Today seems fitting.
Today seems right.
I have often said it… but I have not said it enough. And I have not said it here. Yet.
But today is as good a time as any.
In fact, considering what today represents, our current circumstances, our current state… today is perfect.
I wish you knew how much weight is in those two words for me.
I want to convey it as best that I can. Even still… I know it won't be enough.
As long as I can remember, you have always been there. Always.
I don't have one important growing up memory of my childhood without you in it.
I remember all of us kids running to the door to beat each other to the driveway to see who could get there first. To be the first one you grabbed a hold of. You must have been tired. You always worked so hard. But still… you would hug us all and let us hound you all the way back into the house.
I used to sneak into the garage where your office was.
I just wanted to make sure you were there.
So much of my life was shaky… so much of it was tough. I intrinsically knew that if you were there… everything would be okay.
You always made me feel safe. You always made me feel loved.
And when I was struggling to trust, wounded and burdened down by a horrible situation, I will never forget the look on your face as my mom shared with you what I was battling through... That look that spoke volumes to me… You were afraid that I wasn't going to be able to trust you anymore. That look sealed it for me. I knew that you… above anyone else in my life… would always be worthy of my trust. You didn't fail me then, and you have not failed me since. You may not remember… but I do.
You have been there always. Through so many tough circumstances in our lives.
When my mom struggled to put food on our table, we ate at yours.
When we didn't have any money for Christmas gifts, you made sure we had everything on our list.
When we needed somewhere to go, so we didn't have to always be in daycare, you and Aunt made sure we had a safe place to be.
I watched you constantly.
How you processed life, how you served your God, how you served your family, how you loved us all so unconditionally, so fully.
We don't share the same blood, yet there has never been a day when I haven't felt like we are connected by something more.
You helped raise my brother and I.
You showed us what honor looks like. Integrity. Strength.
When it felt like the world had turned it's back on us… you brought us in.
You knew how to take ordinary moments and fill them with more.
Simple trips to the dump for your construction business were full of laughter, song and fun.
Trips to Foster Freeze for chocolate dipped vanilla cones.
Building houses and go carts in the back yard.
Summer camping adventures cross country.
Every Holiday, joy just seemed to emanate off of you.
In a house full of strong women, you silently led us all.
Faithfully loving my Auntie for the past 42 years of marriage.
Showing her honor…. Loving her and us patiently.
I don't think you understand the impact you have had.
I think an epiphany for me today is this…
I chose a man to marry just like you.
Your character and everything you have always stood for.
He stands. Just like you.
Strong. Unwavering. Displaying unconditional love just like you have shown all of us my whole life.
He does it too.
Uncle, I have made a lot of mistakes. Some little and some huge.
Through every one you have extended grace to me.
I have not always done well telling you how much you mean to me, how important you have been in my life. The enormous part you have played in making me the woman, the wife, the mom I am today.
You have had a part in it. All of it.
I remember every story. Every song. Every moment that you shared with us as kids.
I can only count on one had the times I have seen you angry.
I can count so many more times the moments that you have loved on us, shared with us, been patient with us, blessed us.
You never spoke about the hard times. The times that you struggled hard.
I remember your salvation story. The one that would leave tears gleaming in your eyes. You would tell us that you were a changed man. The changed man was the only one I ever knew.
I never knew the man that fought his demons until we talked as adults.
I never knew the man that saw atrocity in a land that didn't belong to you.
I never knew the man that ran away from home at 17 and joined the military to fight in a war that I'm not sure you even understood. No one did.
You came home broken and rejected by the very people you fought to keep free.
But we never saw that side of you.
I remember you quiet… I remember you thoughtful. I remember you working hard.
I know that the man that quietly has led our family for so long has so much more to give.
I don't remember a day that you have ever complained. Knowing our big crazy family, you have plenty that you could say.
But you didn't. And you don't.
I can't fault the moments that you need to retreat. I have often envied your ability to just slip away and take a moment to re-group without making anyone feel like you are abandoning them.
In these last few months I have watched you step to the forefront. To offer your home, your freedom, your life to again serve this family with your love, support, and faithfulness.
As we all wait and watch as Grams life slowly slips from us you have been in the background supporting.
The other day as I watched, you brought a blanket and covered her feet as she lay asleep on the couch, my heart filled and tears blurred my eyes.
In that moment I saw Jesus. And the more I reflect on you the more I see… You have always shown us Jesus. In action, in deed… in love.
This family, this country, this woman is so blessed to know you. To have you in our lives, to have had your service and your devotion.
Some might belittle those things.
I never will.
For your service not just to this country, although that in and of itself is large enough to be thankful for… today and every day after...
But most of all… Thank you for your service to our family. To all of us around you that you could easily care less about. If you chose to.
But you don't.
And we all know it.
We feel it the moment you wrap us up in your hugs when we walk through your front door.
Today… on a day to honor so many who have gone before us to secure our freedom, to fight for the families that depend on them… I am remembering you and all the ways that you have honored us with your life.
It is no surprise to me that when you could have run so many other places as a young 17 year old boy that you ran straight into battle. You may not have understood it then, but knowing the man that I know now and the man of honor that you have always been in my life, I would expect nothing else.
For all the sacrifices you have made and continue to make. For our family, your friends, your church, your community, other veterans that you have walked your road with...
Again...I just want to say... Thank you.
You are loved and appreciated more than you know.
More than you will ever know.
I have someone at home that reminds me of the power of your integrity. The power of the honor that you carry.
Thank you for setting the example that I needed set.
I will always remember you on this day, the day that we honor so many for their service and faithfulness to our country.
But for me Uncle… in light of who you are… I am not just thankful for that but so much more.
Because you are so much more.
You will always hold a place in my heart only reserved for you. In that place I will always be the little girl that you chose to take into your heart and love. I will always be your first little one.
I hope that you know all that you have poured into me.
For me… You define honor.
Te quiero mucho tio.
I love you.