KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Friday is an important day in our country’s history: Flag Day. It was June 14, 1777, that our country adopted the flag as our own.
A Navy widow is seen clutching the folded flag from her husband’s military funeral..in a heart-wrenching photo. After all this time, she’s finally ready to share her experiences through her book, “Providing Promise.”
Lt. Commander Jon Rystrom was devoted to his family and his country. In his final mission on March 26, 1993, Rystrom and several other naval aviators were on an E2C Hawkeye, part of Operation Providing Promise Relief Effort in Bosnia, when the plane crashed into the Ionian Sea.
“They never found the crew and the plane is down in a mountainous range under the water, and so they couldn’t recover the aircraft,” said Kris Rystrom Emmert shares with us.
Captured in this unforgettable photo is a wife left with agonizing grief. Twenty-five years later, she finally felt ready to share her story, writing a book called “Providing Promise: A Navy Widow’s Journey of Hope.”
“The first time I sat down to write at my laptop,” Emmert said, “I closed my eyes and I started typing. And out it came.”
The book shares just some of the hundreds of letters the couple sent to each other during deployment, including the powerful last words Emmert would receive from her husband.
“And then he goes, ‘ I just thank God for the great life He has given me.’ And he died that night,” she said, reading from his final letter. “My message is, first of all, this is a gift that my husband was a blessed man, and he was a happy man but it’s a message to those of us to say if it was your last day, who would you write your letter to? And could you say to them, ‘I just thank God for the great life He’s given me.'”
The outpouring after the tragedy helped Emmert keep going. She even gained a pen pal through President George Bush who had just left office. She framed her favorite one.
“Dear Kris, after reading your July 27 letter written from the heart, I know that your abiding faith will carry you and those kids forward into a life of new happiness. Jon must have been a great guy. Love from the Bushes, George Bush.”
She treasures the tangible reminders of her husband like his flight jacket, the many pictures and letters. Emmert hopes the words she has written in her book will encourage and inspire others going through their own grief.
“The message is God is our provider and He gives us promises that He’s never going to leave us or forsake us,” she said.
Kris Rystrom Emmert is now married to Pastor Joe Emmert of North Knoxville Baptist Church.
“Providing Promise: A Navy Widow’s Journey Into Hope” by Kris Rystom Emmert with Julie Voudre is available on Amazon or at Cedar Springs Christian Store and Front Porch Restaurant in Powell.