I have been blessed enough to know a few amazing Veterans and would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their service.
First, is my grandfather, my mother's father, who passed away before I was married.
Next up is a guy who I've always considered my "little brother" - even though we are in no way related.
Derek is the handsome one on the left . . . with the glasses. We didn't really meet until I was already in high school but we became really close as we both went through High School and I went off to college. I remember Derek's going away party when he left for Basic but I don't think it really sunk in what he was really doing. I talked to his beautiful wife, Jodi, a lot when he was deployed and I remember thinking how strong they all were while he was gone. Derek has 2 awesome children, Dominic and Mia, who both had to make sacrifices, too. After he came home, Derek would tell me stories of what he did while he was deployed and all I could think of at the time was, "Thank God you didn't tell me that when you were gone!" I really do appreciate his sacrifices and the risks he took. He even made it a point to fly home for my wedding! He told them his sister was getting married! :) I remember practically attacking him when I saw him the night of the rehearsal dinner! Derek is definitely another one of my heroes.
Speaking of my wedding, the next Veteran I would like to thank was my husband's roommate in college and one of the groomsmen in our wedding . . .
Justin, or Uncle Lu Lu (as the kids knew him), is one of the funniest guys I've ever met. I always had a great time when he was around. He is also one of the nicest guys I know. I remember when we moved into our house . . . Justin had just come back from being deployed and he stopped over to help us take down wallpaper and paint. He also bought us our microwave - that we still use to this day - as a wedding shower present. I remember him bringing microwave popcorn over, too . . . so we could try it out and eat popcorn while we painted. Life has kind of gotten in the way of us keeping in touch with Justin and we miss him a lot (especially during the summer and grilling season because he was always around to help us test new barbecue recipes and throw back a couple beers) - but he pops into conversations every once in while and we are able to keep tabs on each other through the power of Facebook. Justin is another one of my heroes!
Another guy who is always willing to help test out some recipes and throw a few back is Matt.
Matt and I became friends just from being around the same people. Honestly, for a while I thought he was literally insane. However, after a couple of late night conversations, I now know that Matt is one of the smartest people I know. Matt and Jerry are hysterical to watch together. They are almost EXACT opposites in personality but when they are together you can't help but laugh at what ensues. I remember when Matt was leaving to be deployed - I wanted to give him something. He's not very religious but he had commented a few times about how he liked my grandfather's rosary...so, I told him to take it with him. He didn't want to because of the sentimental value it held for me, being my grandfather's and all, but I told him I wasn't giving it to him . . . just letting him borrow it! Jerry and I were lucky enough to attend Matt's wedding a little over a year ago. It was a great party and we are so happy for him! Matt is certainly one of my heroes.
Last but not least is a guy I haven't seen in probably 10 years or more . . .
I knew JR from good old St. Joseph High School. JR and I weren't super close in High School, but we hung out with the same people. He dated a few of my friends and I dated at least one of his. We would see each other at parties and later on at the weddings of friends. I remember someone telling me about JR joining the Marines and I was surprised. Then I saw JR on Facebook a while later and was totally amazed at how different (and amazing) he looked! He now has a beautiful family and loves what he does. In an odd sort of way I was kind of proud of him . . . it's only odd because I don't know what right I have to be proud of him but I am. JR is absolutely one of my heroes.
Since having children, I realize even more how important our service men and women are to me. I appreciate that they protect me but I am absolutely humbled and eternally grateful for the fact that they protect my 4 children in a way that I cannot.
Thanks to all of you - the ones I've mentioned and the ones who I haven't - it amazes me that you would sacrifice so much for people that you don't know. You are truly amazing men and women and I can only hope to raise my children as well as your parents raised you! :)