Dear Stan,

I hope all is well from above.  I have to thank you brother.  As I sit here tonight and watch the rain fall I remember back to the nights in Hungary.  To the night when you sat with me and helped me understand that as far as I was from my family, they knew I was where I was meant to be.  Life sucks sometimes.  It’s as simple as that. I wish you were still here with us.  You always showed me that I was stronger than I ever imagined. Better yet, you gave me a role model that I desperately needed.

We had some of the best talks those nights in Hungary.  We set there that night and smoked a cigar talking about what we missed most about home.  Family, friends and the world we left behind.  You asked me a question that I will never forget.  You sat there and asked me “If you could do it all over again, would you?”

My answer: “without question”.

I poured my heart and soul into being a soldier.  I was devastated when my injury sent me home but I think back to that night and I remember what you told me.  I think back to night because you asked me why I enlisted in the first place.

I enlisted because my heart told me to.  I enlisted because it was my dream to serve my country.  I enlisted because I needed purpose in my life and true sacrifice was the only way I would achieve that.  I enlisted because God needed me to meet people like you.

Years later…years after my military days are done…the answer remains the same.  I would sign that dotted line all over again.  The experience I gained from the military changed my life.  Meeting people like you changed my life.  They were the best of times and they were the worst of times – but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

The time I spent away from home wasn’t easy.  You knew that.  That was the night you gave me the rank off of your chest and told me that someday people would look to me the way they looked to you.  That was the night you told me you would always be there to help me through the good and bad times.

Without people like you, God only knows where I would be today.  The day God called you home was one of the toughest days of my life but without question you have been with me everyday since.  You give me strength when I feel weak.  You give me inspiration when I am lost.  You give me courage when I am afraid – and know it is my turn to be that person for others.

I will make you proud brother.  Rest easy.

P.S.  I will have a cigar for you tonight and watch the rain.

– Natale

 

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