November 27, 2016.

Submitted by hjunbaek on May 18th, 2017 at 6:36 PM

MOVED TO DIARIES - LSA

 

Just wanted to share something I've been meaning to write, but didn't really have a chance to do until now.

 

The date was November 26, 2016. I watched in stunned silence as Curtis Samuel scooted into the end zone to score the game winning touchdown in OT, giving OSU their 12th win in the last 13 years. As the OSU fans spilled out onto the field (several of them being my friends, as I grew up in Dayton OH, less than an hour from Columbus) I walked out of the room I was in with my hands over my head and in complete shock. The look of pure disappointment, and anger, must have been very apparent on my face because my friend said to me “Hey, do you think this is the best place to be walking around looking like that?”

I realized what he meant immediately.

I was in the ICU at Walter Reed National Medical Center in Bethesda MD.

Two days prior, on Thanksgiving day, I had found out that my teammate Jason Jablonski, who had been fighting leukemia for over four months, had taken a turn for the worse, and that a fungal infection had taken hold of his body. Jason was a rising firstie (senior) at the United States Naval Academy, and also one of the captains of the men’s ice hockey team. Several teammates and I scrambled to get flights back the next day, in order to support the Jablonski family, as well as Jason. Although he was heavily sedated, and could not speak to us, optimism was high that he would fight off this fungal infection. In my mind, there was no question that he would. In fact, I was more worried about The Game than I was about whether or not Jason would fight it off. Jason had beaten T-Cell A-L-L leukemia into remission, this was simply another roadblock on his road to recovery.

After The Game, I was in a pretty sour mood the rest of the day. Needless to say, I told everyone that the refs were a joke (because they were!!!), that J.T Barrett was short of the first down (because he was!!!), and that I hated the city of Columbus with a burning passion. As the gloating text messages began rolling in from my friends back home, I truly felt like this was the worst day I’d ever had. We’d lost AGAIN. This time in absolutely agonizing fashion. How could life get any worse?

The next day, Jason Jablonski passed away.

Image result for jason jablonski

 

Everyone loses, and will lose, people close to them in their lifetime. Grandparents and parents to old age. Friends in the military in combat. These all make some sort of “sense”. Jason’s death made no sense. A vibrant young man, who had a bright future ahead of him, and who had recently been selected to become a future Navy Pilot. Why would life take someone who had so much to give to the world? I think that decades from now, I’ll struggle with the answer to this question.

The weekend of November 26th taught me a lot about perspective. I realize I’m only 21 years old and that I’m nowhere near done growing and learning. But I learned an important lesson that weekend. The lesson? It’s just a game. The Game, although it’s huge one, is still just a game. I’m not saying I won’t get upset about losses or bad calls in the future- I most definitely will. But at the end of the day, as much as we all hate to hear it: we always have next year. Watching your favorite team lose a game is hard. Losing a friend/teammate/brother is magnitudes harder

Michigan football will always mean a lot to me. It always has. Even though I grew up in Ohio, and don’t attend the University of Michigan, Michigan football gives me something to look forward to- especially during those long school weeks in the fall. However, I look at it differently now. Experiencing those huge wins (UTL, vs. Florida in the Capital One Bowl, 2011 vs OSU all come to mind), is not just a euphoric experience for me- but for all Michigan fans everywhere. Just like the heartbreaking losses are experienced by us all as well. We have a community we can fall back on: somewhere to celebrate together, grieve losses together, and just talk about a topic that we all love and look forward to.

The weekend of The Game will have a new meaning to me for the remainder of my life. To me, it’s a reminder that win or lose, we all have these communities to fall back on in times of hardship. Whether that be a fan base of a sports team, or a group of people brought together because the death of a loved one. Having people share that burden helps- talking (or writing) about it helps too. To me, the weekend of the Game will transcend just the game itself. It will be a constant reminder to remember Jason, as well as those close to him who will inevitably be struggling during that time of year.

