The following two posts are by Dr. Stefanie S.Gall, the widow of LT Dennis Gleason:
First Post: I only knew him five and a half years. Yet I feel like I knew him a life time because he became such a part of me.
An innately wise and unselfish person, who truly loves, prepares those that are dear to him for what may happen….particularly a man exposed to precarious assignments which could end up taking him instantly from all that is dear. I’ve always been such a romantic, and I felt I had married one….. so gentle, so kind, so tender. But he was also a realist, and he prepared me for the future, without either of us really knowing at the time what he was doing.
He let me know what his wishes were for himself if he should die, and he made sure I knew what he wanted for me if he died. In spite of the treacherous parts of my life, it seems as though I was always directed.
I’ll never forget one evening after he had returned from a deployment. He was sitting in his easy chair, and I was standing looking down at him and professing my undying love. Included in my discourse were such professions as: “You are the only person in this world for me,” followed by “I couldn’t dream of living without you.” And, of course, there must be a proper ending and, as many lovers do, I sealed it with a self-indulgent question, “Dennis, don’t you feel that way, too?”
He paused as he carefully considered his answer. When he responded, I was in for the biggest shock and let down of my life. “Stef, I want you to know, I love you very much; we were fortunate to find each other. However, after that, the rest was and is a choice. We decided. We made it happen. We made our relationship what it is. But I also want you to know that there are many wonderful people out there that we could also have been happy sharing our lives with.”
Oh, my God! What was I hearing? Plunge a knife in my heart! This man didn’t love me to the end of the earth as I loved him. This was just plain cold. How could he say this to me? I had just shared the depths of my soul with him, and he was rejecting me. I was crushed. There were others he could love? Not just me?
I looked at him in shock. “I’m not the only one for you,” I questioned, with tears pouring down my face. Immediately he got up from his chair, walked towards me and encircled me with his arms in a bear hug. He gently reassured me that I was everything to him and explained. “Stef, I’m just telling you that there are other people we could have loved. It didn’t happen that way, but there are others. And, Stef, I want you to remember that. There are other good people. And if I weren’t here, you could find another person to love. ”
“But you are here, and I’m here.” I said, pouting. “Right,” he said and smiled and held me closer.
I didn’t remember this conversation for a very long time. I didn’t want to. I was “really pissed” and didn’t want to think about or give credence to his “heartless” response. But later, when Dennis was killed and my life had been torn apart, I had to go through the daily walk of putting the pieces back together. THAT was when his words came flooding back to offer me comfort and direction. His voice was inside me, “Stef, I want you to remember that. There are other good people. And if I weren’t here, you could find another person to love. ”
I finally understood. This loving man had given me permission to love again. For any person who loses a loved one to death, it is such a hard thing to even think about. But his words of wisdom carried me through. I was only twenty three years old when Dennis died and, and as I remembered our lives and his words, I KNEW BEYOND a shadow of a doubt that he wanted happiness for me, and in order to have that, I needed to live life to the fullest. There were other people out there. People I could love. Dennis was a husband, lover, friend and wise teacher! I know he’s smiling that I found a wonderful man with whom I could love and raise a family. I know Dennis is smiling that I’ve had a fulfilling life. I was so blessed to have known him. He was one of those rare souls who truly knew the meaning of unselfish love because he wanted the best for those he cared about…even after his death.
Susan was 6.5 months old when her Daddy was killed. She was the light of his life. Everyday when he came home he would take his top secret purple clearance badge and put it around her neck. It went straight into her mouth and she teethed on it. After Dennis’s death, I was told I had to return the purple clearance badge. I remember crying and I also remember a beautiful gesture. Tony Krueger and Mike Asher (our dearest friends) made sure that Sudie got a badge of her own. It still had the VQ-1 BAT on the front, but instead of Dennis’s photo, it had Susan’s photo. Susan has been a very lucky girl. She has been so fortunate to have two great dads, not only a phenomenal birth father but a man who adopted her and loved her as his very own.