- Associated Press - Monday, May 18, 2015

LAWTON, Okla. (AP) - Much has changed for Linda Green-Bennett since Dec. 26, 2003 - the fateful day she lost her husband and best friend, Oklahoma State Trooper Nikky “Nik” Green, in the line of duty.

His murder left two parents without a son, three daughters without a father and an entire Southwest Oklahoma community in mourning, The Lawton Constitution (https://bit.ly/1bmgJ2p ) reported. The life-altering blow transformed traditions, milestones and everyday routines for Linda. The one thing she refused to let it shake is the single element from which she was able to rebuild: her faith.

“I think staying in a Christian atmosphere throughout that time and ‘keeping the main thing, the main thing,’ as Nik would say, really helped,” Linda said. “Faith has been everything - the sustainer of life. I put my full trust, hope and faith in Jesus Christ, and honestly, without the Lord in my life, I don’t know that I could’ve survived.”

Linda grew up south of Lawton and attended Big Pasture High School in Randlett, where she met Nik. They instantly fell in love and went on to marry and raise three daughters together: Cortni, Brooklyn and Morgyn. Linda taught elementary school; Nik went into law enforcement. The couple was deeply involved with ministry and outreach at First Baptist Church in Devol, where they made a home. Linda recalled they were on the forefront of beginning an ambitious campaign to raise funds for a new church building when Nik was killed. During her victim impact statement at his murder trial, Linda shared with the court that she believed she “prayed Nik into her life” - “a godly man, a good husband and a loving dad.”

“Nik’s first priority was God, then myself and the girls,” Linda said. “When everything happened, I had to stay focused on living because I had to take care of my children. That’s what God wanted and that is what Nik would have wanted. . We were the remnants - we were what was left and we had to carry on.”

And carry on they did. Linda started herself and her two oldest daughters, ages 6 and 9 at the time of their father’s death, in counseling. She prayed with them and for them, she ministered to them in their times of need and always reminded them to be honest about their feelings.

“The main reason I didn’t go back to teaching school was because I wanted to be there for every need and every season that the girls would go through as far as their grief process,” Linda said. “I wanted to recognize the stages as they arose. I wanted to focus on that for them.”

Linda’s strength and leadership was felt statewide when she made her voice heard to the Oklahoma Legislature on the methamphetamine issue - an issue that played a key role in her family’s tragedy - only months after Nik was slain. In 2004, Gov. Brad Henry signed HB 2176 into law - more commonly known as the “Trooper Nik Green, Rocky Eales and Matthew Evans Act” - which, among other stipulations, made Oklahoma the first state to reclassify pseudoephedrine as a Schedule V drug.

Linda said she was still working to readjust when she met her second husband, Dennis Bennett, a month before the trial of Nik’s killer was set to start. She was at a Christian youth conference in Dallas and refers to the encounter as a “divine intervention.”

“We immediately connected,” Linda said, recalling that Easter weekend in 2005. “It was one of those things that God set in motion. I had no intention of starting another relationship. I wasn’t looking and neither was he.”

When the two joined other conference chaperones backstage at the event to meet the performing Christian artists - one of them being Mercy Me - a group discussion about Christian duties and family sacrifices ensued. Linda, feeling compelled to speak, took the microphone and introduced herself. She thanked Mercy Me for creating songs such as “I Can Only Imagine,” which was played at Nik’s funeral, and “Home Sick,” which she said helped her through her grief. Afterward, Dennis approached Linda.

“He walked up to me at the pavilion and he said, ‘I know your story; my family and I have been praying for your family for a long time,’” Linda said.

Linda learned that Dennis had too suffered a devastating loss. His wife lost her battle to brain cancer nine months after Nik died. He was also left to raise three children alone.

“Our families ended up blending so perfectly. I don’t know that you could have it any better,” Linda said, recounting her blessings. “His children were a little bit older than my girls, but there were certain ones (from each of us) that kind of bonded with each other. We were both very strong, Christian families and we had complete respect and love and understanding for one another.

“I think it helped that both of our families had suffered the loss of a parent - we can relate to each other there. One thing that Dennis and I never did was try to be that replacement. We both understood the need to fill a void, but we also both acknowledged you can never replace a certain person. You can only try to fill the need.”

Linda remarried and relocated to Jacksboro, Texas, with her three girls. She has lived there for nearly 10 years and still frequents southwest Oklahoma to visit friends and family, most commonly while passing through to visit Cortni, who is now enrolled at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

She said her crusade to end drug abuse never ended and that she strives to educate the public about methamphetamine prevention, while testifying to the healing power of Jesus Christ - something her daughters have also become passionate about.

“The girls are a lot like Nik,” Linda said. “They are strong; they are courageous. They aren’t afraid to take a stand for something they believe in. They’re all very kindhearted and put others before themselves.”

Having expanded her family and faith, Linda has found comfort in life. She admits the healing process is an ongoing one - birthdays and graduations still stir plenty of emotion - but “being a Christian” allows one to “notice all of the good that has happened” as well. That “good” includes the change in legislation, the Nik Green Scholarship, the resources that have now been poured into First Baptist Church in Devol and the overall impact Nik’s life and death upon his community.

This summer, Linda plans to write a book about her late husband’s life and “how God sometimes uses ordinary people to show love to a lost and dying world.” It is a task she has had planned since 2004 and, according to initial estimates, should be released in approximately two years.

___

Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com


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