A couple of days ago, my cousin Stephen came to visit. He's recently completed his duty with the Marine Corps after serving eight years. When I'm around him I am more appreciative of the meaning of family. Even as I am writing, it is difficult not to cry. I am just so full of love for Stephen and I feel so proud of him. I'm proud of his heroism, courage, strength, compassion and openness.
My husband wanted to introduce Stephen to a friend of ours, Jim. He is 93 years old and served in the 101st airborne during World War II. Spending the afternoon with my cousin and Jim was an experience that I will hold in my heart forever. Though both men served in completely different wars, they had a very special connection with each other. It was amazing to see Stephen try to verbalize his feelings about being in the military and Jim knowing exactly what he was trying to say. They both understood each other and both soldiers appreciated the other in a way I will never fully grasp.
That afternoon, it was as if both men needed the other. Stephen needed Jim to show him that one can find peace and normalcy after years in the military and Jim needed Stephen to remember how it feels to be strong and proud. As I reflect on that afternoon, I find myself feeling very emotional. I am filled with love. Love for my cousin, love for those who fought and died in wars before my time, love for my dad who served in Vietnam but never talked about it, love for a childhood friend who died in Afghanistan, love for all of the soldiers who continue to risk their lives for our freedom and love for my country. Spending the afternoon with these two veterans was unexpected but extremely special. It turned out to be a very beautiful afternoon.