My Fiance and I are going through that pre-marital stuff. At first I was not interested but I realized how much it meant to Allison and I started paying attention. The more I did that the more I got involved myself. A natural progression I suppose. Anyways, something came up and the Rabbi (she is jewish, I am … well… indifferent) asked did we take each other for granted. She said that her religion teaches to say 100 simple blessings a day, like thanking for solid earth and chow and a bed. The Rabbi said that you should always include each other in that mental blessing list.
It was strange, because I do that already. Not because of a religious teaching but because I have been a little close to meeting whatever is on the other side be it a dirt, God, Allah, or some energy force, light…… really really cool goo, whatever it is. I have found that at a very young age my mortality has been expressly shown to me. I am completely aware of the fact that I have a short time on this planet to do whatever it is that I can to make it worth while. I say mental thank yous to whatever is on the other side or just karma, for chow, a bed, and solid ground (especially after being airborne). I do that sappy thing of waking up and staring at her and knowing that I am not back there or in a pine box, I am not looking at a freaking picture or staring at a webcam. I give thanks to breathe and for the little aches and pains that I have all over the place because they are little aches and pains that can be pushed through.
I feel that one of the greatest things that combat ever gave me was that it scared me half-to-death. It really has defined me as a person on the back side of combat and in my life there after. I have spent much of my time figuring out how to help others, how to make life a bit better for the ones like me, not wearing green any more but still bleeding it. I have found that that has been the most therapeutic thing for me, I have truly selfish motives when it comes to helping people and I am not ashamed of that because I am still doing good. Another thing I have found is that I value relationships more.
I know that all generations of veterans can relate to those late night, on watch conversations. Those conversations that spanned from which actress was hotter to the meaning of the universe and what god was. Those conversations that started out innocent and dumb and wound up being something that Aristotle or Socrates could have laid out before a Greek market. During one of those conversations probably 2-3 hours into the night shift watch, freezing our @#4es off in Afghanistan, I decided that the meaning of life to me was the connections that you make with people. Any kind of connection not just the big and important ones but those chance encounters on the street. You never know what you will find or influence or what will influence you and change how you think and look at life. I made this decision after finding out that one of the guys that had influenced me into joining the military had given the ultimate sacrifice. I think that there is a very real correlation between knowing that you are mortal and taking joy and knowledge from every encounter you have with the rest of the mortals.
One of the thanks I give is for having been given the chance to be exposed to such horror, pain, hate, and anger. Because without having been exposed to the horrors of war I would have never known, that brotherly love, pride, and honor that can only accompany those horrible things. It again made me realize that in terms of the world I will be gone before I know it, so I want to do everything I can to make it worthwhile. I have a bet that after reading this, that some of you who have been there and done that might realize you might say those little thank yous in your head to.
At first, I took it as a curse, I was terrified of it. I was so certain of it then and it freaked me out. Then it dawned on me that I knew this all along I just had been made more aware of it and that curse turned to another one of those mental thank yous.