By Diana Healy ’06
About thirteen years ago, I met a very special person. Well, let me backtrack for a moment… This person was not a complete stranger when I officially met her in the fall of 2002 during freshman orientation at NDP. About two-year prior, I played basketball against her and was highly intimidated by her speed and aggressiveness. So, when I walked into my freshman home room and realized my assigned seat was directly next to her, I was a bit nervous! Despite the perfect uniform, braided pigtails, and sheep barrettes in her hair, she was … intimidating. I quickly realized that since we were going to be sitting next to one another every day, I should at least introduce myself. We began chatting and made the connection that we had played basketball against each other in middle school and even discovered that we lived close to one another. This person is Chastity Brione Dunnaville, member of NDP’s class of 2006. I never thought that the great athlete who I had once feared on the basketball court would end up being one of my closest friends, actually more of a sister.
Through our high school years we only grew closer. Although we didn’t have many classes together, you could often find us hanging together on our “frees.” As it came time to start applying for colleges, she decided she wanted to attend the Naval Academy. I must admit, I was upset. I thought that would mean I wouldn’t be able to see her much and that she would be stationed far away once she graduated. Once I realized how much becoming a midshipwoman meant to her, I did everything I could to support her. Our afternoons after school were dedicated to prepping for her physical fitness test. And while I am nowhere near as fit as she was, my one claim to fame is that in high school I could do more sit-ups than she! Chas headed off to the Naval Academy for Plebe Summer, and we had limited contact. We were able to write letters and kept in touch that way. Freshman year of college began, but Chas was still restricted a bit in her computer use. Whenever she came home, she’d rely on her friends to update her on what was new, especially the latest music. Whenever she had a weekend break, she was always sure let me know she’d be home so we could hang out and catch up, even if she only had a short amount of time to spare. And no matter how much time had passed, we were always able to pick up right where we left off each time!
Chas’ time at the Naval Academy was coming to an end and she had received word that after graduation she would be heading to Pensacola for training and then Texas for her first official placement. She was extremely excited to be serving her country and couldn’t wait to begin this next chapter in her life. Before it was time for her to pack her bags and head south, she was able to spend time with friends and family makings tons of memories!
Not too long after she left for training, she was faced with some awful news. She had cancer…stage four Rhabdomyosarcoma. When I found out, I did not want to believe it. How could the star athlete, the physically fit, Naval Academy graduate have cancer!? She would beat it, she just had to… if anyone could, it would be Chas. For the next two years, her life took a much different course than she had once imagined. Was her diagnosis ideal? NO. But did she make the best of it? Always! I am thankful for the time we had together, especially in her last two years. Chas became a part of my family during this chapter in her life. She loved coming over for a home-cooked meal; my mom’s green beans were her favorite. Chas’ visits were not complete without playing a round of Bananagrams or Just Dance with my younger siblings and me. To this day, we can’t play either without thinking of her!
In December 2012, heaven gained another angel. And while I’d rather Chas be just a phone call away, I’m lucky to have such a tough guardian angel looking after me. I keep a piece of her with me daily—you can always find me wearing at least one anchor as a symbol of her time at the Naval Academy. And although I still miss her daily, I find comfort in this verse that we will one day meet again,
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).