just dropping down with all that extra weight on me. [00:12:00] Right. But yeah,

[00:12:00] Natalee King: that would’ve been, see, I was, when I was told they had me sit down too. Yeah. But as soon as they said the words I, when I screamed, I stood up as soon as they said it and that’s when my legs just buckled and I fell on the floor.

[00:12:16] Natalee King: Wow. It’s amazing. What your mind. Your mind can literally do to, to your body, you know, to the, your emotions and stuff.

[00:12:27] Scott DeLuzio: It certainly is. And until you experience something like that, you really don’t understand just how powerful emotions can be and how they can control your mind, which. Ultimately can control your body and how your body reacts to certain things, those physical responses the mental responses all the things that go on time just seems like it slows down.

[00:12:51] Scott DeLuzio: And it just, things don’t seem to be in sync anymore. Like nothing makes sense in the world at that point, you know, [00:13:00]

[00:13:00] Natalee King: you’re you just all rational. Thoughts just go out of your head and you, right. You, Ugh. Gosh.

[00:13:09] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. It’s the worst. And that’s, you know, part of the reason why I wanted to have you on this podcast is to not to, you know, be you know, looking at this from a sick and twisted kind of way, like, oh, what happened to this family and all that, but, okay.

[00:13:26] Scott DeLuzio: I think it’s important for people to understand. Grieving families are going through when they experience a loss like this, these unexpected things. And not to say that, you know, someone who’s maybe been battling cancer for the last five years or something like that. And then they eventually pass away.

[00:13:45] Scott DeLuzio: You kind of saw that coming and you’ve had time to prepare, not to say that’s any better or worse or anything like that. But when it’s, to me, sometimes when it’s unexpected, it’s. Like you don’t even know what to do. You [00:14:00] haven’t even thought about what’s that next step? What do I do with my life?

[00:14:05] Scott DeLuzio: How, you know, in your case you had had a son, a baby at home that you,

[00:14:10] Natalee King: we were about to move to Georgia. We were looking at homes in Georgia at the time. Right. You

[00:14:15] Scott DeLuzio: know, all of those plans that you had just go up and smoke and it’s like, okay, now we are starting from scratch here. Yeah. Now do you think.

[00:14:22] Scott DeLuzio: Service in the military helped you to prepare for kind of that that pivot that you needed to take when all of this happened or were you feeling like you, you were just as unprepared as you would’ve been, had you not serve?

[00:14:35] Natalee King: Well, looking back, I, at the time. Maybe I would’ve said no, my service didn’t, but now after these years looking back, I do think it helped me.

[00:14:49] Natalee King: I always, the one thing I always remembered was adapt and overcome. You always adapt and overcome. You have to in life, you just have to. [00:15:00] You, and I have figured that out the hard way, but right. We, you just have to adapt and overcome. And I always got that drilled in my head when I was serving. And yeah I do think it, it helped me a lot to prepare me for that.

[00:15:14] Natalee King: Right. And when you’re talking about, you know, unexpected deaths or expected deaths So I’ve, my sister was an unexpected death and my husband was unexpected, tragic deaths. And then I also lost my father and that he had ALS, so he was battling that for a few years. And I can say going through both of those that.

[00:15:40] Natalee King: I don’t not that any death is worse or worse than the other mm-hmm . But the way that the deaths have affected me differently is it’s mind blowing. Like, my, my husband’s death just impacted me. Like it didn’t impact me the way my father or my sister’s death did. [00:16:00] It literally uprooted my entire future in life.

[00:16:06] Natalee King: My sister’s death, God, you know, I love her and I miss her so much and I wish she was here and my dad too, but I didn’t have a future with, you know, I didn’t have plans of, or future planned out with them. And so when you lose that, it’s not even, you’re not just losing that person, but you’re losing all.

[00:16:31] Natalee King: Unwritten chapters that you wished you had written,

[00:16:34] Scott DeLuzio: you know what I mean? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And I do know what you’re saying there, because especially when you you throw kids into the mix and you. Had a child. And you’re expecting that the two of you are going to work together as a team, the way you know, any good marriage is you work together as a team to raise this child.

