Monday, September 30, 2013

Till bullets do us part: A soldier's love story

MILITARY COUPLE. 1st Lt Francis Damian and his wife, Lt Junior Grade Aemy Leslie Campos-Damian, pose for a souvenir photo during the baptismal rites of their 7-month old daughter on September 8, 2013, two weeks before his tragic death in Zamboanga City. (Photo by LtJG Aemy Leslie Campos-Damian)

IT REQUIRES a strong heart with titanium tenacity to love a warrior of peace.  A soldier’s life is always fraught with danger and worry to his family, especially to his or her partner. 

The love story of 1st Lt Francis Damian, 28, and his lovely wife, Lt Junior Grade Aemy Campos-Damian, 28, is a love story that was ended by the atrocities initiated by the armed followers of  a faction of Moro National Liberation Front headed by Nur Misuari in Zamboanga City.

It was early morning on September 24, 2013 when he died fighting in an urban terrain in Santa Barbara Village of the 'Latin City of the south'.  A single bullet from an entrenched enemy pierced through his helmet, sending fragments that fractured his skull.

That day, his wife’s mettle was tested.


They attended the Philippine Military Academy together, graduating in the same year as members of the PMA Class of 2007.

Since cadetship, they had different preferences.

As a child, she was always fascinated with sea adventures. A native of Zamboanga City, the sights of colorful vintas and the seemingly unreachable horizons of the Sulu Sea influenced her decision to join the Philippine Navy.

Meanwhile, Damian followed the footsteps of his father by joining the Army infantry. Aside from being a PMA graduate himself, the elder Damian was a US Army Ranger course graduate and a distinguished officer of the defunct Philippine Constabulary.

Since childhood, he had seen the action photos of his proud father who had served in the frontlines as a combat leader. He had always wanted to be like him. He wanted to outdo him by voluntarily joining the Army’s elite unit, the Special Operations Command.

In 2010, he attended the Scout Ranger School where he earned his ‘Musang’ (Scout Ranger) tab.

They found themselves madly in love a couple of years after their graduation. 

In 2012, they decided to be married ‘secretly’, a memorable event that was witnessed only by a few handpicked ‘mistahs’ (classmates).

In 2013, they bore a child, a beautiful daughter that would become the center of their affection.

Family life

Like any other military couple, they were constantly separated hundred of miles away.

She was assigned as the Public Affairs Officer of the Philippine Navy forces in Western Mindanao while her husband was serving at SOCOM in Fort Magsaysay.

Their daughter stayed with her in Zamboanga City.

Phone calls and emails have kept their relationship intact. They took turns in spending short vacations to spend bonding moments as a family.

The last time they spent such a vacation together was during the baptism of their child on September 8, 2013.

Aemy said that both of them understood their unique situation.

“We agreed on things as a couple. I get used to be away from him but we always find ways to maintain our relationship healthy,” she said.

She said that though she is also a soldier like him, she also is struggling to cope with the hardships of being away from her husband.

“Due to the nature of his job in the Army, he was always assigned away from me. When our daughter was born, he was not there to see me.”

A typical gung-ho soldier, she said that Francis always wanted to pursue specialized military training.

“I did not interfere in his own life as an Army officer. I always supported his career plans including his intent to undergo Special Forces training after finishing his Airborne training.”

When she was assigned to the naval unit in Zamboanga City, it was time for them to be separated by distance again.

They decided to raise their child in Zamboanga City where she stayed with her parents. He stayed with his unit in Camp Aguinaldo, the staging area for any combat missions.

Last ‘long’ 30 minutes

A few days before his graduation at the Airborne school, more or less 200 heavily-armed followers of Nur Misuari attacked Zamboanga City, taking innocent civilians as hostage.

A few days later, his unit was sent to reinforce the troops who confronted the gunmen who used human shields while trading bullets with the security forces.

She said that he had told her that he wanted to drop from Airborne training just to join his unit in Zamboanga City.

“When he consulted me about his intention to drop from Airbone school, I objected. I wanted him to finish it and earn the badge because he only has a few days to go,” said Aemy.

She said that Francis would call him many times a day to get updates.

“He was very worried because we might be affected by the hostilities. I initially declined because the hostage-takers were actually occupying a village several kilometers away from our home,” she said.

“I was surprised one day when some of his soldiers knocked on my door to evacuate me and my daughter to my billeting area inside camp. By that time, the firefights were becoming intense everyday and there were many casualties reported by the media making him more worried.”

Without waiting for his graduation day, he arrived in Zamboanga City on board a C130 flight on September 20.

She said that he visited them (she and her daughter) inside the naval post to spend 30 minutes of his spare time before his insertion to the frontlines in Bgy. Sta Catalina.

“He was already wearing his combat attire. He was so excited to be with us especially with our daughter who barely knew him.”

“He was taking videos and photos of our child. He carried her and kissed her again and again. Then, he hugged us both before leaving for his first combat action against Misuari’s forces. 


Since Day 1 of his husband’s deployment, she could not control her own worries about him. The number of fatalities and wounded grew each day.

