FORT STEWART, Ga. (WSAV) – Adam Wenger is remembered as a big personality.
“Happy, full of life,” Brandy Wenger recalled of her late husband.
The Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, native served four tours, deployed once to Afghanistan, once to Kosovo and twice to Iraq supporting Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
“He loved the military,” Brandy said. “He loved his brothers that he served with. When he smiled, he smiled with his whole face.”
In November of 2008, the Wenger family was looking forward to welcoming their dad home — but the unthinkable happened.
Weeks before he was due to return stateside, Adam took his own life.
For Brandy and their seven children, the news was devastating.
“He was excited to come home,” said Brandy. “So, it was a shock to me to get that knock at my door, you know, and then to hear the circumstances behind it was a huge shock to me.”
It’s been 14 years since her husband died, and Brandy still struggles with the reasons why.
“I know that he had said it had been rough that last week and a half, and I could tell in conversations that he seemed a little different,” Brandy recalled. “But he was also, you know, the day that he died he was 27 days from coming home.”
Brandy had to put aside her own grief and begin again.
With five of their seven children under the age of six, she worked to find a way to help them remember their father for the way he lived, not how he died.
“To me, he was my hero. He was the children’s hero,” Brandy said. “Regardless of the circumstances around his death, he fought for this country. He loved this country with a passion.”
Today, the Wenger family still visits Adam’s gravesite in Jesup, Georgia.
“We go to the gravesite generally, for his birthday and on Memorial Day we put out flags,” Brandy said.
The Wenger children are older now and two sons are pursuing their own military careers — something Brandy says her husband would be very proud of.
She credits the Gold Star Teen Adventures program for being a safe haven for the children to work through their pain.
But finding her way after the tragic loss was a process for Brandy. She found support from other military families who have lost loved ones.
“I found another military widow whose husband also lost his life to suicide, and she and I have become amazing friends over the years,” Brandy said. “I don’t think I could have survived this journey without her.”
As Brandy looks to the future, her husband’s legacy fuels her will to live life to the fullest. She encourages other military spouses who’ve experienced loss to reach out to their military community for help and advises spouses to allow themselves to grieve in their own way.
“Don’t let anyone tell you what your amount of time in grief is,” Brandy said. “There is no amount of time. It does not go away.”
“November will be 14 years, and I don’t think I’m ever gonna move on from grief,” she continued, “and I don’t think I’m ever gonna move on from loving him.”
There are 469 crepe myrtle trees lining Warriors Walk at Fort Stewart. Each was planted in memory of the soldiers who died in service against the terror threats following 9/11.
“When you walk amongst these trees you just get an emotion that you can’t find somewhere else,” Brandy said.”
Tree number 418 honors Adam.