[00:16:54] Scott DeLuzio: And you know, children are looking up to their parents are looking up to [00:17:00] their mothers and fathers for different cues and different learning, different things that they learn from them. And. You know, it’s like, especially having a boy it’s like, okay, well, when that time comes to have, you know, the talk, well, you know, he can handle that talk.

[00:17:15] Scott DeLuzio: Right. And now it’s like, okay that’s your job now. And you know, that’s, you know, probably even a small thing on the grand scale of things, but yeah, but,

[00:17:23] Natalee King: but it’s

[00:17:24] Scott DeLuzio: one of the, but still, it’s just one of the many, many things that now are just different. You know, I’ve said this before that, you know, with my brother I feel like he was only 25 when he was killed.

[00:17:36] Scott DeLuzio: And I, I feel like. He was robbed of so much life. You know, he was engaged to get married a year about a little, about a year after he was killed. He had plans to, you know, start a family and to, you know, all the, these things. And it was like, I felt like he was just robbed of that. But then I look at people like yourself and I can see how you were robbed [00:18:00] of that future.

[00:18:01] Scott DeLuzio: With your husband your son was robbed of the future with his father. And like that,

[00:18:09] Natalee King: that’s weird that you say that. When so after my husband passed he I got into a real bad drug addiction and for about five years I was in a drug addiction. But I’ve been clean for over four years.

[00:18:23] Natalee King: And when I first got clean I started writing a journal and I actually, I wrote like a whole list of the things that John would miss out on in our son’s life. And it’s. It’s the same thing. It’s the same thing that, that you just said, you know, he was robbed of those things and we both were, you know?

[00:18:44] Natalee King: Yeah.

[00:18:45] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And, you know, I think the world in general was robbed of their existence, their continued existence. And I feel like at the same time that you could look at things like, okay, you were robbed of[00:19:00] this. Partner in life or your husband was robbed from experiencing certain things with his son growing up right.

[00:19:07] Scott DeLuzio: With all of this stuff. But at the same time, you can also look at it the other way and say, you are fortunate enough to be able to be there, to experience these things. And really it’s that mindset shift that, that.

[00:19:22] Natalee King: So weird, cuz I, I even said to myself too, I made this list. The reason I wanted to make that list is to not only maybe share it, you know, and show people that they’re how blessed they are, but also to make myself realize how blessed that I am.

[00:19:41] Natalee King: Yeah. And that’s so weird that you say that.

[00:19:43] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And it’s true because you are still here and you have this. This gift, really, to be able to experience all of these things you know, as your son gets older, you know, eventually you know, graduates high school maybe goes to college or joins the military, [00:20:00] whatever, you know, following in the family footsteps.

[00:20:02] Scott DeLuzio: Right. You know, whatever the future might. Hold for him you don’t know what that is going to be, but that’s sort of the joy of life is you get to experience all of these things. And if you already knew what the future was gonna hold a hundred percent certainty you, what’s the fun in that you wouldn’t have a whole lot of fun.

[00:20:19] Scott DeLuzio: Exactly. And it’s enjoyable to get some of these surprises and to Witness these things firsthand. And so, you know, you have been blessed with that. And you know, that’s something that has helped me in my healing is that I know that I’ve been given the opportunity to live a. You know, this life all these years later you know, I’ve lived at this point now 15 years longer than my brother has.

[00:20:46] Scott DeLuzio: And I look at that, like, I, I have this experience of all these extra years that he didn’t get, I better. I damn well better make the best of all of this. [00:21:00] Right. Absolutely. Yeah. So, you mentioned how your family served in the military. And I saw on your Instagram page as I was kind of prepping for this episode that your dad was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross while he was serving in the Coast G uard.

[00:21:17] Scott DeLuzio: Is that that’s correct, right?

[00:21:18] Natalee King: Yes. He sure did.

[00:21:20] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah. And I saw that and it was. Super inspiring. And if you wouldn’t mind, would you care to share a little bit about what I would love your dad took place? Okay. Yeah.

[00:21:30] Natalee King: Or I’d love to oh my gosh. My dad was a great guy. He had his issues, but as we all do sure.

[00:21:37] Natalee King: And he he joined the army and he became a military police and that’s how him and my mother met. They met as military policeman and then they married and they both got out of the army. But my mom joined the air national guard and my dad, he was just selling cars, trying to. Find a job really, or a place for [00:22:00] himself.

