Ginger Ravella is the surviving spouse of U.S. Air Force Major Troy Gilbert, who was KIA in Iraq on 11/27/2006 while supporting Special Operations Command.
I once heard that courage is not about knowing the path but just simply taking the first step. In September 2006, while we stood in our kitchen in Phoenix, Arizona, my husband, Major Troy Gilbert, kissed each of our five little children, ages eight, six and three, and twin
six-month-old babies, good-bye before deploying to Iraq for four and half months. Boston, our oldest, was told he would be the man of the house while daddy was gone. Troy gave our other boys tiny F-16 pins to put on their backpacks, symbols of dad serving as a fighter pilot. My instincts told me this deployment might be different as Troy was heading into a hotbed of fierce fighting in Iraq. I would do my best to keep things together while he was gone. Three months after Troy left for war, suddenly, the doorbell rang. Opening the door, there stood at least five people, mostly in Air Force uniforms, on our porch. After entering, I listened to their measured words: “Ginger, Troy’s plane went down earlier today in a combat mission west of Baghdad.” My head and the room immediately spun. His commanders went on to say that due to battle conditions, military forces could not enter the crash site. My mind pictured the scene and I felt helpless. I then decided to pray for the best and prepare for the worst. Five days later I was informed, and it became front-page news, that based on a very small amount of DNA found at the crash site, it was determined Troy died on impact. Though numb, I had closure of some sort and was so thankful he was not in the hands of evil men. Ten years later, in October 2016, I learned Troy’s body had been recovered and would be brought back to U.S. soil by his teammates, those he was defending in battle.
In the days after Troy’s death, I had the unenviable task of telling our young, innocent children that their daddy had gone to heaven. I then began planning Troy’s funeral, while tending to many other daily parental requirements, by myself. The thought of caring for our five little kids weighed on my mind day and night – it was overwhelming. But I remembered that courage was about putting one foot in front of the other, praying that God would shine a light on the path ahead, and healing. I feel blessed that our children’s educations have been/will be taken care of by SOWF. Though Troy was not a Special Operator himself, he died selflessly saving over twenty Special Operators that fateful day, which qualified our children for full educations.
To date, my two oldest have earned college degrees, and give back by helping Veterans. My daughter is now a college sophomore at Belmont University and our twin baby girls, nine months old at the time, are currently juniors in high school.
We are thankful for the opportunity to share Troy’s story so that other families like ours realize they will not be alone. As a surviving spouse and on behalf of my children, we are eternally grateful to SOWF and their donors.