Dear Chris,

I owe it all to you, brother. The type of soldier I was, the way I see the world, and the type of man I want to become.  It is simply amazing how someone comes into your life and completely changes the direction you are headed.  My father always says “When you are lost, pray for Mother Mary to reset your compass”.  Well, my friend, Mother Mary sent you into my life to redirect me.

For the third year, Kelsey Rose and I spent the week in Chicago with her mother and family to celebrate the Fourth of July. We had the time of our lives and this year was even more special.  Your mom and her friend Kim joined us for the holiday. It was a day that I will remember for the rest of my life. We laughed as we reminisced on our favorite memories with you. The next day Kelsey Rose and I came to visit your grave.  She brought you some incredible flowers as we reflected on how much we miss you.  I say “we” because even though she never met you she knows I wouldn’t be the man I am without you.

The impact you made on people’s lives is nothing short of amazing.  You showed me strength that I never knew I had. You taught me what it means to be selfless and the importance of being reliable.  Most of all…you taught me what it means to take accountability for my own life. We all make choices in our lives and you showed me that I was the only one responsible for those choices.

Life may not always go according to our plan but we have to be willing to fight for what we want.  We have to show the people we care about that we won’t stop fighting until we have nothing left – and even then that is when we find strength to keep going.

In less than a year I will marry the woman of my dreams. Once again, I have you to thank.  You called me on my BS and you helped me realize that I couldn’t live without her.  You will stand with me on that day in spirit and your mom will be there to share in the memories!

A lifetime wouldn’t be long enough to thank you for everything you have done for me.  You will forever be my hero and I live my life in your memory, brother.

Rest easy,

Natale