[00:22:00] Natalee King: And he didn’t know what to do. Well, my mom had while she was at work one day at the air national guard, a Coast Guard recruiter walked into her office and she, he was like, Hey, we are, we need people really bad for ASTs. Do you know anybody that would be interested in that? And she was like, my husband, he’s 32 though.

[00:22:24] Natalee King: Or 31 at the time, I think 31 or 32 at the time. And you know, they need a rescue swimmer. And my mom’s like, well, my husband, you know, but he’s not in his twenties anymore. They’re like, well, let’s see how he’ll do, you know, we can always put him in, you know, the passing rate for these training is not very high.

[00:22:44] Natalee King: So I think like 80% drop. Oh, wow. Of the trainings of the rescue summer training. And so anyways my dad ended up going to training and he left my mom and the three kids back at home. My mom [00:23:00] told me that when my dad was in his summer training, he called in the middle of one of like in the middle of his training.

[00:23:09] Natalee King: And he was. Pretty frantic about a sharks and minnows training that they used to do. It’s called sharks and minnows. And basically you have an instructor and they get on the trainee and they just try to drown. ’em like, like get on top of ’em like a struggling drowning person. Mm-hmm and they hold you under water for a long time.

[00:23:33] Natalee King: My dad said that they were doing now, this was back in. I can’t remember the year, my dad’s number, swimmer number is like 53. So you, it was pretty far back. My brother’s a rescue swimmer now, and his number’s like 800 and something. So this was a long, this was years ago. But in the pool, my dad called my mom.

[00:23:54] Natalee King: He said, they’re gonna kill somebody doing this training. and sure enough, the following year [00:24:00] after my dad graduated training, they did drown a trainee in that pool. And I’ve looked up the story and stuff and read it since my dad told me it. But it’s sad. It’s devastating. Sure. They did kill someone during training.

[00:24:12] Natalee King: So anyways he did mini rescues throughout his career. He was a AST for 16 years and So he did many rescues, but this particular rescue, it was in the Gulf of Mexico. So we were stationed at Houston at Ellington field and we had a tropical storm and it was almost a category one hurricane.

[00:24:37] Natalee King: It was like borderline. There was a sinking vessel. Out at sea and his crew got called to do a rescue, cuz it you know, I was thinking, so they get out there and my dad hoist down the first time and he’s connected to the hoist hook and I guess he’s getting pounded real bad [00:25:00] and he signals to lift them back up.

[00:25:03] Natalee King: And so he gets back in the helicopter and he tells the crew that he cannot rescue this, these men. And he can’t even swim to the life raft. There’s three men. He can’t even swim to the life raft without unhooking from the helicopter. And they all agreed as a team that he was aware that, yes, there’s a tropical storm.

[00:25:28] Natalee King: There’s no boats. There’s no helicopter. Around if they needed to leave him on scene and they told him all that, my dad said, that’s fine. I still need to unhook to go save these guys. So that’s what he did. And they all agreed and let ’em do it. And he saved all three men and he got ’em into the helicopter and put himself in there and they got back to Ellington field before zero bingo.

[00:25:53] Natalee King: And it was an amazing feat and. He got my mom, him and my [00:26:00] mom were sent to New York in like, the World Trade Center for this big hero’s night. They were honoring a bunch of heroes and my dad was one of ’em and he was actually the last one the night was basically for him on the brochure, but it also included other men that got it.

[00:26:20] Natalee King: Address that, you know what I’m saying? Yep. So, There was a few, this is a funny story real quick. So they were at this they’re at the World Trade Center doing this hero’s night. And my dad tells my mom, you know, he needs to go to the bathroom. Well, he said while he was in the bathroom, these three New York cops come in and they’re laughing and bullshitting. And. They’re looking at the brochure. My dad’s in the stall. Okay. So he they’re looking at the brochure and they’re like, what’s coming up next.

[00:26:50] Natalee King: And they’re like, man, who is this Robin Feki guy? Who is this guy? They’re like, it says he saved three people. And the guy, the, [00:27:00] my dad said the cops say, man, he must think he’s some badass or something because we’re three people and we saved one person. He’s one person and he saved three people and all this stuff.

