Jordan Eshbaugh lost her father and her best friend, SGT Daniel Eshbaugh, U.S. Army at just 9 years old. Since then, she has committed countless hours of community work to carry on his legacy and passion for serving his country in the Oklahoma National Guard. Recently, she joined a group of other survivors on a TMF Expedition to the Dominican Republic and recounts her experience.
In my eyes, my father was fearless and loved adventure. My father became a flight engineer before his final deployment, despite being terrified of heights. His actions have taught me that you should try everything once, even if it scares you. I am honoring him by traveling to a new country and building a home. I am honoring him by spreading his kindness and work ethic.
The first day of building was tough. I was on the team that built walls and it was harder than you would think. However, the camaraderie between the survivors is incomparable. We were adaptable, efficient, and swift in our work. We easily got into the groove of a task. The transformation in Day One of building was incredible. We started with a rocky plot of land and ended up with a concrete slab and some walls.
The walls went up on day two of building, the roof was nailed on, and siding was placed. There were multiple teams on siding, a roofing team, and everyone helped place the walls. At the end of the day, we had a standing home and it was an incredible feeling. The prior home that Marta and her family lived in was constantly flooding and was a very dangerous living environment. The single mother of 3 would now have a sturdy home for her family that is safe from environmental conditions and that meant everything to me. Her son Carlos can now focus on becoming an engineer instead of his home falling apart.
There is something about the common bond that survivors share that allows us to work great as a team. We became a family so quickly and it was easy to talk to one another.
We installed electricity, windows, and placed custom furniture pieces built from Marta’s old home on the final day of building. My favorite part of this day was watching a countertop and shelves made from the family's old home. It will serve as a reminder for the family of their old home and how far they have come.
When the home was complete, all of the survivors had the opportunity to dedicate it to their loved ones. The dedication ceremony was beautiful and so many members of the community came to celebrate Marta and her family. It brought everything together. I felt honored to present Marta a photo of my father and share a piece of him. It was by far my favorite part of the trip. While there were a few people who were bilingual, not everyone was. Those who were not bilingual, like me, found other ways to communicate. These methods were often through gestures and motions. Despite the barrier, the locals were so welcoming.
This expedition was so important for survivors for many reasons. It allowed us to honor our loved ones. It also allowed us to explore new places and cultures. Most importantly, it allowed us to gain new and lasting relationships with other survivors. Expeditions are important because lives are changed on every single trip.
After visiting the Dominican Republic I am grateful for so many things that I have in my life and I know other survivors feel the same way. While building the home, I noticed a monarch butterfly everyday. Monarch butterflies are my family's symbol for my father and each day I knew he was there with me. When I saw that butterfly I knew my dad would watch over this family forever.