Four Years Later
by James Crimmins

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On June 24th, 2016, I made the hardest phone call that I have ever made. Sitting in the waiting room at Southampton Hospital, I called Tom’s mother Janice to let her know what had happened. I didn’t know it at the time but that hard phone call ended up being the foundation of one of the most the most joyful parts of my life. It also means that I’m officially four years late to writing this (hopefully Tim and Janice won’t hold that against me).

Tom’s story has been told many times by people more articulate than I. If you’re interested read this:

Instead, I wanted to talk about why Tom and I became such good friends and how it developed into my second family.

In the year that Tom and I were at West Point together, we were attached at the hip. I don’t think I took leave without him other than one time. We attended dozens of sporting events, hosted campfires at south dock, and watched countless movies. At Tom’s invitation, I spent spring break at his house in Festus and met his extended family for the first time. Many people didn’t understand why Tom and I were friends as Tom was on the quieter side when in public and to put it lightly, I am not. But Janice said something that spring break which made it abundantly clear why we were such good friends. “Well they’re both Catholic and they go to West Point. And they both like being jackasses. What’s not to understand?” I began to understand exactly why Tom and I became such good friends. Our parents (who are VERY different) both raised in a similar way. 1, God first. Neither Tom nor I forgot that. And we were good at keeping each other honest. 2, Love of country. We both felt blessed to grow up in the circumstances we did and it was clear to us that we did nothing ourselves to deserve it. So West Point became a way for us to begin to pay back our debt. 3, Not taking life too seriously. There are so many things in life that require seriousness, especially for plebes (freshmen). Whenever Tom and I could, we escaped with humor. Or as Crimminses and Surdykes refer to it: Jackassery.

None of this would have been possible if it weren’t for the families that raised us similarly in this way. So when I found myself calling Janice on June 24th, it felt like I was delivering heartbreaking news to my own mother. When Tim and Janice arrived at Stonybrook Hospital later that night, I found myself in the same situation. But what came from that was something I never expected. I was planning on visiting Missouri again with Tom later that Summer and so I decided to go anyway to visit his family. The second I got picked up at the airport, I felt as if I was being picked up by my own family. What I came to realize over that visit (and future visits) was that the Surdykes had become my second family. I can always rely on Tim to help me with purchasing tools and figuring out how to cook a lamb. A chat with Janice is always puts me in a good mood. Elaine, Rosemary and Francie have treated me like a brother (I don’t know whether to thank them for that). In all seriousness, these three have become new sisters to me and I am extremely grateful for that. Even Tom’s extended family members have been nice enough to have me over for family events and dinners.

Four years ago, I never dreamed that one phone call would help me to realize so much. I cannot thank the Surdyke family enough not only for treating me like family but for being a crucial part in what made Tom the man he was.

ENS James Crimmins US Navy

USMA Class of 2019

Beat Navy

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