FORT WALTON BEACH — LaShana Douville remembers the exact moment she last saw her husband alive.
Daniel "P-Nut" Douville was walking away from her at the local airport when he was stopped by security who wanted to inspect his laptop. His departure had already been tainted for her by a premonition she'd had several months earlier of him being killed.
"When I waved bye, that was my last vision of him," she said.
A month later, the man she'd loved since he was 16 was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. They had talked the night before, when he told her he'd been out on two missions but was not doing the third. He said he wasn't going, that he was typing reports. Then their call was interrupted.
"I remember someone coming to the door and knocking," she recalled. "He said, 'Babe, let me call you back.'"
He never did.
Instead, he was called out on that third mission. The team successfully detonated the first device, but the robot that was sent in to get it failed. As chief, Daniel volunteered to retrieve the robot. That's when a second device exploded, tearing off both his arms.
They'd talked about the possibility that he would be killed.
"He told me, 'no matter what happens, you better live,'" she said.
On June 26, 2011, the day Daniel died, LaShana and their children had been to church and then to a Thai festival. She was at home dancing in the living room of the home they bought a month before he left when she saw the military van pull up in the driveway.
"I said, 'Not today,'" she recalled thinking.
"I can't remember if I let them ring the doorbell or not," she added. "It is the same way you see in the movies."
Their 9-year-old son, Daniel "Deuce" Douville, was home playing video games with a friend. Their 12-year-old daughter, Ayjah, came downstairs and saw the team in the foyer. She asked what they were doing there and then fled into the night, running to her best friend's home. Their oldest daughter, 14-year-old Jadelynn, was just coming home from basketball camp.
It fell to LaShana to tell the children their father wasn't coming home. She had long felt like a single mother during his deployments. Now, it was her new reality.
The years since have not always been easy.
Within a year of Daniel's death, she had started a new relationship that, in hindsight, she realizes she wasn't ready for. They had a daughter, Paris, who turned 5 on New Year's Day.
"When you are making decisions in a fog, you can't see 2 feet in front of you, but you want the comfort," she said, trying to explain why she moved so quickly. "I've got to love me before I can love anybody.
"I am someone's rib and I know that," she added. "God did not create me to be alone."
Am I doing the right thing?
LaShana met Daniel in New Orleans where they went to rival high schools, but had part-time jobs at the local Popeye's.
They never dated anyone else again. In her first year of college, she got pregnant and Daniel gave up his dreams of being a doctor to support his family. He chose the Air Force and to be an explosive ordnance disposal technician.
It required, she says, high test scores and hands like a surgeons. Daniel had both. She tried to talk him out of it. In fact, she flat out told him he needed to do something else.
"He said, 'Do you know how smart you have to be?'" he asked her. "He was so excited."
His training meant he missed the birth of their first child and his first Father's Day. He wasn't there when her favorite cousin was killed, although she takes comfort in the fact that they were together now, in heaven.
He was there for the birth of their second child, but didn't meet their son until Deuce was 8 months old.
"It's been a lot of raising kids on my own. Asking myself, 'Am I doing the right thing?'" she said.
Moving on, too quickly
She hadn't finished grieving Daniel's loss when she slid into her next serious relationship. She probably still hasn't.
There was just too much to process.
Small things bothered her, like the fact that the military chose what he was buried in. She had a particular suit in mind, but they didn't ask. It was chosen for her.
And the fact that she never saw his body. In fact, they asked her if she wanted to be notified if they found a new body part. No, she told them. Definitely not.
"When I got the autopsy in my hands, I felt like he finally came home," she said. "I never got to see my husband.
"He was half of me."
In the years between then and now, her children have grown up. Deuce is a junior in high school. Her older girls are in college.
She knows she has made mistakes. She also knows Daniel would forgive her for the mistakes she has made.
"I know who he would have wanted me to be," she said. "And what he wanted me to do. He showed me what a man was to be.
"I got very lucky to marry someone who was a stand-up man at that age. We grew into a man and a woman together."