Quilts help mend memories together
By Janet Taylor-Birkey, 27th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published December 18, 2006
CANNON AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --
Keri Williams arrived to pick up quilts that represented honor and memory. She knew the quilts were made for surviving family members of those killed in action, but she never expected to receive one of her own.
"You can look on TV and see what's happening in the world, but it's never real until it hits home," said Keri.
She eyed the quilts with sadness. Though her smile is filled with gratefulness at the colorful quilts, handmade by the Caprock Operation Homefront Quilters, her eyes reflect an element of sorrow in them for her own loss.
Keri's older brother, Private First Class Satieon Greenlee was killed in Iraq, in October, just five weeks after beginning his tour there. Keri was certainly concerned for his safety, but was still shocked by the news that "Tee" had been killed.
Married to Senior Airman Andrew Williams, 27th Component Maintenance Squadron, Keri is no stranger to military life. But as a younger spouse, she is not as familiar with the pain that sometimes accompanies a tour of duty. Now that the loss has come, she is learning to live with it, along with the additional fear of when her husband is next deployed.
It was when her son was two weeks old, and her husband had gone back to work, that her mother called with the news about her brother. "I heard in her voice that something was wrong," said Keri.
The shock was more unbelievable to her because her husband had been in Iraq, "and he came back okay."
After digesting the news, Keri adamantly told her husband, "You have to get out [of the military]." But after more consideration, she backed down.
"We're the kind of people that when it's your time to go, you're going, no matter what you are doing," said Keri. Still, the only thing she could think of was going home to comfort her mother and her siblings.
Tee's death not only hurts Keri, but her 6-year-old daughter, JaKeria. Keri became a mom while still in high school and relied heavily on Tee to help her with childcare. "He worked at night and he was the only person I didn't have to pay to keep her."
It's the remembrance of the life of Tee Greenlee that keeps Keri going. She said that although his life was not long enough, it was spent serving his country and providing freedom for those he knew and those he didn't.
It is that knowledge that comforts Keri in the rough times.
"He knew he had to," Keri said. "It was the best thing for him."
She said Tee was tired of dead-end jobs that provided no financial stability for his family that included two children. While he may not have been totally sold on the idea, Tee joined the Army. At least this way, his family would have a steady paycheck and medical benefits.
And while Keri may not agree with all aspects of the war, she said it is fair to say that she supports the troops doing their job. And she loves the fact that her big brother was working to make a difference.
"At least he died doing something good. He could have been doing something that served no purpose," she said. "His kids ... and all his family can have something to remember him by and know he did something good."