[00:27:13] Natalee King: And my dad’s like, he’s like, I’m sitting in the stall and I don’t know what I should do if I should wait till they walk out or what, but he said, I just had the funniest idea to kick open the door with his dress blue pants at his ankles. And he puts his fists up and he says, y’all wanna piece of me.

[00:27:33] Natalee King: And my dad says these three New York cops. Looked straight down at him and looked back up and they just bust out, laughing, fallen on the floor. And so my dad, you know, puts his stuff back on and they go out, they take him out. Barhop in New York city, the rest of the night, him and my mom.

[00:27:52] Natalee King: They loved him. They loved him. That’s awesome. Who was the funniest story?

[00:27:56] Scott DeLuzio: That is pretty funny. Yeah.

[00:27:59] Natalee King: So he [00:28:00] was a character. My dad was a character, but yeah. Yeah, he did some great things in life. There’s a lot of people still alive today because of him.

[00:28:08] Scott DeLuzio: Well, and that’s the thing that I wanted to.

[00:28:11] Scott DeLuzio: Have you share that story to emphasize is that you know, I’ve had several Coast Guard veterans on this podcast and they’ve all been a part of something like that. Not necessarily to that same extent, but they’ve but some of them have been part of you know, different rescues. One, one of them was in the hurricane Harvey down, down that way.

[00:28:32] Scott DeLuzio: And,

[00:28:32] Natalee King: My brother was too.

[00:28:34] Scott DeLuzio: Oh, that’s a, that’s funny. Yeah,

[00:28:36] Natalee King: the swimmer. And he was, he did hurricane Harvey

[00:28:39] Scott DeLuzio: rescue. Yeah, exactly. And so, a lot of times people don’t give the Coast Guard the credit that their due. Right. And not enough. Not enough. No. And we do, I know amongst the military branches, we do give the Coast Guard some crap about, you know, not being a real branch or, you know, whatever.

[00:28:55] Scott DeLuzio: And and things like that. But the work that they do literally people would not be here [00:29:00] today if it wasn’t for the Coast Guard. And so, you know, I wanted to share that and you know, hat off to your father you know, and I, I. The honor that he got that night was certainly well deserved.

[00:29:10] Scott DeLuzio: And you know, especially I’m sure those three guys who were rescued that they would not argue with that either. So, you know, definitely hats off to him for that. So, you know, I’d love to Talk a little bit about what life was like for you after your husband passed away. I know we, we talked a little bit, you said you, you battled with an addiction and things like that, but what was life like kind of adjusting in that adapting and overcoming mindset that you ha you were talking about before?

[00:29:36] Scott DeLuzio: What was life like after that?

[00:29:39] Natalee King: So, life was. Dark and grim . Yeah. It was torturous. It was I didn’t wanna be here. I’m sorry. Hold on. That’s okay. Yeah, I didn’t wanna be here anymore. I just,

[00:29:58] Natalee King: I could. [00:30:00] My son, he looks just like his father and I could barely look at my child and as to hardly be able to look your child in the eyes a though and infant, and because you just have all these reminders

[00:30:23] Natalee King: Mental health, depression, things like that. And addiction run in my family and it was a slippery slope. The. I believe the, so I can’t remember exactly the days after John died. I’m sure you understand that. It was a blur, but I do remember the Air Force sentence, some psychiatrists. And I remember they prescribed me a Xanax right away, pretty much right away.

[00:30:54] Natalee King: And after that happened I started having a lot of memory loss [00:31:00] and I, my tolerance started getting higher and I just remember that I had to take more than I used to have to, and it, like I said, it was a slippery slope. So, I got really bad into a Xanax addiction or any really anything really And I remember, so I don’t know, did they, I don’t know if they did an investigation, I’m sure they did when your brother passed.

[00:31:31] Natalee King: It took ours, I think, six months for me to get answers on how he was killed. And and I remember after how told he was killed is when. I just I basically just gave up on, on anything. I moved in with my mom and dad and they, my mom helped me with my son. And even though I lived there with them, [00:32:00] I wasn’t, it’s like, I wasn’t there.

[00:32:04] Natalee King: It was like, I was somewhere else. I didn’t have a, I didn’t get to bond and connect. With my son as a child as a young baby. And I regret that so much even still to this day. It tears me apart, but you know, it’s good now, but yeah. What was I gonna say? I was gonna say something.

