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Finding a Nomad

Sally Adams, sister of deceased Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr., and child view Cartrette’s memorial for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Adams was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Sally Adams, sister of deceased Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr., and child view Cartrette’s memorial for the first time at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Adams was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Jerry and Sally Adams pose in front of Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr.’s memorial with their child at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Sally was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Jerry and Sally Adams pose in front of Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr.’s memorial with their child at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Sally was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Jerry Adams and child take a moment of silence in front of Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr.’s memorial at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Sally Adams, Jerry’s wife and sister of Cartrette, was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Jerry Adams and child take a moment of silence in front of Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr.’s memorial at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Sally Adams, Jerry’s wife and sister of Cartrette, was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Sally Adams, sister of deceased Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr., tours the Khobar Towers memorial at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Adams was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

Sally Adams, sister of deceased Senior Airman Earl Cartrette Jr., tours the Khobar Towers memorial at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, on July 29, 2019. Adams was adopted when she was two weeks old and spent her life searching for her biological family. Upon finding out her brother had died in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack she and her family made the visit to Eglin to see the memorial. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Cassidy Woody)

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA --

“Our Nomads have ceased their wandering” is the epitaph engraved on top of the 33rd Fighter Wing’s Khobar Towers memorial dedicated to the 12 Nomads who lost their lives. The journey for one Nomad on that wall may have come to an end but for his sister it has just begun.

Sally Adams has spent her entire life searching for her birth family after being adopted at two weeks old. The desire to meet her biological mother and discover her heritage started as early as middle school when she first met her husband, Jerry Adams.

“As far back as 1995, finding her family has been one of the biggest parts of her life,” said Jerry, Sally’s husband. “If you knew Sally then you knew she wanted to find them and find out where she came from.”

Then on November 9, 2018, everything changed. Sally’s original birth certificate was released to her and she finally had a name to search for. Within an hour, she found her birth mother on social media and contacted her.

“It’s amazing, I still get goosebumps every single time,” said Sally. “It’s like a puzzle that fits together. When I talk to them it’s like we were never apart.”

Sally’s birth mother wanted to meet her and have a relationship with her first child that she gave up for adoption many years ago. Her mother also informed her that she had three younger brothers.

One of Sally’s brothers was Earl Cartrette Jr., known as Junior, a former Airman from the 33rd Fighter Wing. Junior made a promise that once his enlistment was over he would find his older sister.

However, he never had the chance as he deployed to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia in 1996 with 11 other Nomads who would become a part of a tragic chapter in history. On June 25, 1996 terrorists attacked the Khobar Towers housing complex killing 19 Airmen, 12 of them from the 33rd Fighter Wing, including Junior.

Sally found her biological family over 20 years after Junior’s death and within a year after meeting her mother, she had the chance to visit the Khobar Towers memorial at the 33rd Fighter Wing.

“Being here at the memorial is very emotional,” said Sally. “I will continue to come here to remember the good things that people tell me about him and know that he gave his life for our country. I admire him even though I’ve never met him because I know he was a good man.”

Despite all the challenges, the happiness, and the sorrows, Sally finally fulfilled both her and Junior’s wish to find each other.

“Finding my family is like I came full circle and I can breathe and say ‘finally’,” said Sally. “It’s something I never thought would happen in my lifetime. This journey completes a part of me.”