The years have a way of going by so quickly. One year you are 24 years old and you find yourself joining a veteran post. The Veterans of the Vietnam War, Post 52, to be more precise.
I kept asking, what do you want me for? I'm not a Vietnam Vet. I didn't do anything noteworthy. These guys are 20 years older than me! They're combat Vets! From the Vietnam War!
The answer I received was: You're honorably discharged right? All honorably discharged veterans are welcome in our Post. We are People Who Care.
How could I know, all those years ago, that those Vietnam Vets would soon become my brothers and I, their little sister? How could I have known then how important this group of people would become in my life?
Of that original group, these men that endured and saw more than most could fathom or handle, these men became shoulders that I cried upon in times of despair. They sat with me countless times over the years and just listened. They gave hugs when I didn't realize I needed one, and made my day better for it. They've made me laugh till my stomach hurt. They gave unconditional love to this lost, messed up female veteran who didn't realize there were others out there who "got it".
They watched my daughter grow up and had a significant impact on her as well. Of what it means to have honor and integrity, courage and hope. What it means to care for those who struggle and help when you can. What better role models could I have asked for my daughter?
These men. These Vietnam Vets. My brothers. My family.
Who could have known time would fly by so quickly?
To me, we are all still the same folks from years gone by. They are my big brothers. My protectors.
But the years do go by and with them comes age, sickness and a myriad of things that creep back from time spent in combat in Vietnam. The everlasting effects of Agent Orange.
Bodies become tired and God calls my brothers Home.
I'm not ready to say goodbye to another. I still see myself at 24 years old and these men welcoming me into their veteran family.
My goodness, the times that have been shared. Laughter and tears. Road trips. Year after year traveling to Rolling Thunder in DC. Twenty years of our annual Ride For Freedom. Countless events at the Post. The list can go on and on.
I've still got more to learn from these men!
But it isn't up to me. God chooses who to call Home and when.
He called home another brother on July 4th. Charles Muddiman, known to us all as "Chuck".
The two men in the photo have both been called Home. Brother Bill, on the left in the picture, left us a few years ago and "Chuck" on the right, left us on July 4th.
Each have left behind so many memories for me and have taken another small piece of my heart with them.
My brothers. My brave, big hearted brothers. How I do, and will continue to miss you.
Rest in peace.
Until we see each other again. Save a hug for me.
I love you guys.