Mar 22, 2013
March 22, 2013
I slept little during the night before. A mix of two things kept me awake. While a head cold did annoy, the largest thing that distracted me was my thoughts. In the morning, I had been asked to present a Red Cross Hero award to a friend in honor of his son who died last year while serving his country.
My mind and heart kept going to this friend. I could only imagine how he was feeling and wondering if he too was laying there awake thinking of the day to come. Having three children of my own, I know that I would be devastated if I lost one and to relive that loss a year later could not be much easier.
I recall how I felt when my son left for the Navy a few years back. I even wrote of how hard it was. But to lose him for the rest of my life on earth? I know there is the comfort that you will see him again one day in Heaven but.....we live in the here and now.
I saw every hour and by 5AM, I gave up and just got up. I read a bit and prayed a bit. I worried about what I was going to say. There was a standard canned offer but....this was special. The young man who had given his life for his country was special. His family was special. And I wanted to honor that.
Words began to form in my mind. I practiced them over and over in my brain and began to take them apart and inspect them piece by piece. I wanted more than anything for the words to reflect not just my feelings but the ones of my veteran brothers that I was presenting for. And I wanted them to have full meaning for my friend and for his son.
I showered and headed out, picking up Trinity along the way. I arrived at the event and walked in with Trin and some of my brothers from my table. We all got in line to get some food. As I scooped up my breakfast from the chafing dishes many of my veteran brothers who were there along with other 'Jake's' customers quipped on how much better Jimmy's weekly buffet at the meetings was which did fill me with a bit of pride.
I sat at the table and tried to eat but nothing tasted good. The food was good....the problem was me. Nerves and the desire to do my best gave me no appetite. I nibbled at my food and did my best to get the nutrition that I needed. Not to help matters, I felt my blood sugar drop and knew that I needed to get that in check. I walked back over and got a glass of orange juice.
On the program, we were last so I watched and listened. Every presentation was the same. Mine would either be taken for what I hoped for.....an honor to a special man or....as grandstanding. I decided that it did not matter what anyone thought, it needed to be said.
Before I knew it, we were next. The adrenaline kicked in overriding the sugar and lack of food. I sat and watched the video of Justin's mother speaking of him. When he was announced, the room sprang to their feet in a standing ovation. With my Marine brother, Zin, by my side, I walked to the side of the stage. Zin took the award and flowers. I took the microphone. The words flowed just as they did in my mind minutes before. I looked at Jim and my heart went out to him. I spoke of how our friend, Bob Maxwell when talked to about his Medal of Honor is always quick to tell you who the real heroes were....the ones who could not come home. Then we presented the award, shook Jim's hand, stepped back a step and saluted. Zin and I left the stage and watched as Jim tried to talk but could not.
As I watched another thought came to my mind. Jim was the hero here. He was the biggest hero in the room in my mind. He was here, up on stage, reliving his grief.....not for himself but for his son's honor. I wondered if I could have that much strength. I know he would probably give anything just for a few more minutes with his boy.
I was there for the heroes award breakfast. But the most heroic man there did not receive an award....at least not for himself.