Did I ever tell you I smoked under a cherry tree when I was five years old? I am not proud of it but what does a five year old know anyway? I am convinced I was lead astray by my older siblings—that's my story and I am sticking to it! Gosh, I remember like it was yesterday—we found a big carton of cigarettes in my mom's car and sneaked under the big cherry tree at Grandma's and smoked. I thought it was gross—so that was the last time I ever smoked anything. . . until you invited me to share your cherry-flavored cigar. . . a nightly Afghanistan ritual you said. I've got to tell you son, it was like I got a free pass into the boys club. It was probably the first time I ever saw us as two adults. I wasn't your mother. You weren't my son. We were two friends having a moment. I will forever remember how close I felt to you sitting on that rock as you showed me how to smoke my first stogy.
For the past several months I have held my breath—from the time you left for Afghanistan to the moment I knew you were safely home. I have never appreciated three simple words as much as I do these: You. Are. Home. Though the homecoming only lasted a few short days, the peace I felt seeing you healthy and safe goes beyond anything I could ever express in words.
Not long after your return, I received a very special hand-written note from your commanding officer:
I am writing to let you know how proud I am to serve with your son. As his commanding officer I have watched him grow as a leader and person during this deployment. His performance and work ethic earned him a tremendous reputation with our leadership. We could not have accomplished our aviation mission in Southern Afghanistan without him.
I am such a proud mama.
Now you are off on another adventure, learning new things, meeting new people, preparing yourself for even more greatness. Oh the places you will go!
You'll be on your way up!
You'll be seeing great sights!
You'll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.
You won't lag behind, because you'll have the speed.
You'll pass the whole gang and you'll soon take the lead.
Whenever you fly, you'll be the best of the best.
Whenever you go, you will top all the rest.
And you will—because that is who you are. You are my son and you are an amazing individual.
I look forward to seeing your handsome face. Remember who you are and what you stand for.
I love you,
I am a creative soul with natural entrepreneurial instincts. I enjoy bringing my ideas to fruition and celebrating with those who shared in the process. God has blessed me with the gift of creative expression and I will forever be thankful.