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NEWS | Oct. 1, 2013

Airman reflects on resilience, finding AF family

By Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Editor's note: This article is a part of a series about Service members' stories of resilience.

For many, Jan. 24, 2008, holds no special significance. It may be difficult to think back and recall that particular Thursday, but for Tech. Sgt. Stephanie Eversley and her family, it will always be remembered.

"That was the day my life changed forever," said Eversley, 633rd Air Base Wing Judge Advocate Office general law noncommissioned officer in charge.

While stationed at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Eversley suffered a loss she said will be with her for the rest of her life. After 37 weeks of pregnancy, the then-staff sergeant suffered a miscarriage, losing her daughter, Layla Isabella.

"I was devastated, it was like the rug was pulled out from under me," said Eversley. "Nothing was the same."

Eversley said the following weeks were a blur, but she will always remember how the Airmen at the air base rallied behind her family.

"I really don't remember the weeks after, I was in a haze." she said. "Our Air Force family took care of us. The [Airmen] held us up by cooking us meals and showing support and devotion."

For Eversley, family has always been extremely important, but she said her tragedy made her discover something that was with her all along.

"It showed me the Air Force is really a family," she said. "[That was] best thing that happened from joining the Air Force."

After six weeks of leave, Eversley returned to work, still in the fog of the aftermath.

"When I returned to work, I couldn't think straight or get my head around information I could quote off the top of my head just two months before," she said. "What I couldn't do for myself, [my fellow Airmen] did. When I couldn't think, they were there."

Eversley and her husband left their Yokota family just six months later when they both were stationed at Langley Air Force Base. Although moving can be hard, Eversley said it was especially difficult leaving the warm embrace of the family who was with her during the turbulent months.

"That transition from leaving my Air Force family at Yokota to a new base where I wasn't known was hard," she said. "They had no idea why I was despondent or why an Airman with top [enlisted progress reports] was struggling."

As time went on, Eversley said she started to come out of the haze she fell into, but she was far from her old self, and the things that came easy seemed suddenly out of reach.

"I closed myself off and I didn't even know it," she said. "It was almost like I had to learn to walk and talk again. I had to relearn how to be me."

As the fog subsided and things started to return to relative normalcy, Eversley realized her outlook on the Air Force and her career changed. Now a supervisor, Eversley said her priority is setting her Airmen up for success.

"[Before the miscarriage,] I was very career-oriented and interested in getting awards and recognition. I had my entire career mapped out," she said. "My experiences have made me realize I should devote my career to improve the Air Force and the Airmen around me."

Looking back now five years later, Eversley said her tragedy changed her into the person she has become.

"I've changed since January 24, 2008," she said "Layla taught me it's not always about me -- it's about the people around me."

Eversley said some days are harder than others, but she is finally out of the darkness that surrounded her for so long.

"There are always going to be rough days," she said, "but I have my fellow Airmen to help me get through it together."

Eversley said she uses her experiences to take care of her Air Force family the same way it took care of her.

"Resiliency is very important, but there are always resources available," she said. "Your Air Force brothers and sisters are your most valuable resource because we are all in this together."

She said Airmen should realize that as long as they don a military uniform, they are never alone.

"Whether it is your first day or your last in the Air Force, you are part of a family and you are not alone. All you have to do is look around - there will always be someone to lean on," she said. "The Air Force family idea is not a gimmick. It's important to treat each other like family, because as I can attest, it can make all of the difference to have your fellow Airmen to lean on."