To the Marine who lost his closest friend:
"I will go there with you. That was said to me some time ago by a man far wiser than I. I offer you the same, to the extent that I am able. I have been there before, and I have survived the furnace. I will go there with you if this is where you believe need to go. We took the same oath, we both lost friends, we were/are both angry, and we both have a hard time living in a seemingly apathetic country that long ago forgot her veterans (though I KNOW many remember, and very well). It is hard, it will hurt, and you will change. But you have survived for a reason. Feel no guilt, but instead duty, blessing, and hope. God has preserved you because there is something He wishes to do WITH you and THROUGH you. I was your brother in arms, and I am your brother now. You were not, will not, and even now are not alone. We do not forget our own, and we do not leave our own behind. If it's 2AM and you want to talk, call me. If it's 3PM and somebody has cut you off in traffic and you're pissed off beyond all belief, call me. I've been there, too. If you have another dream where you're killing people, wake up, chalk it up as another dream, and call me anyway. Maybe you'll wake me up from mine, too. We all have them.
"You are different yes, but what you have become commands respect. You are a leader among those who cow in fear of the unknown and fear of harm or adversity. You have seen much, endured much, and will approach the remainder of your days even better equipped to confront problems head-on. You are different, yes, but there are many different LIKE you. Band with us, talk with us, and we will be different together. We're everywhere, and we're glad to have you among us.
"Above all else, do not isolate yourself. The belief that you will never fit in is pervasive and believable, yet downright wrong. You WILL fit in - to a degree - and people will always notice in you a deep scar. It did not kill you, it tempered you, changed you, and you are stronger for it. You, as a leader, as a warrior, and as a citizen, have something to offer. What might that be? You have seen and experienced the cost of freedom, and thus possess the ability to live with the deepest gratitude. Do so now, just as I do, and we will muddle, stumble, grieve, and walk this path together. Millions have come before us, and millions will come after us. We have fallen in step with our predecessors, and in time others will fall in behind us. We are not a nation that forgets her heroes nor her fallen. We are nation that remembers. And that, my friend, begins with you living in the memory of your friend. You wore green digital, just like me. You wore desert digital just like me. You were pissed off a lot, shot a little, cried when nobody was looking, and one day decided to channel it into anger. Come, brother, we will approach life as a somber and perpetual memorial service, salute as the flag-draped coffin passes, and live in their memory. Because we remember. Because we know the man in the coffin. Because he was our friend, and he was robbed of life. We will continue to hate the enemy, and we will continue to remind those that quickly forget that the enemy still exists. We will survive, and we will live - and our fallen brothers, whose names are forever engraved on our hearts, will never be far from thought."
Copyright © 2009, Ben Shaw
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