January 20, 2018, is a day Alina Stillman and her two sons will never forget. It's forever etched in their memories. A recent injury sent her youngest son to the hospital for stitches. The frightened child had tears in his eyes and asked Stillman a question she'd never expected.
"He said, 'Mommy, am I going to heaven like daddy?'" Stillman recalled.
Jack Stillman's heart stopped beating just before midnight. He died from a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The next day would have marked four years in the military for the young sergeant. He had a short career, but a profound one. Stillman's accomplishments earned him many honors including two certificates to jump with the U.S. Army's Golden Knights.
"He was like, 'it's perfect. I got two. We can do it together,'" Alina Stillman said.
That day never came. Nearly two months after her husband died, Alina was asked to jump in his memory.
It's been a few months since @FtBraggNC soldier Jack Stillman died from cancer. His wife and their sons continue to honor his memory every day. Tonight at 11, I'll tell you about a way they recently paid tribute to their hero. #ABC11 pic.twitter.com/D2fjl8DKJj— Akilah Davis (@DavisABC11) April 11, 2018
"Part of me was like, I'm going to be a little closer to heaven. I'm going to be a little closer to Jack," she said.
She jumped at an altitude of 13,000 feet. The experience allowed her to fly high above the skies. The words Team Stillman were written in the palm of her hand as she wore a green bandanna that represented his illness.
"I truly believe Jack was with me. The free fall was amazing," she said.
The children and her parents watched the experience from below.
"It was fun and cool. It was for daddy ... to honor daddy," said 6-year-old Aiden Stillman.
Alina Stillman summed it up: "I can either crumble with the world or I can continue living as Jack wanted us to do."