In passing, here’s a quote about Jason from a member of the hockey team: “Jason, or Jabs as we liked to call him on our team, was one of the strongest willed people I have ever come across. He lived his life with a burning passion that radiated outward. Jabs never let anyone in his sights have a bad day, always bringing the people around him up and making them feel valued. At the same time, he was quick with one of his signature sarcastic jokes or a snide remark to keep the people around him humble and remind us that we are all human. In the hours following his passing, stories began to come out as the team huddled together desperately trying, and inevitably failing, to make the smallest shred of sense of the tragedy that had occurred. Story after story poured out, some funny, some sad, some downright embarrassing, but a common thread shined within every story: Win Every Battle. Jabs won every battle he ever came across by living each day like a warrior, attacking each obstacle ferociously, yet never forgetting to bring along the people next to him. This manifested itself in every area of Jason's life, from never being outworked on the ice, volunteering his free time to help out others, and unrelentingly fighting for his life in a cold hospital bed. Jabs did not find victory at the end of every battle, yet he still managed to win every time, charging towards every obstacle with a warrior mentality and never giving anything less than his maximum effort. No matter the place or the circumstances, Jabs won every battle he ever came across.”

Forever our brother.

Win Every Battle.

Go Blue.

 

Comments

Toby Flenderson

May 18th, 2017 at 6:42 PM ^

Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry for your loss. Cancer finds its way to effect so many people in our lives, including our mothers, fathers, friends, siblings, grandparents. It is always important to focus upon what truly matters in life.

 

Go Blue always.

Jevy

May 18th, 2017 at 6:47 PM ^

So sorry for your loss. I was recently diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma so this post really helped me out, so thank you for that!! Couldn't imagine the battle he had to go through. And what an awesome photo of him!!!! Go Blue!

APBlue

May 18th, 2017 at 7:02 PM ^

I'm sorry for your loss.  It's a sucky way to get a lesson on perspective.  Most are more fortunate and only learn through getting older (getting married, having kids, etc.).  

Godspeed to you and your shipmates.  

Walter E. Kurtz

May 18th, 2017 at 7:06 PM ^

Wow, this must have been difficult for you to write reliving those raw emotions. Nevertheless, I hope you found some measure of catharsis from this post. I'm sure Jason was aware of what great friends and teammates he had.

Thank you for sharing.

Tex_Ind_Blue

May 18th, 2017 at 7:17 PM ^

Very sorry to hear about your loss. Losing a close one is never easy. May his soul rest in peace. Hope his family, and you and your friends find the strength to pass through this. Remember his smile and the good times you had. 

Victor Hale II

May 18th, 2017 at 7:54 PM ^

Hell of a post. I've lost close friends and relatives in their 30's, as well as a parent, so your words really hit home for me. Keep on keeping your memories of your buddy alive.

LSAClassOf2000

May 18th, 2017 at 8:05 PM ^

I don't have words except that I am very sorry for your loss and that hopefully this post in some way helps you heal further somehow. 

Thank you for sharing this. We get lost in the moment sometimes on here, but it is important to sometimes refocus on the things that really - at the core - matter to us all. 

USAFA007

May 18th, 2017 at 8:39 PM ^

I can identify. As a fellow service academy graduate, there are bigger things in life. I have lost both classmates and friends. However, for me, this year was different. I was watching the fourth quarter of the Game, when a dear friend from the Academy rang the bell. I hadn't seen her in several years. She is a doctoral student, but while voluntarily serving a 365 in Afghanistan, suffered a stroke, resulting in brain damage. She now struggles to form basic words, which is painful to see in someone whose mind clearly has big ideas it forms, but simply cannot express.

I spent the next few hours with my friend, enjoying every precious moment that brimmed with life and perspective. Yes, it sucked to later discover how the Game ended. I wish it had been different. But win or lose, I wouldn't trade my short time with my friend for anything. Stay strong, treasure the important things in life, and always, Go Blue!

Wolfman

May 18th, 2017 at 9:49 PM ^

and realize among our leaders of tomorrow are a special group of young men and women. As difficult as it must have been to revisit the pain as you wrote about it, you did so with an honesty and love for your brother that was apparent throughout. You're one hell of a young man and as I said, to read the words of a young man who at twenty-one has learned a great deal more than many twice his age can only make me feel optimistic about those who will be leading this nation two decades down the road.