“Everytime there is an update on the tally of AFP casualties, I am hesitant to look at the names. I don’t want to see his name.”

Then, one by one, he saw familiar names including a friend, 1st Lt Carl Liwanag, who was wounded in the intense battles.

She said that occasionally, Francis would send her messages during lulls in fighting.

“Mommy, please send me new pairs of socks. Yung Biofresh ha,” she quoted him as saying.

She searched for stores that sell socks but almost all of them were closed down for fear of the attackers,  so she sent him her own socks.

Later in the day, Francis would send short text messages telling her that he was ‘okay’.

“Mommy, I have already received the package. Happy feet uli ako,” he said in a text message.

She managed to monitor his location through the daily updates  that were reflected on the map. She said that she didn’t bother to ask about his situation so that he could stay focused on his mission.

“During lull moments, we talked about our family life. We discussed things about our daughter and our vacation plans,” she said, holding back tears. 

"I never asked him about his situation in the frontlines though I always had an idea due to my military background. I didn't want to disturb him and lose his focus on his delicate mission."

Shattered dreams

It was early morning on September 24 that she monitored the name of the latest casualty.

She didn’t want to believe the name that she heard: 1st Lt Francis Damian. WIA (Wounded In Action).

She rushed to the hospital where he was brought. He had a gaping  head wound. The attending physician didn’t want to show her the extent of his injury.

He was already unconscious and unresponsive. She knew that her worst fear was about to come.

About 3 hours later, he was pronounced dead. She faced her worst nightmare.

“It is like our dreams were all shattered. I knew it is hard to accept reality; but, I am a soldier. Duty first.”

She gathered up her courage to help her face the reality that her beloved husband had passed away and it is now up to her to raise their daughter.  She knew that she is all that their little baby has.

Donning her black mourning outfit, she proudly stood beside his casket like any dutiful wife would do. 

FAMILY MEMBERS. The members of the PMA Class 2007 are somewhat close to me because I had mentored them since their plebehood. Aside from our coaching sessions during marksmanship training, I also took time to share my leadership experience that would guide them in their future roles as military leaders. (Photos by Cpl Marlon San Esteban)


The fate of the Damian couple is just an example of how war and unrest can ruin lives and dreams.  These are the types of struggles that a soldier and his family might deal with sooner or later.  Lucky are those soldiers who go move on through their lives to become retirees.

Aemy wants to spend a leave up to her husband’s birthday on November 10.

She wants to raise her daughter all by herself , with the help of her loving family. She intends to be assigned elsewhere than Zamboanga to forget her bad experience and to able to recover from her painful loss.

A single bullet has separated them eternally. But, their love would last forever. 


  1. Naiyak ako....... nakakadurog ng puso.................

  2. ..God be with you 1st Lt Francis died a salute!

  3. may God bless him and all those who have proudly served and still serve. I wish there is anything I can do for you ma'am. My utmost,deepest and most sincere condolences and sympathy. I feel your pain. My snappiest salute sayo for being a soldier and a strong wife. nakakalungkot lang isipin na hindi na makikita ni baby ang kanyang daddy. I'll include you and your baby in my prayers. Please remain strong. God has plans for you.
    Please don't mind me asking po citizens, bakit tumagos ang bullet sa helmet??? Ganun ba ka-low standards ang ating military equipments? Hindi ko ata matatagalan na hayaan sa military service ang fiance ko kung ganito ng ganito. Huhuhu. Salute to every woman who loves and keeps on supporting our soldiers.

    1. Low standard/Low quality din po even combat shoes..and guns luma..condolence ke mam..

  4. Kakaiyak..batch leslie be strong

  5. touching...God bless Aemy and her daughter.

  6. Heartbreaking :'( Be strong po Ms. Leslie and family..


  8. who cares if i cried! their story was so touching... Tao lang po

  9. so painful.. as an army dependent, i couldn't imagine my self if i were in ma'am aemy's situation right now.. i just pray that in God's time she can recover with the pain she's suffering now. God bless & may she can raise her daughter well alone.

    this article is so touching.. to the contributor or the one posted it, you made a good job! (Y)

  10. true soldiers, true heroes. i doff my hat to both.

  11. Is it possible to Contact the families of our fallen soldiers? This is for their Employees' Compensation (EC) Benefits.

    They could visit or e-mail ECC-Regional extension unit No. 9 (Zambonag Peninsula) at or call at (062) 955-1549/991-2673 for the details.

    1. Why wait for the bereaved families to get in touch? Go to the families! Am sure the AFP would have their records.

  12. Igsu chic2 (aemy),.my salute to both of u ,you made us proud,for being strong woman that u are...
    have faith..everything has a reason...Just trust HIM (GOD).

  13. may the lt. rest in peace...just wanna ask questions..,bakit po pag sundalo ang namatay at inilibing ay kailangan ipapasok sa nitso ay kailangan alas doce ng tanghali..?meron bang explanation diyan..?
    at bakit mayrong ibang ranger ang may pacthes ng airborne o special forces?ibig sabihin ba dyan eh,nagtraining sila ng ranger at special forces? at pwede rin silang ilagayo i assign sa special forces regiment?

