I’ve been getting ready for this post for a while. (You may have noticed I haven’t written in a few days. You’ll see why.)

Grab some tissues for this one.


A couple of years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend. While we were talking she said, “Oh, you have to meet Ginger. She has a great story.”

I learned Ginger had twin girls my daughter’s age. She also had three older kids. Our kids had been in the same school for years and our three had never been in the same class. Hmm, I thought. I should meet this Ginger.

I didn’t realize until later, but Ginger had actually contacted me while we were going through everything with Ian. After he had his fingers amputated, I changed all of our dishes to melamine ones (plastic.) I was determined to have Ian help me in the kitchen again, and I figured it would be nicer for them to be lighter and not breakable. Anyway, Ginger sent me a sweet email offering to give me some new melamine dishes she had just bought. She was kind in her email, telling me her family was praying for Ian.  I replied to her email and thanked her, but said I’d found some already. That was the end of it.

For the next year, I continued to hear about this Ginger. We just kept missing each other. I knew OF her, and I think she knew OF me. We both wanted to meet each other. Then it happened. We were both registered to attend a writing conference in the summer of 2014. Would you believe we lived in San Antonio, but ended up meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina?

She was as sweet as everyone said she was. She was warm and kind. She said she was a speaker and she was writing a book with her husband. Then she shared her story with me. I was blown away.


Troy and Ginger were happily married with five kids. Troy was in the Air Force, and in Sept 2006, was deployed to Iraq. He said goodbye to his wife and kids that morning, not knowing it would be the last time. Sadly, Troy was killed in a plane crash.

Ginger lost her husband. Their five kids lost their daddy. Americans lost a brave young hero.

As I write this, I try to put myself in Ginger’s shoes. My husband is gone. I have five kids to take care of on my own. My kids won’t have their daddy. My twins are not even a year old! What am I going to do? How am I going to survive this? 

There are just no words.

Meanwhile, another beautiful story had unfolded. Let me just say, I didn’t know any of the following people.


Jim and Andrea were married. They had two sons. They, too, were an Air Force family. Andrea was a brave young woman fighting cancer. Darn that dreaded nightmare that is cancer. I hate cancer.

Sadly, Andrea lost her battle with cancer. Her loving husband, Jim, was left to raise their kids without their beautiful mother.


This is where my own writing stops. I don’t have the words to adequately tell this story. I tried, but I fall short. Ian just got back from a run and found me sobbing in front of my computer at my kitchen table.

Instead, I will share their words. This is written by Jim, from their blog. Again, I urge you to get tissues.

This blog began as as an account of Andrea’s and my journey though breast cancer and her eventual death. My intention was to chronicle our experiences from sickness to physical healing but God revealed His plan was beyond the mere physical. I have continued to experience healing in my life and now God has opened a door to a new chapter in my life. This journey has not ended but has transformed into a new normal and the hope of a new beginning

My monthly updates, which grew into this blog, reached an Air Force pilot’s wife in Jan 2007 who had lost her husband two months prior. Her name is Ginger and her husband’s name was Troy. Through this tragic bond developed a friendship. And now, through marriage, God has merged all of our journies to healing. This blog is a compilation of these four lives; two sadly taken and two left behind. In this common grief God has given Ginger and I a desire to journal our experiences as therapy for our pain and a source of encouragement to others who face life’s most enormous challenges

Andrea was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer in Aug 2003 while we were stationed in Anchorage Alaska. After 6 months of chemo and radiation we moved to Washington DC. In June 2005 we moved again to Seymour Johnson AFB in NC. Two weeks later Andrea was told the pain in her hip was breast cancer that had spread to her bones. Two weeks later we were told the cancer was also in her liver and lungs. July 5th 2005 Andrea began chemo treatment. On Dec 17th 2007 Andrea lost her fight with cancer but won her place in eternity.

Troy was a loving father of 5 children, and like Andrea was a
faithful servant of Christ. Troy was an F-16 pilot who volunteered to serve in Iraq. He deployed in Sept 2006. One day during his tour there he was tasked to provide close air support to a special operations unit who had come under overwhelming enemy fire. In an attempt to limit civilian causalities Troy made two low level passes employing the gun from his F-16. After a successful first pass Troy attempted a second pass to ensure the safety of the American soldiers. It was during this pass that Troy’s F-16 impacted the ground. On Nov 27th 2006, Troy lost the fight in Iraq and that day won his place in eternity.

This blog is about our experiences, what God has taught us and most importantly about God’s faithfulness. It is about dealing with life with cancer and life after cancer. It is about dealing with the sudden tragic loss of a spouse. It is about death and life and the deep grieving and growing process we are going through. It is about our victories and our struggles. But always it is about God’s unfailing love for us.


This is their beautiful blended family. I love how God has joined these people!



Our girls did eventually end up in the same class. And, wouldn’t you know, they got along beautifully! The three have such gentle, sweet spirits. Only God could know they would need those having gone through what they have in their short lives.

I am blessed to know of Ginger, AND to count her as one of my friends. She is amazing. Jim, well, he is an outstanding man. I pray my boys will grow up to be the caliber of man he is. Jim now runs the organization Folds of Honor. Folds of Honor awards scholarships to children and dependents of military who have been killed or disabled in combat. Ginger is a speaker and shares their story with others in similar situations.

Ginger and Jim are real life heroes. Troy and Andrea are heroes, too. Although they were gone too soon, they will definitely not be forgotten. Jim describes it perfectly on their blog. They are four lives; two sadly taken and two left behind.


This post is part of a series of 31 Real Life Heroes. If you’d like to nominate your hero, please email dwarshak(at)gmail.com.

2 thoughts on “Real Life Heroes: Ginger, Troy, Jim, & Andrea

  1. Your words are too kind. God carried me and Ginger through are darkest days. As a fighter pilot I worked in an environment where confidence and self pride was a way of living. When Andrea and I faced cancer I learned how weak I was and how great my God is. He deserves all the praise!


    1. My brother Jim is my baby brother and he is a hero.. my hero. His humility is who he is. In the days and months before Andrea died.. I watched a husband and wife face living and dying with cancer with faith dignity and grace. It is who THEY were.

      To say I will miss Andrea is immeasurable to the grief my brother and Ginger experienced. God is in all of it ..his plan was perfect… it is who He is. Thanks Jim for being an inspiration to us all and for bringing Ginger into our family.


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