(Two minute read about the day that changed my life)
I miss you like crazy brother. I still haven’t found the words to explain what makes friendships in the military so much different than civilian life. You and I spent ten weeks together in basic training but I felt like I knew you for a lifetime. You will forever be one of my closest friends which is exactly what made the day you passed away one of the most difficult days of my life.
I’m writing you this letter because of a conversation I had with Kelsey Rose a few weeks ago. We were reliving the difficulties of our long distance relationship throughout my time in the Army and she told me that she didn’t think we would have ended up together had I not enlisted – and she is right. As you may recall, I was a much different man before I enlisted. I was unreliable. I was selfish. I was spoiled and niave and I treated her and everyone else in my life poorly. I took life for granted until the day I met you. There were so many ways in which the military changed me but I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be here today.
She says if I didn’t join the military then her and I may not have ended up together and she’s right but her and I are together today because of you and for that – I owe you the world.
You and I spent every night for ten straight weeks sharing stories of what we left behind back home, memories with friends and family, and what life before the military held for us. You told me the struggles you faced and the life you lived before you enlisted – a life that I never knew existed. You helped me realize that life was about so much more than just yourself. You taught me that it’s never too late to make changes in life and you taught me what it meant to be a member of a team, what it means to show others they can rely on you, and what it means to live a life for others. Everything about you was truly remarkable.
But one day was special. I remember telling you why Kelsey Rose and I were not together when I enlisted and of course, like the majority of my life up until that point, it was everyone’s fault but my own. I told you why I thought Kelsey Rose and I shouldn’t be together because “she deserved better”, and then it happened. WHACK! You slapped the shit out of me, knocking me to the ground…and told me four words I will never forget as I was coming in and out of consciousness. You stood over me and said, “Well then be better…”
I can honestly say that as much as my brothers and I fought, I had never been nearly knocked out by being slapped before. I can also say that this was the first time that I had been hit in the face by someone who was trying to help me…but it worked…
Looking back, that day changed my life. Those words changed my life. It was the shock to the system that I drastically needed to make changes in my life, especially with Kelsey Rose. Excuses didn’t work for you and you called me on my shit and I needed that. You were by my side every second of every day and you made my want to “be better”. Not just for Kelsey Rose but for my family – for the world. You are what sparked my motivation to inspire others because you inspired me. You made me want to be the best man I could be with the hope that others would follow in my footsteps.
That is why it was so important to Kelsey Rose and I that your mom attend our wedding. I needed her to know that without you, Kelsey Rose and I wouldnt be together. It’s been six months since we’ve been married and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. You are my hero, Chris. I will never forget the promise I made to you the night before we graduated basic training. I promised you I would work to be the best in everything I did and never sell myself, or anyone else, short again. I will forever uphold that promise my friend. I will be the best at what I do to uphold your legacy. I will be the best husband and god-willing, the best father someday.
Keep your hand on my shoulder my friend and guide me on my path to changing the world.
P.S. I’ll take care of your mom buddy, I promise.
From: SGT Natale