Happy? Is that the right word to use? I’m not sure. When I think of veterans it is not happiness I feel, but awe, respect, deep passion, love, and admiration. Most often the feeling is so much bigger than I can contain, and much more than I can often express.
I know many veterans. I’m not surprised that I’m drawn to them, because they’re beautiful to me. I’ve never worn the uniform, was never married to one, for that matter I’ve never even officially been a girlfriend to anyone who’s worn those colors– but I have loved, love, am loved, and have been loved by veterans.
It’s not surprising that my three best friends in the world, the three people I love and admire most, are soldiers. I can’t imagine my life without either one of them, and I hope I never have to live that reality. They’re my heroes, my inspirations, my muses, my friends. Not for anything particularly they’ve done in service, but for who they are as individuals. One is my heart. One is my conscious. One is my soul.
There was a soldier who once had all three parts of me, but he lost his life in Somalia in 1993. I can’t tell him what he meant to me, how much I admired him, how much I appreciate his service and his sacrifice, his love, his dedication, or his commitment. Somewhere deep inside I’m still waiting on him to come find me. I’m always waiting, even though I know he will never come. One of my best friends says he doesn’t believe there is anything beyond death, beyond this life. I don’t know if that’s true or not, I can’t prove anything. I’ve died twice, and saw nothing, but that doesn’t mean something doesn’t exist. All I know is that deep in my heart I hold a hope and a faith, wrapped in the love I had for my soldier, that love will never die. Love is still alive, even if my soldier is not. I believe it will still live even when I do not any longer. Love is bigger than me, bigger than this body. The love I have for my friends – it’s not just a physical love – but a love that transcends the body, more than something the mind can comprehend, and deeper than the soul can contain.
I can’t tell my lost soldier I love him, but I can tell the soldiers that are still in my life. They’re beautiful to me. I often call them that - Beautiful. I’m not sure they understand why I use that term. It’s not in reference to their looks, appearances, or physical features (they are sexy as hell though), but toward the colorful essence wrapped in admiration I see and feel when I look at them or think about them. It’s beautiful. Why them? I can’t tell you why my heart chose them, there’s no logical reason, it just did. I’ve tried so hard to push them away, to forget about them, to not love them with such a deep love, but I fail in every attempt. I think I try to push them away because I’m so scared I will lose them.
When I tell a veteran “thank you” - it’s not just for them and their service, but through them to all those who have served, are serving, and who’ve never come home. It’s appreciation for the life they’ve voluntarily chosen, to give up their daily freedom for one of structure, rules, regulations, duty and service in order to grant me the freedoms and protections I enjoy. Military life is hard. For many, when they’ve returned home after combat they will find civilian life is complicated and filled with difficulty and struggle to fit into the chaos. Lots of heroes come home to rejection, betrayal, confusion, hardship, disrespect, doubting who they are or the value of their lives. I can’t love them all, but I can love them through my three best friends and the military friends I make along the way – by loving them as much as I can.
I thank God for my veteran friends. You are my heroes, and I’m honored to call you friend. I love you with the deepest love of my heart.
PV2 J. A. Sandlin – thank you for your service and your friendship.
Sgt. J. L. Suwak – thank you, Ranger, for your service and your friendship.
Sgt. T. E. Solano - thank you, Drill Sergeant, for your service and your friendship.
I know many more soldiers, marines, pilots, reservists and sailors… too many to name them all because I’m sure I’d forget one in the mix. Forgive me if I do. M.C. Nannenga, D. Mathis, J.T. Watkins, F.A. Rogers, T. Bucher, G.G. Goad, S.M. McDowell, R. Swanson, B. Cerros, B. Christopher, T. Sharpton, C. Tinsley, J. Byrd, J. Banks, J. Sprunk, M. Lawrence, M. Cole, M. Sullivan, S. Hardegree, P. George, R. Conner, S. Formby, R. Herbster, T. Kervin, Z. Starnes.
Thank you all for your service.