It's not every day that you come home from being deployed overseas for six months to find your apartment has been broken into and someone who did not have a home has made themselves very very welcome inside yours. That's what happened to JT Ballew. And that's when we met JT Ballew.
Quiet and reserved, JT was your typical young Warrior coming home from his first-ever deployment, ready to get some R&R and get back to figuring out life in what was still a very new chapter. But...SURPRISE!
You expect your home to be a safe place...and when you've been away for over 6 months, it's pretty safe assumption that your safe home is pretty close to like you left it, with maybe only a layer of dust covering the furniture. Nobody expects to walk upstairs to their apartment and see the door slightly open. And after the police come and declare it a crime scene, you still don't expect to learn that someone had been living there and they had made themselves at home...destroying everything you owned.
Fast forward a few months, as JT is sleeping on a new bed that is part of a whole set of furnishings provided for his new apartment by the generosity of the local community, and the phone rings. On the other end of the phone is the voice telling him that his mom was dying. Fast forward a couple of years later, and in his mid-20s, he has now said goodbye to both his mom and his dad within the span of one year, serving as a caregiver for both during the final days of their lives.
Today, as he navigates his own personal journey through healing, this brief snapshot of his life stands as a stark reminder that life can hit us at any moment, and then it can hit us again, and again, and again. His life, his story, is evidence of two things:
1. This seemingly cold and callous world is not as cold and callous as it seems...and total strangers are out there ready and willing to help meet your needs. (As more and more people learned of his apartment situation, more and more people stepped in to replace what he lost with even more than he had)
2. When you're way beyond what you can handle, and you're desperate for the hope you once had, there is something magical that happens when you open yourself up to just one person you trust. That small step, usually in response to someone who is already around you who sees you struggling, is how the load we're carrying begins to be shared with other shoulders.
Fast forward into the future a little...don't be surprised when you see JT using his experiences to help another young man or woman who is experiencing heavy loss and the trauma left in the wake of that loss.