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NEWS | Aug. 21, 2012

Dee's story

By Staff Sgt. Katie Gieratz Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs

I met her at Joint Base Charleston - Air Base, S.C. in 2008. I thought to myself she is the most beautiful person. She was filled only with good intentions, a pure heart and her tiny stature contained so much personality that she could walk into a room and light it up simply with her presence. She was the person to emulate. She was always a happy, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, protective and driven young woman.

Her name was Daigerry Leon but I knew her as 'Dee' and in September, 2011, she was killed by a drunk driver.

We did what friends typically do; worked out, went to movies, shopped - everything. I loved having her as my friend. She understood and believed in people in a way I had never seen before. She inspired me to be a better person.

Dee worked at JB Charleston as an emergency management specialist and in 2010 she received orders to Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. We made promises to keep in touch and take time to visit each other, but deployments and temporary duty assignments kept standing in the way.

Our plan was to meet back up in Las Vegas, Nevada in October 2011. That never happened, which is one of the hardest things for me to accept.

I like to think of myself as a strong person that does not easily breakdown. As strong as I try to be, there are some feelings impossible to ignore.

Dee was the person I could count on.

One night I had gone out and had too much to drink. I was uncomfortable with the person giving me a ride home so I messaged Dee and told her. She was already in my driveway waiting for me before we pulled up.

On September 25, 2011, in Great Falls, Mont., Dee received a phone call from a friend that had been drinking and needed a ride. Being the good friend she was, she agreed. She was patiently standing in the parking lot with a group of friends waiting when a truck veered into the parking lot and struck Dee.

Dee did not die immediately. For me, the days before she died were filled with stress, anxiety, hope and fear. I was hoping beyond all hope she would pull through.

However, I was at work when I received the message.

Gut wrenching. Uncontrollable anxiety. Stress. Heartbreaking. Earth shattering. The feeling as if someone just punched you in the stomach, and you no longer have the ability to breathe. This is the best way I can describe how it felt receiving the message.

Dee was dead.

The driver's selfish decision not only ended her wonderful life, but ended two other lives, severely injured a few more and changed the lives of her family and friends forever.

Today, I'm faced with reminders every day of the person she was; photos, music and working out are just a few. I cannot help but wonder who she would have been today. But, it was all taken away too soon.

I have been in the Air Force for almost six years now. I have attended many drinking and driving briefings, heard the heart wrenching stories and seen the photos or physical, emotional and mental aftermath.

I was the cliché that thought drinking and driving would never affect me.

Now, anytime I am required to attend a drinking and driving presentation or the topic is brought up I fight back tears and try to maintain composure but it will always be a difficult task. Whenever I hear about individuals who do choose to drink and drive, I become angry. Angry at the fact no one will understand until the damage is done and it is too late.

The man who killed Dee had relatives and friends saying how wonderful of a person he was. This was just one bad decision he made. I do not care. I do not see that and I never will. If you choose to drink and drive, and your actions kill someone, you will always be a murderer regardless of intent.

Dee would not want us to be sad or angry. She most certainly would not want her death to be in vain either. Everyone should understand drinking and driving is the most immature and selfish thing a person can do. Not only do you take the risk of ending your own life and providing massive amounts of heartache to your family and friends, you also take the chance of ending a perfectly innocent person's life and destroying everyone their life has touched permanently.

I loved her, and now I am left to miss her forever.

If the man that killed Dee had never gotten behind the wheel of his vehicle, I would still have my friend. Dee would still be here. But in a cruel twist of fate she isn't.

There are numerous programs to get you home safely such as Airmen Against Drunk Driving which can be contacted at 963-AADD on the weekends, or have a designated driver and drink responsibly. Please, swallow your pride and take advantage of resources.

I am begging you from the bottom of my heart, do not take someone else's Dee away from them.