This past Sunday I was invited to the 451st Expeditionary Sustainment Command Send Off Ceremony. I was overwhelmed by the amount of kindness shown to me that morning. I was able to meet so many incredible people; active military, Veterans, and family members. Sweet children, hilarious older gentlemen, charming young men, and the kindest women.
I watched them enjoy breakfast with their families, I cracked jokes with them, took pictures with them, listened to their stories. These individuals are so witty, smart, humble, charming, and so brave. I made friends, I talked with them about when they would return home and if I would see them when they got back.
But then I was a part of something so much more powerful, and heartbreaking.
I sat in the VIP section of the ceremony and watched these soldiers, people I was just conversing with, march into the arena. I watched them stand at attention as countless people spoke about what these men and women were about to do. I heard the heartbreaking shout of a little girl from the audience yell "I love you papa!". I watched the funny soldiers I had just met begin to sweat and tear up. I realized that the reason the chair I sat in was called the VIP section,was because of the moment I was invited to experience with them. I was close enough to see these men and women try to mentally process what was about to happen. I was close enough to see their eyes scanning the crowd, looking for their loved ones...then I stood on the arena floor, and watched them say goodbye.
It was that moment that I really understood what was happening. The children I was playing with earlier, were being held by their moms and dads for the last time for the next year. The funny, witty soldiers that were making me laugh earlier were now fighting back tears as they hugged their families goodbye. I stood there, feeling helpless.
How much courage does it take for someone to not only choose to protect their country, but keep a brave face while battling their own inner fear? How much character must a person have to be so compassionate and calm in conversation, knowing that they were leaving soon? How much humility does it take to thank a local titleholder for their service, when it's their service that matters most? I don't think I will ever forget this event. I fell in love with humans I have never met before.
My prayers are with every single one of you, I will never forget your kindness and courage. Come home soon.