A bitterSweet love story - Andrews widow, widower find happiness after tragedy
By Airman 1st Class Lindsey A. Beadle, 11th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 21, 2011
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- Framed portraits line the edges of Master Sgt. Christopher Sweet's office desk. As if offering guidance from filter glass, loved ones watch over every decision made during the work day. Down and to the left, nearest the keyboard, one image offers up more than guidance to the Sergeant. Through this picture, absolute distress and heartache, along with triumph and the ultimate example perseverance come shining through. With every single remembrant glance, the photograph of Tech. Sgt. Jessica Sweet encourages him to never forget what events occurred to make him the courageous man he is today.
In February 2009, Tech. Sgt. Jessica Sweet lost her battle with leukemia and in December of that same year, Sergeant Sweet and his children attended Snowball Express, a Texas-based program designed to offer up hope and new memories to the children of fallen military heroes who have died on active duty since September 11th.
While attending the event, Sweet met Danielle Balmer. Tech. Sgt. Ryan Balmer, Danielle's husband, was killed in Iraq four years earlier.
"Danielle first noticed me at Snowball Express because I was wearing an Air Force sweatshirt," said Sweet. "It's more uncommon to meet fellow Air Force members at Snowball Express, so when I met Danielle, I was very surprised."
Balmer and Sweet wouldn't cross paths again until that year's National Military Survivors Seminar and again at the following year's Snowball Express. Regardless of the how infrequent their meetings were though, a connection between Balmer and Sweet had been made.
"After Snowball Express that year, I went back home and immediately got on my computer to send Danielle a Facebook friend request ... and immediately chickened out," Sweet confesses. "But, it was funny because as soon as I chickened out, I got a notification that she had found me."
What had happened between Balmer and Sweet at Snowball Express and the survivor's seminar wasn't planned but instead, seemed more like fate. Balmer and Sweet had both survived one of the most tragic events a person can experience, the loss of their loved ones, but these tragedies couldn't have driven these two individuals anywhere but closer together. Balmer and Sweet were married on July 4th, 2011 at the base of the Air Force Memorial in Washington, D.C.
"There's something especially different about being a young widow or widower," said Sweet. "As much as I felt I was meant to be with Jess, I also knew I was meant to be in Danielle's life too. Maybe there's a bigger plan, you know? She (Danielle) was supposed to be where she was with Ryan, I was supposed to be where I was with Jess, and now we're supposed to be together."
Sweet's, along with Danielle's, kids have adopted special places in their now-combined house to commemorate and memorialize their respective fallen parents. Sweet and Balmer make a point of letting their children know that, even with one of their parent's gone, they should not be forgotten.
"We tell our children all the time, 'you have a mom and dad in heaven, as well as a mom and dad on earth,'" said Sweet. "We want our kids to know we have a very special family and realize how lucky we are to be together."
In the wake of his tragedy, Sweet has come out completely on top. A new life and family, along with a greater perspective on the Airmen he sees at the Airman and Family Readiness Center here has all contributed to his phoenix of success. Additionally, Sweet has established "LoveSweet," a memorial fund set up to honor his fallen wife and to keep her memory alive.
"I feel that by helping others, I'm also healing myself," said Sweet. "Not only can I give back to the Air Force community that had given me so much when Jess was diagnosed, but now I can take what I've learned and apply it at the AFRC. I'm who I am today because of what happened and I'm very happy."
For more information on LoveSweet, visit www.LOVESWEET.org or call 240-619-9560.