Tuesday, August 16, 2011
This month Landstuhl Hospital Care Project ships all care packages in honor of Specialist Zandra T. Walker.
Connie Worthy had heard that two men in military uniforms were looking for her, and she knew it was only a matter of time before they came knocking at the right door.
When the doorbell rang, only the sparest of words were needed: "I just said, 'Kuwait or Iraq'"
The answer was "Iraq," and with that the Greenville mother knew that one of her 28-year-old twin daughters, Zandra Terneice Walker, had perished while serving her country.
Today, family and friends -- including Zandra's twin sister, Yolanda Worthy-Weathersby -- gathered at the family's home in the Belle Meade community to mourn the loss of a daughter, sister, wife and soldier.
Zandra, an Army specialist who refueled aircraft, was killed Aug. 15 in Taji, Iraq, along with another soldier as a result of "indirect enemy fire," according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
The incident is under military investigation, a defense department spokeswoman said. The family said they were told she died in a random mortar strike while she was off-duty.
Yolanda arrived from her station in Kuwait a couple of days ago. Zandra's husband, Kenneth Walker, flew into Greenville from Kuwait, where he's been working as a civilian air-traffic controller.
This is the second tragic reunion this summer for the family. In June, the twins' baby sister, 22-year-old Katrina, died of cancer. Zandra had returned home from Iraq for her funeral.
Yolanda flashed a muted smile as she looked over the pictures of her twin sister's life sprawled across her mother's dining room table Monday, as well-wishers came and went.
There was always a way to tell a difference between the two in photographs, Yolanda said.
Somehow -- from childhood Christmas pictures to Woodmont High graduation to a photo of the two dressed in their camoflauge Army uniforms -- Zandra always seemed to end up on the right side of the picture.
The twins were inseparable growing up, Yolanda said, split apart only during their deployments.
Zandra (nicknamed "Neicy," derived from her middle name) was the outspoken one, Yolanda ("Tricey") more reserved.
The two were competitive. Both ran track for Woodmont High. Yolanda said that Zandra was always first -- save only for when Yolanda was born two minutes before her sister.
"She was always two steps ahead, but never two minutes," Yolanda said. "She didn't like that two minutes. As long as we finished first and second, though, it was OK."
The two entered the Army together, in January 2000, just to see if it was something they might like, Yolanda said. They found that they liked it. In April 2005, Zandra's tour of duty was finished, but she re-signed in April 2006.
It was difficult, Yolanda said, being split from a twin in a war zone. "It was hard, but you get used to it," she said. "We always found a way to communicate with each other."
The pair stayed connected through email and instant messaging. Yolanda called back home to Greenville at least every other day. It was during one of those calls home that she got word of her twin sister's death.
Still, there's hope, Yolanda said. While she's split from a bond that only a few in this world know, she says she's certain that Zandra is there to comfort another sister.
"I know she's in a better place now," Yolanda said, "and at least our baby sister has one of her older sisters with her now."