  14. I salute to you Aemy...It takes a lot of courage to marry a prayers are for you and your wonderful baby.!

  15. May the soul oy Lt. Francis Rest in Peace and Thank you for the God given talent on you. Ang Aemy May God guide and bless you always together with your daughter.

  16. I salute you sir you gave your life in the service to the nation and God bless your soul.

  17. I never had great as great respect and honor to military soldiers as I have now. It's so heartbreaking how one gives his life to save others including his family.. My fallen hero.. I am proud of his wife. You too have given up your life for us.. Your family will have the highest respect from me and my family.. God will reward you a hundredfold..

  18. na iyak ako... bilib ako sa inyo kasi you really did your best na maging strong ang relationship nyo...
    and ms. Aemy may God guides you always and your daughter....
    saludo akoo sa pagiging strong nyo,,,

  19. I just wanna share... i was privileged and honored to be classmates with Lt. damian during college bago sya pumasok ng PMA. we were civil engineering students before thou hindi man kame close nung mga panahon nayon pero masasabi ko na whenever recitation comes up and he talks in front of the class you can see everyone is drawn to him. he has that different aura na masasabi mo na he is not average. whenever we had exams and everybody is failing... for sure Damian (as we call him back in college) would be a stand out and he is not selfish when it comes to sharing knowledge (pede ka magpaturo but mang kopya? do it on ur own).
    from what i can remember halos 1 or 2 sems lng cxa sa civil engineering coz it was time for him to transfer sa PMA. I was always amazed by him because as a student he was doing the right thing and honestly i looked up to him back then.

    Lt. Francis Damian is a modern hero. he is one of the few reasons why i believed Philippines is a great nation.

    My deepest and sincere condolence to Mrs. Damian and to there daughter.

    Also to our armed forces who had served and currently serving i salute you for all the sacrifices and hardships you've undergone and currently experiencing. May God be with you always. You guys are the true heroes of this nation.

  20. Sir, thank you for this article. I finally had the chance to read it.

    I very much appreciate this blog entry of yours. I am collecting articles, clippings, and videos about the heroism of my husband, the late 1LT Damian. how can i get a copy of this blog sir? I plan to show it to our Sophie when she can already read. This will help her understand why his father had to leave us. Again, thank you, Sir.

    To all those who have been inspired by my husband's heroism, thank you. Your comments are very heartwarming. My sincere thank you to all of you.

    1. Aemy, I can send this to your email.

      Again, my heartfelt condolences. This article is my simple way of showing to the world my appreciation for his selfless services.

      Warrm regards,

      Ranger C

    2. Here is my email add sir:

      Thank you sir

  21. very touching...lalo na pag kilala mo ung person involved..Kuya francis, porud ako na naging schoolmate kita nung hs! my salute to you kuya francis!

  22. This comment has been removed by the author.

  23. My salute to you kuya francis, schoolmate tayo way back on our hs days...You are a hero!
    And to Ms. Aemy and baby, be strong po, GODBless you always!
    To the writer, a very good job!

  24. Teary eyes while reading ur blog sir..I salute you opur HERO sir Francis , thank you for fighting for us, and to ms. Aemy be strong for GOD will not leave you alone on this journey...more power to you ms. aemy and to ur little girl..

  25. Eversince, I always dream to be an Army's apple of an eye- a half piece of his heart. Maybe because I grew up idolizing men in uniform since my father was once. I thought it would be a bonus a cherry on top of an icecream- if that man of my dream is an ayer.
    - though haven't met him yet.

    Reading the story of the couple made me really cry a river. I was moved. Really really moved. Call me exagg but seriously it pains a lot that there are heroes like them who sacrifice everything including family and happiness -for us -civies- attain our goodnight sleep.

    Prayerfully, to the family of late Lt. Damien, esp. His wife and daughter,hope you are okay now and day after each day. May God always provide you the comfort and happiness and may your husband be your Angel forever.

    1. Thanks for the kind words for our soldiers Denah. :-)

  26. Indeed, "lucky are those soldiers who go move on through their lives to become retirees."
    My nephews and niece also didn't get a chance to see their dad retire. He died while serving the country.
    Mrs. Damian, it'll be tough, but you are one tough lady! Believe that your late husband will always look after you and your daughter in ways you can't even imagine. :)
    God bless you and your daughter.
    Thank you for a very inspiring article, Sir Harold. Saludo! :)

  27. the noblest of all profession

  28. Ranger C,

    Basin himoon nimog libro naay gamayng sayob ba: "That day, his wife’s metal was tested." Ang sakto, "That day, his wife’s METTLE was tested."

    Nothing personal, good story too. RIP Lt Damian

    1. Thanks for spotting the error. You are right. I don't know how 'metal' came in there. Basin auto-input sa laptop o kaya typo error sa kakapuyat that time.

      Best regards! :-)