The invaluable lesson I learned from my fallen brother

Dear Chris,

I remember the moment I met you like it was yesterday.  We were sitting on that bus together on our way to face our uncertain fate at basic training.  I remember being so afraid of what was in store for me but somehow I felt a little less nervous knowing I wasn’t alone.  Although I barely knew you at that time, I trusted you, and now years later, as I reflect back on that moment, I realized that is when I learn one of life’s most valuable lessons…

It’s been six and a half years since God called you home and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss you my friend.  We spent 9 of the toughest weeks of our lives together that built a bond that will never be broken. It feels like I’ve known you for a lifetime.

I wish you were here to meet my beautiful daughter, Chris.  I really do.  But one day she will know why her uncle Chris is her daddy’s hero.  She will know that you changed my life and there’s no question that without you, she wouldn’t be here today.

I learned so many life-changing lessons from you that it would be a disservice to the world to keep them all secret.  People like you shined a light in this world that is too bright for me to let burn out.  I am here to keep your legacy going forever, brother.  So here we go…

You taught me that nobody makes it through life alone…

Anyone who claims to be “self made” is full of crap.  Although I firmly believe that individual effort plays a vital role in our ability to succeed in life, we all have people that we rely on and you my friend were that someone for me.  To this very day, I rely on you more than you will ever know.

Countless times since I’ve returned home from the Army I’ve had someone tell me something like, “Wow, I could never have made it through basic training” or “I could never be in the military and have been away from my family for so long.” And it’s true that many people are not cut out for military life but what they don’t know is how those of us who are made it through…

I must admit, I take pride in accomplishing things that others doubt their ability to do.  You know by now that I love accomplishing difficult feats.  Some people think I’m crazy when I tell them I loved basic training but as you very well know, I really did.  I loved every second of it.  I loved the chaos.  I loved the struggle.  I loved the intensity.  And be damn sure, I loved the challenge.

But the truth is, I wouldn’t have made it through without you.   From that very first day on the bus, every night we stayed up talking to each other, the late night fire guard shifts and the constant challenges with everything in between. You became my best friend in the matter of moments.

There’s no question that I would have failed without your continued encouragement and support.  As much as I felt that I made the right choice by enlisting, there were times where I questioned that choice just like everyone else.

Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and either was basic training.  I had my tough moments and I relied on you to get me through.

When I felt weak you picked me back up and inspired me to keep going.  You literally carried me for what had to be miles when I physically could find the strength to walk.  You motivated me to pursue the best version of myself in everything I did.  You guided me to make good choices and learn from others and you challenged me to break out of my comfort zone.  And when I missed my family, you were there to pick my head up and help me see that what I was doing was for those I loved that I left back home.

I can only hope I was the same to you.

My father always told me that you can count your true friends on one hand.  Well, you my friend definitely made the list.  Life is so much easier when you surround yourself with good people.  People who love you.  People who support you.  People who challenge and inspire you.  And people you can build strong bonds with that last a lifetime.

It broke my heart when God called you home.  You had so much to offer this world and I still struggle to understand why someone like you needed to be called home so soon with so much more left to give.  I know you are watching over me but I wish you were still right here by my side.

You taught me that nobody gets through life alone and although you may not be right here with me, I know your hand is always on my shoulder, guiding me. It’s important that you know I will carry on your legacy on forever.  You had the purest heart, you lived for others and you made other people want to be better.  I will continue to support others the way you supported me.  I will continue to inspire others the way you inspired me. And I will work every day to live my life in a way that would make you damn proud.

Rest easy, brother.  I’ll see you on the other side someday.

Until Valhalla






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