Photo of Gerrick and Shardeh Watkins from Shardeh's Facebook Page

Photo of Gerrick and Shardeh Watkins from Shardeh’s Facebook Page

A couple weeks ago, I read an article about another Marine Corps family, Gerrick and Shardeh Watkins, who died in a fiery crash on the freeway, just a few miles from my house. What really gets me, is that it could have been any one of us.

The couple was young, married in 2011, and happened to be coming back from spending a day at the beach with their dogs, something many of us in southern California do on a regular basis.

A family member is quoted, saying “The only thing that comforts us is that they all went quickly and they all went together,” Matthew Norris said of his step-daughter, her husband, Marine combat veteran Gerrick Watkins, and the couple’s two dogs Layla and Scout.”

I can’t stop thinking about this couple, not just because of their loss, but because my heart is crushed that they’re not being buried together. “Shardeh and the two dogs, Layla and Scout, will be buried in her home state of Maryland. Gerrick will be laid to rest in his home state of Texas”, says the article.

Now, I don’t know the Watkins family, but I’m fairly certain that most married couples would not want to be buried thousands of miles apart, and I’d be surprised if this was what they wanted. Quite possibly I’m wrong, but this isn’t so much about them, as it is about you.  I’m asking you to think about what you’d want your future to look like.

Young love is amazing and powerful, but sometimes our families just don’t get it, or respect it. I remember back to when I first met my Marine. I was 19, he was 22. For years, his mom had a very difficult time treating us as our own family unit, partially I think, because we didn’t have kids. We are living on our own, living thousands of miles away from our friends and family. All we had were each other.

I know that in times of stress, beyond life and death situations, extended family members choose to do what is comfortable and easy for them, not taking into account the needs or wants of a young couple.

The lesson learned for me, and hopefully all of you, is to write down what you’d like to see happen in your futures:

  • What is going to happen if you and/or your spouse become incapacitated?
  • Who will become the guardians of your children in the event that both parents pass away?
  • Where would you like to be buried and how?
  • Is your SGLI (life insurance) updated and accurate? I’ve heard stories where ex-wives were still listed as the primary recipient, or estranged family members receive a lump sum, instead of their children.

Visit RPAC on base to update your Record of Emergency Data (RED) and get your SGLI updated. Draft up a document for a will and  get it notarized for a quick stand-in. It won’t be official, but it will be a start. The next stop is Base Legal, where they offer help with making free wills, advance directives and more. This is a free resource for you, take advantage of this program and make sure your wishes are honored in the end.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the family and friends who knew Gerrick and Shardeh Watkins. May they rest in peace.