Members of the military community joined the world in shock and sadness over the untimely deaths this weekend of NBA legend Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers.
Fans everywhere are vulnerably sharing the hurt they feel at losing an inspirational sports figure who impacted their lives from near and far. Wives and mothers are expressing the unimaginable grief that Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, is enduring from losing her husband and child. And as the moments progress, information has come to light about the other passengers, including parents traveling with their teens. We say their names.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli was traveling with his wife, Keri, and daughter, Alyssa;
Girls basketball coach Christina Mauser, a mother of three;
Sarah Chester with her daughter, Payton; and
Pilot Ara Zobayan.
Whether you are a Los Angeles Lakers fan, avid basketball viewer, empathetic human or parent who can relate to the closeknit relationship displayed by Bryant and his daughters, the last few days have led onlookers to pause and reflect on the tragedy.
Bryant is being mourned globally not just for his record-breaking basketball career, but also for the major impact he had on those he mentored and inspired. Among his off-the-court work was a connection to the military community that was highlighted by several leaders recently.
Bonnie Carroll, president and founder of the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, reflected on his life in an online post. “Kobe Bryant represented America in his own way and we were fortunate to witness what it meant to him to wear “USA” on his uniform. He showed tremendous appreciation for the service and sacrifice of our military; Gold Start gave greater meaning to gold medals. We are grateful for his support and hold his wife and surviving daughters in our hearts.”
Retired U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, met Bryant in 2012 at the Arlington National Cemetery. In remembrance, he shared in a Facebook post: “Kobe Bryant understood what it meant to represent his country with USA Basketball.” But he also goes on to share that, “he actively supported the military, their families, and especially the families of the fallen. God bless all who lost their lives in the crash and their families.”
In years past, Bryant visited with wounded service members and Gold Star wives who’d lost their husbands. Now some of those same people are extending their condolences and hearts to show his wife and family support.
“You shared your big heart so our broken hearts might heal out of tragedy. Our TAPS family just never could’ve imagined we’d share in your own family’s tragic heartbreak. There’s no right words for moments like these. But know as we sit speechless, in disbelief, our thoughts are wrapped around both the legacy and the little girls you leave behind.” – TAPS
Although Bryant is prominently thought of as a basketball icon, recent years have given a deeper glimpse into the importance family played in his life. And just as he supported those fallen in the military, the camaraderie and brotherhood of the military community compels us to come together and cover those that are suffering right now.
The victims didn’t know it would be their last day here and we’ll never know the fear and helplessness that filled their final moments, but in times like these, when death is so sudden, we are moved to think about what really matters. Value the time spent with loved ones and take nothing for granted.