[00:32:27] Natalee King: So when I got the answers oh, about his death I guess I could tell you what happened. I didn’t even tell you what happened yet. So what had happened was they had to move some equipment around in a back hanger in the back of the hanger and it was real dark. I heard back there and one of his buddies came up to him and said, Hey I need a spotter.

[00:32:49] Natalee King: Could you spot me on this lift vehicle. I’m gonna relay to you exactly what I was told in this investigation. I’ve heard from people [00:33:00] that were there that day, that it’s not exactly how this happened, but this is what I was told. Okay. It’s it was a, he was moving a Lyft vehicle. I was told there was only two in the entire world and it’s made for Air Force one.

[00:33:17] Natalee King: And not a lot of men and women are trained on this vehicle and it’s a actually kind of a difficult vehicle to drive for some reason. Well, the airmen that was moving this vehicle, he wasn’t trained on it and he didn’t know how to drive it. And also this vehicle was a stick shift and he also didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.

[00:33:37] Natalee King: But he, my husband was behind the vehicle and it wouldn’t start or move. He said it wouldn’t move at first, this airman. And so they kept trying the key and John walked up, my husband walked up to the window and he said, Hey, do you want me to do it? And the airmen [00:34:00] said no, I got it. You know, you just spot.

[00:34:03] Natalee King: And after that he went to put it in gear and there’s conflicting stories. The airman says that when he put it in gear, his foot slipped and the vehicle jumped forward, and it pinned my husband against a wall. And. The last things that he heard him say was stop, stop. And I actually, I talked to this airman last month I believe it was.

[00:34:36] Natalee King: And he, told me, cause I hadn’t talked to him since ever since this happened. And I got in contact with him and he retold me this story. And he said that John was yelling, stop, stop. And he said that it hit him right below. Like the, his sternum. He thinks it [00:35:00] stopped right about his sternum down.

[00:35:02] Natalee King: He was hit. And he said that there was some blood coming out of his mouth in his nose. And. They, it was a loud bang, I guess, in that hanger. So everybody heard it and they came running to the back and so they unpinned him. And he the airman said he fell just straight down on his knees and he just stayed leaned against the wall.

[00:35:31] Natalee King: And there, he wasn’t screaming or anything. They think he was alive, but I don’t think he was there. I think he was pretty much already gone because a lot of his organs had intern internal damage. And I believe they told me you can cut some of this out if it’s too much, but no. OK. Like his bladder had exploded and stuff inside of him.

[00:35:56] Natalee King: And so I just think that it happened so. With his organs being [00:36:00] crushed like that. So, and then I was also told that if he would’ve been airlifted and if they would’ve left him pinned, the outcome could have been different. That’s what I was told too. So anyways, I get conflicting stories still to this day, but that’s what I was told what happened and it’s It’s devastating.

[00:36:21] Natalee King: I just remember there are also articles written before this investigation came out actually placing some blame on my husband. And I don’t even know how they could have done that because the investigation wasn’t even out yet right. To know what happened. So,

[00:36:37] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, I mean, when my brother was killed there, there was an investigation and we did get the report.

[00:36:44] Scott DeLuzio: I don’t think it was quite as long as what you’re saying, like six months. I think it was little shorter than that, but but still it was a little time after that and When we got it, we got actually all of the sworn statements from the soldiers who were there that day on that [00:37:00] mission, what they saw, what they experienced what happened from their perspectives.

[00:37:05] Scott DeLuzio: And all of them told the same story, but all of them had slightly. Nuance to it. And like some of some people saw things just a little bit differently than the other person could have been just the angle that they were at, you know, their point of view or whatever. So, you know, the reports that we got you really had to read through that and kind of.

[00:37:27] Scott DeLuzio: Filter some of it to really understand what took place. And when I wrote my book I about that incident and everything that took place, I read through all the sworn statements. And I think there was like two dozen of them somewhere around there. And. I had to just go through and like bullet point, okay, this is, these are the things that are consistent throughout all of them.

[00:37:48] Scott DeLuzio: Okay. We can trust all of that. And then there’s, you know, some other things that were consistent, but not a hundred percent consistent. And so, okay. Well, we could probably trust those and you know, some of them just you know, your mind plays tricks on you not to say that anyone [00:38:00] was meaning to lie or anything like that.