I am so sorry that you lost such a close friend at such a young age, but I love to see the courage and trust you displayed by opening up to so many you have never met, yet fully understood you could not have selected a more understanding, compassionate group. You did a tremendous job in painting a picture of your friend that made it easy to understand he, along with yourself, was definitely made of the right stuff. 

I would suggest you save this writing and revisit it in the future. It's one hell of a tribute. 

UNCWolverine

May 18th, 2017 at 10:47 PM ^

Damn man, and to think I almost didn't click on this link. You are mature beyond your years.

Thank you so much for sharing this. I lost my uncle when I was just 7, he was 24, to cancer. He had just graduated from Michigan in the early 80s as a Computer Science major, such an amazing person with his whole life ahead of him. Only the good die young, bud.

Also, good on you for being such a big Michigan fan from Ohio. My Michigan roomate for many years, and best friend is also from Dayton coincidentally.

 

Good stuff, god bless, take care, Go Blue.

 

MaizeMN

May 19th, 2017 at 1:31 AM ^

...I went through a potentially life ending trauma. The realization of my own mortality gave me new perspective on the truly important things in life. The very fact that I wake up each day and am fortunate to continue to experience so many things that I used to take for granted is something I now cherish more than ever. That includes the highs when Michigan emerges victorious, as well as those times when their valiant efforts fall short of that.
It's great to be a MICHIGAN WOLVERINE.
God bless.

South TX MFan

May 19th, 2017 at 7:02 AM ^

Very sorry for your loss. I can empathize. Last year sucked. First I lost my mom to cancer. Then I lost a very close friend to cancer. He was only 39. A marine like his brothers whose chest pain was diagnosed as an injury from a fall instead of the cancer it turned out to be. And since life comes at you in threes it seems I lost my dog of 13 years right after that. Then I tore my rotator cuff. Then I discovered cancer of my own, which was thankfully successfully removed.

So, not a good year, and yeah it is just a game, but damn those refs for not bringing a little joy at the end of it!

MGoBlue24

May 19th, 2017 at 2:20 PM ^

and best wishes in the future.

I was with my dad after a 10 hour surgery as M-OSU played out on the TV in his room. 

The great news is that everything turned out successfully - he won the game that truly mattered that day.    

Navy Wolverine

May 19th, 2017 at 7:33 PM ^

Hjunbaek,

Thank you for sharing your story. Like you, I am a USNA grad and life-long Michigan fan, although I grew up in Michigan but now live in the Cincinnati - Dayton area. Sorry to hear about the loss of your classmate - definitely a big blow to our Navy family. Over the years, I've lost more than a few classmates, shipmates and friends due to illness, aircraft mishaps, etc. It is never an easy thing to endure, and is by far the dark side of the life we have chosen. What this teaches you is that every day is a gift which you have to seize and live to its very fullest. And when you reflect on how important the work we do is and what a blessing it is to serve our great country, the memory of your friend Jason will help drive you to do things you never thought you could do.

Are you graduating next week? If so, enjoy every day of Commissioning Week and best of luck to you in the Fleet. I would love to know what your service selection is. If you ever need anything (career advice or to rub it in the face of all these OSU fans here in OH when we beat them next year) please feel free to reach out. Best of luck to you, Shipmate.

Stories like these always make me think of the Navy Hymn:

Verse 1: Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave, 
Who bidd'st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! 

Verse 2: O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked'st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 3: Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea! 

Verse 4: O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger's hour; 
From rock and tempest, fire and foe, 
Protect them wheresoe'er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

 

JTrain

June 30th, 2017 at 5:26 PM ^

Stories like this definitely help put things into perspective. Every once in a while we encounter situations like this that remind us how fragile life is.

I work in a hospital and believe me...it is VERY grounding. Working and helping sick people during their darkest hours is a privilege.

When I think I'm having a bad day...I look around and realize that I'm really not. It can always be worse.

And I know this will sound cliché, but attitude is everything and, it really is true... that every day is a gift.