Remaining resilient. A family’s story of love and sacrifice

Sgt. 1st Class Michael K. SmithSergeants Brian and Kim Avalos pictured with their 10-year old son Anthony and baby Justin. (Photo Courtesy Kim Avalos)

By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition

February 14, 2017 - There are those precious moments that a parent revels in, a child’s first steps, and the loss of their first tooth or the first day of school. For Sergeants Brian and Kim Avalos, many of these events were missed due to military trainings and multiple deployments.

“I missed a lot of the firsts due to training. I wasn't always home to see my son’s first roll over or smile. I don't think either of us can even begin to explain how hard it is to be away from family,” said Kim. “It was so hard when Brian was deployed because as a family, you have a routine and then all of a sudden, your routine is completely messed up because one person is gone. We often explained to our son Anthony that we were off fighting the bad guys in countries that needed our help.”

Brian and Kim would often use technology to keep in touch with their son via phone or skype. However, Brian says nothing beats seeing the one’s you love up close and personal.

“I missed his first day of Pre-K due to a deployment. It was so hard to miss out on such a huge event. You have to relive the moment through pictures and it is never the same. You always wonder if they are upset with you because you missed yet another lost tooth or their first soccer goal. But in the end, I always knew how much my son loved me,” Brian said.

The Avalos family would hold onto those memories as the family found themselves dealing with more changes. In 2011, Brian was injured by an improvised explosive device while deployed in Afghanistan. He spent one month in a coma and would eventually lose his left eye, partial usage of his left arm and now suffers from a severe traumatic brain injury.

“After Brian was injured, our son grew up way too fast. All of a sudden he was a four and a half year old who had to help his dad dress himself and tie his shoes. He even had to help him see because Brian is missing his left eye. Now that he is older, our family moves in a very good routine,” Kim explains. “We all know what we have to do to help Brian. Because of this, I would say that Anthony is one of the toughest, most resilient kids that I know. He can adapt to any situation and is very understanding of his father’s medical issues.

Brian says the formula for remaining resilient is simple, family support.

“My wife is who holds our entire family together. I don't know where I would be without her. Change has made us stronger. So many families who go through what we did, would fall apart. We were determined not to let that happen to us,” Brian said.

This couple says ultimately, their now 10-year-old son Anthony has learned the biggest lesson of all.

“I’m proud of my mom and dad, their desire to be in the Army and going to war. I missed them when they would leave, but I knew they were keeping people safe. When I get older I can’t wait to join the Army as well,” Anthony said.

Brian and Kim retired in 2013 and in 2016, their family grew with the birth of another son, Justin, who is now six months old.

Today, Kim has a message for those dealing with changes in life.

“Through deployments, our time in the service and Brian's injury, we have learned that love truly conquers all. If you love someone, you will do anything for them. When someone needs you, you can look past all the bad to do what is right for them. Not a day goes by that we don't miss being in the Army. Both of us wished we could have stayed in. We loved every second of it. ”