[00:38:02] Scott DeLuzio: No. Had any bad intentions. It’s just sometimes. Your memory plays tricks on you. You see things differently than other people see them. Mm-hmm, , you know, there’s a classic example. If I was to write the number six on a piece of paper and put it on a table between the two of us, you would see the number nine and I would see the number six, there’s two different perspectives on exactly the same exact thing.

[00:38:22] Scott DeLuzio: And so, yeah, I love. So, so it’s, you know, I totally understand where some of the conflicting reports come from. Obviously in some cases, there could be people who are trying to cover something up. I’m not saying that’s what happened here or in my brother’s case, obviously, but you know, it, there could be different things that take place and that’s why they’re.

[00:38:43] Scott DeLuzio: Inconsistent, but you know, in, in this case clearly an accident took place. Whoever is to blame. I don’t think at this point even matters that much an accident was taken place. And at the end of the day I would hope that the Air Force and the military in general learned [00:39:00] something from this.

[00:39:00] Scott DeLuzio: And so that this type of thing doesn’t happen again. That’s. Exactly. That’s the best possible outcome that you can hope for when something tragic like this happens is because you know, obviously you don’t want any other family to have to go through this experience, not

[00:39:17] Natalee King: this. I mean, you don’t, you are not trained for this isn’t something that you’re trained for.

[00:39:24] Natalee King: This is something that you. It was a freak accident.

[00:39:28] Scott DeLuzio: Yeah, exactly. Before we wrap up, do you have any advice or any words of wisdom for other military spouses who maybe are going through a similar loss, whether it’s from an accident or a combat deployment or something like that? What do you wish that someone maybe would’ve told you before your husband’s death, that would’ve helped you through all of this.

[00:39:50] Scott DeLuzio: Oh, this is, or is there anything that there may not be anything, you know, you might

[00:39:54] Natalee King: have to give me a second to think about it. Sure. There’s so many things that I wish I knew [00:40:00] then what I know now, but you know, no one can really prepare you for, you know, such a tragedy. Especially on like, you know, your Homeland and

[00:40:16] Natalee King: you know, you just, I don’t know, you just, all I can say is you gotta stay true to yourself. And if you, if you’re going through a hard time it’s okay to mess up. It’s okay. To be disappointed in yourself with how you coped or how you are coping with anything you’re dealing with. You have to live through tragedies like these to understand the piece.

[00:40:51] Natalee King: You know, I feel today you have to get through the hardships before you can feel that [00:41:00] peace. It gives you a different perspective on life. Pain does pain gives you mm-hmm a unique perspective on life and you know, with. My TikTok following and stuff. I’m trying to build a community of similar people who have gone through similar things.

[00:41:21] Natalee King: It doesn’t even have to be military. But Regardless. I just similar things. I’m trying to build a community because the one thing that I felt after my husband passed was loneliness. I felt so alone. Like nobody knew how I felt. Even if people told me they knew how I felt or they were hurting just as much as me.

[00:41:40] Natalee King: I still felt so alone. And so I noticed what I started doing was I would watch, you know, crime shows or the ID channel. Because I wanted to relate to somebody so bad. I wanted somebody to relate in my pain and I didn’t have this community that I have today. [00:42:00] Mm-hmm of men and women that have gone through similar complex grief that I have gone through.

[00:42:08] Natalee King: And that’s my goal. I know a lot of people, they, a lot of people. Think I shouldn’t share my story or stories, the way that I do online, it’s too personal or it’s inappropriate. To me, this is my life. This is what, I have lived through, so me just telling it. It’s no big deal to me because it’s, I’ve lived it to somebody that hasn’t it.

[00:42:48] Natalee King: I can see how it could be shocking or seen as wanting attention. But in the end I couldn’t help any of this. Right. So, The least that I can do is share my [00:43:00] experiences with other people and try to relate to them and try to help them so that they don’t feel so alone

[00:43:09] Scott DeLuzio: and that’s a hundred percent true.

[00:43:11] Scott DeLuzio: And that’s part of the reason why this podcast even exists is to let people know whatever it is that you’re going through. You’re not alone. There are other people out there who have. Been there done that experience things, maybe not in the exact way that you’re experiencing them. But we’re not here to say one person’s pain is worse than another person, this pain.

