Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day & My Friend Phil

Memorial Day is our opportunity to thank those who have or are actively serving in our military. It is also a time to remember those fallen soldiers who have paid the ultimate price to preserve the very freedoms we as a nation enjoy. To find true American heroes one needs only to look at the fine men and women who regardless of rank, branch of service or past or present position offer themselves to preserve the very virtues this country was founded on.

Of course we don't need just one day to give our military the thanks they so justly deserve. We should all be humbled by the sacrifices these fine men and women have made on our behalf. We should also search out and find ways each day to say a heartfelt "thank you" when you see someone who has or is serving in the military. Take the time to say thank you and to offer them a firm handshake and a warm pat on the back for a job well done. Tell them how much their individual commitment and dedication to protecting your rights and your freedom means to you and trust me the Ripple of your actions will undoubtedly make their day.

Having the willingness to open up and say thank you may just lead you to make a friend like I did. Sergeant Phil Burke's son Kevin and my son Zachary became friends and ended up on the same football team. I remember meeting Phil for the first time as our wives swapped stories about this and that at one of the first games. He seemed reserved - almost shy but none-the-less very polite and respectful.

Over the course of the next few weeks at various practices and at games we would exchange occasional hellos but not much more. I noticed he would not say much to any of the parents and often hung back, still rooting for his son, but almost from a distance. Knowing that he had just recently returned from a tour in Iraq I was interested in getting to know him so I just started walking up to him and chatting him up. At first I felt his uneasiness, sort of like he was thinking what's this guy's angle?, but because I wanted nothing specifically from him, other than a friend to hang with at the games, I began to see his tough bravado soften a bit.

Over the course of the past year Phil and I have become quite good friends. He is truly one of the good guys. His loyalty to his family and his commitment to his duty inspire me in ways that words won't do it justice. Despite our drastically different backgrounds, I believe we add something unique to one another's lives. Couple that with our passion for sports and even more healthy passion for beer, I can easily say he's become one of my best friends.

A few months ago I learned that Phil was being reassigned to another base in Washington State. He would be assigned to a specific unit that would be deployed back to Iraq in the fall. Although we've talked at great lengths about the burden this will put on his wife, Kevin and their newborn baby girl, I know that Phil faces what lies ahead with conviction and determination in his heart. Me on the otherhand I am left with a very sad heart feeling somewhat robbed of the friendship I have come to count on. I know that friendship won't be gone, it will just be different.

I believe Phil came into my life at the time that he did for a variety of reasons - too many to mention in this BLOG. So my friend Phil and all those like him, on this Memorial Day, I say with heavy and humble heart thank you for the service that you give to this country and for my family's freedom. I promise we will never take it or you for granted.

On a personal note...Phil, a new chapter in your life is about to unfold. I'll keep a watchful eye out and always be there for your family my friend. Just know that no matter where you are, no matter what you are doing, you've got a friend in me!

Hurry back so we can resume our nights of story swapping, lie telling and beer drinking. I'll keep the beer on ice.

Ripple On!!!

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