My daddy always tells me, "I hope you have a GOD day sweetheart." At first I wondered, a God day? What can he mean by that. That is usually about the time that I get smacked in the face with one of God's ways of telling me. I am here Rebecca, just look.
The first time he said this to me I walked outside into the most beautiful day. I passed a family playing catch in the park, and I passed a father leaning down to catch his running child in his arms with a huge hug.
This past week I had my GOD day. Really I think it was my biggest God day to date. It wasn't a normal circumstance, no. However, in the span of just a few hours I was shown just how real, honest, simple, humbling, awe inspiring, and heartbreaking the hands of God can be in a persons life.
This past week I traveled to Pennsylvania in support of a fellow Marine Corps S/O. To me, it just didn't seem right that she go through that without knowing she had people behind her that understood that part of her life so I along with three others traveled the distance to stand behind our "sister" while she welcomed home her love. It wasn't a homecoming any military wife, girlfriend, fiance, or family member dreams of, in fact it was our worst nightmares come to life.
On September 2nd, this American Hero fell in combat while in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I don't know a single person surrounding the situation that didn't shed an abundance of tears for this young life that was ended too soon. He died a hero and was brought home in a manner befitting one.
While driving through the gorgeous hills and mountains of Pennsylvania I was gripped by this overwhelming sense of peace and calm. It was beautiful. Driving through this town on our way to the funeral home, I was again struck by just how beautiful this was. This amazing young man was loved and supported by all and therefore he was also mourned and celebrated by all. I didn't pass a street light or store front that wasn't decked out in yellow ribbons, American flags, or messages welcoming this fallen hero home. As we drove through the streets making our way closer to the funeral home, tears started to fall from my eyes. I had never seen something so heart wrenching before. As a Marine Wife yeah I have known more than one fallen hero but never like this.
As we entered the funeral home, we passed through the ranks of the Patriot Guard. They stood there so tall and so proud with their eyes focused straight ahead holding their flags in their hands. No one moved, and no one spoke. They just stood there blanketed in silence out of respect for the man inside who unknowingly touched so many lives.
Passing through the rooms of the home, we passed a multitude of people who had already congregated to pay their respects. Turning into the main room what I saw made my breath lodge in my throat and turned my stomach so violently that I had to walk straight back out before I broke down and cried. A few minutes later I gathered my self and walked back into the room. What I saw next would change my definition of love, grace, strength, support, and poise.
Standing beside the casket gazing lovingly down at her hero was the long time girlfriend of this fallen Marine. There weren't any words to describe the look of joy and pride in her eyes to finally have him home, even though it wasn't in the way she had prayed for when he left mere weeks ago. As I walked forward and wrapped my arms around her, I couldn't find the words to tell her how sorry I was. No matter how long or hard I tried to find them, they just weren't there. In the end all I could come up with was "I'm so sorry. We can't hurt for you even though we would give anything to do so, but we will stand behind you and hurt with you. We will hold you up if you find you don't have the strength to stand on your own."
Afterward, we took our places in the back of the parlor to sit silently until the time came and we were needed. Over the span of the next 8 and a half hours, we watched silently as person after person filed in and out of the room paying their respects to this man who had lain down his life for his country. It was apparent how loved and respected he was.
His brothers stood proud and tall by his side, their eyes shining with pride and love for him. They would adjust their ties and uniforms, straighten their ribbons, check their brother, and then resume their places by his side. It was impossible to miss, their pride, love, and hurt over their brother shown from every move they made. As I sat there taking in the room and looking as the lives he touched, I ended up being the one taught a lesson. A brother's love, much like a mother's, knows no bounds and it is something I will carry in my heart always. Through their grief and pain, they somehow found a way to think of us as we filed out for dinner. It was a pleasure and an honor to meet them both.
I sat in the back, watching as his girlfriend would turn ever so often and gaze down at him and smile. A secret smile that only they would know. It was breath taking. That these two amazing people loved each other was felt keenly by every person in the room. Every time she would look down at him and her back would turn on everyone else, my breath would catch at this beautiful girl who even though her heart was breaking smiled and stood tall beside her love. It was palpable and so so humbling to see. She stood there beside him for over eight hours that day with one hand on his casket never turning fully away from him once. Her hand would travel to his dog tag that hung around her neck ever so often.
No matter the circumstance that brought them to that place, they were truly happy that he was home. It was a collective sigh of relief. Through the intervening hours, I heard story after story after story about this man and the lives he inadvertently touched.
Most people live entire life times wondering if they ever made a difference, but the fact that this man not only touched lives, but left lasting fingerprints was a true mark of a hero.
So many things I saw that day will stay with me forever and I am glad. For me this Marine and his beautiful girlfriend symbolized the type of love and devotion that people spend their lives looking for. They worked so hard for each other and together and to even be in the presence of that for a single second was humbling and heart warming.
On September 10th, a full eight days since his life had been taken, this fallen Marine was laid to rest amidst the people that he loved and that loved him on a beautiful day. How very fitting. To know that his life was taken so soon breaks my heart. But to know how he lived and how big of a difference he made.. .Truly humbling.
For a few hours I stood on the outskirts of and in the presence of a great love and a hero who left lasting finger prints on this world.
If that isn't a GOD day I don't know what is. As a parting I leave you with the words to a song.
"I may not go down in history, I just want someone to remember me. I'll probably never dream a dream and watch it turn to gold. I know I'll never lose my life to save another soul. But if I will love then I will find that I have touched another life and that's something. Something worth leaving behind."
He left behind a legacy that will burn bright for years to come in the love he felt for his girlfriend and his family.
He made a difference, touched lives, saved lives, and left his mark on the world.
I only pray that one day I can say the same.