[00:43:32] Scott DeLuzio: No. You know, someone I heard this somewhere someone who drowns in three feet of water and someone else who drowns in 20 feet of water, they both drowned one isn’t worse than the other. It’s exactly. They’re both. They’re both equally. Terrible. And it’s like that with people who have experienced loss, like, like you have, like, I have like, countless other people have mm-hmm, no matter what it is that you’re going through their chances are there someone else who’s been there too, [00:44:00] and most likely someone else has figured out how to get through that and see a, a positive Way of life after that.

[00:44:09] Scott DeLuzio: And so, you know, I congratulate you for beating that addiction and thanks. Getting clean. After that, that’s, it’s not an easy thing to do for people. And it’s certainly You know, one of those things that not only were you dealing with the grief, but you’re dealing with trying to get clean and everything.

[00:44:28] Scott DeLuzio: And that is just such a hard thing to do. And I look at someone like yourself and I think you know, what a strong person, this is to be able to do all of those things. And so, you know, for the people who are listening, if you. Are struggling with an addiction or you’re struggling with grief or whatever.

[00:44:46] Scott DeLuzio: Look at this example right here with Natalee and how she has been able to overcome these things and see that there is a positive side to life, even after all of this terrible [00:45:00] tragedy throughout her life with not only your sister, your father, then your husband battling your own addiction.

[00:45:06] Scott DeLuzio: All of that stuff. Just would really beat some people down, but you look at you and you’ve been able to overcome that. And so, you know, definitely hats off to you and I congratulate you and I’m glad that you’ve been willing to share your story because no matter what other people say yes, it’s a personal story, but your story could be the start of someone else’s healing journey and definitely continue sharing

[00:45:32] Natalee King: as.

[00:45:34] Natalee King: I get messages and comments every day of people telling me their stories, their traumas, and totally different traumas than mine, but nonetheless they’re traumas and they message me and they ask me for advice and help and how they can get, you know, through it. And I don’t know all the answers. I don’t know it all, but I know enough.[00:46:00]

[00:46:00] Natalee King: To, you know, let people know that I’m happy today and I’m at peace. And I, I am excited for my future because I want people to know in my addiction. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to live anymore. That’s I was so far at my bottom. I was in institutions in and out of mental health institutions.

[00:46:23] Natalee King: I tried to commit suicide multiple times. Mm-hmm and I don’t know why I’m still here, but maybe it is just, I didn’t choose these these hard ships of course, but you know, I’ve had to go through ’em anyway. And if I can make it through the other side, and even though life’s not perfect and I’m, but I’m happy today, it’s possible for someone else.

[00:46:50] Natalee King: It is so possible. If I can do it, if I can do it because, oh my gosh. I sometimes I swear I can’t do anything, but if I [00:47:00] can do this, anybody can, anybody can, right. They just need the right support and the right community and the right people. That’s what they need.

[00:47:10] Scott DeLuzio: And I think that’s probably the biggest takeaway here is that support the community the people around you when.

[00:47:18] Scott DeLuzio: Find yourself pushing people away. It’s not gonna help anything. No. When you’re isolating yourself from the rest of the world it’s not gonna make anything better. It may feel like it is temporarily, but it’s not in the long run and you almost need to force yourself to get out there and do that.

[00:47:32] Natalee King: You have to communicate, you have to communicate. And if you’re struggling with addiction, you have to get help. You can’t do it alone, but you have to want it. You know, you have to want it.

[00:47:45] Scott DeLuzio: So, yeah. Well, Natalee, I really do appreciate you coming on and sharing your story with me and the listeners.

[00:47:52] Scott DeLuzio: It’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you and hearing your story. And I want to thank you again for [00:48:00] coming on and sharing your story. It’s been

[00:48:02] Natalee King: awesome. Thank you for having me on you know, I, this is my first time on a podcast, so. I don’t know. It was interesting. I loved it. I like, I enjoy talking about it.

[00:48:14] Natalee King: I think it helps me cope and it helps other people at the same time.

[00:48:18] Scott DeLuzio: It’s a win-win .

[00:48:19] Natalee King: It is. It really is.

[00:48:21] Scott DeLuzio: Awesome. Well, thank you.

[00:48:23] Natalee King: Thank you.

[00:48:24] Scott DeLuzio: 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.

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