That wonderfully handsome man in the picture with me is one of the best friends a woman could ever hope to have blessing her life.
To me, he is Sergeant Chuckles. A combination of his nickname as a boy and his position in the United States Air Force.
As an only child, I never had the experience of siblings. But I did have Sergeant Chuckles. Our families were neighbors when I was born and he was just barely a year old. Our mothers good friends who enjoyed taking embarrassing pictures (such as us together in the bathtub) and planned our wedding before we ever even reached the potty-training stage.
But we had our own future ahead of us. One that didn’t include nuptials but instead one of the strongest, greatest friendships I have ever known in my life.
Sergeant Chuckles was my protector. My shoulder to lean on. My strength when I was weak.
Over twenty-three years ago, he was the one who took me to Planned Parenthood for my pregnancy test. The one who held my hand as I learned the news, hovered nearby while I told my husband (then boyfriend) that I was pregnant.
He was there, holding it together, when I was falling apart during those painful, confusing months. No longer only protective of me, but of the child I carried.
There wasn’t a time when I was alone, because of him. It didn’t matter what time of the day or night it was. Didn’t matter what he was doing. If I needed him, he was there. Always there. My rock when I wanted to crumble. My hero holding me together when all I wanted to do was fall apart.
At eighteen, after graduation, following his family legacy, he joined the Air Force. Moved away from home. From the house where we had shared so many memories. The one place I always knew I could find him.
My middle son was only an infant when he first left for overseas. I remember watching the news religiously during the Gulf War. Always needing information, assurance that he was okay. And yet, on those rare occasions when we had a chance to talk, his concern was on myself and my family. He wanted to know how my middle son was doing. Would make his typical jokes to make me laugh, to get my mind off my worry for him.
That was always his way. Always the friend he has been to me. Nobody has been able to irritate me, make me laugh, or support me in the way he has.
After 9/11, he returned to Iraq to continue to fight for us. At that time in his life, he was dealing with his own struggles. His marriage was ending and not only was he facing the knowledge that he would no longer have any connection to the step-daughter he had raised as his own for five years, but he had also recently been told that his chances of fathering a child of his own were slim to none.
And yet, he put all of that aside and went, without argument, to where he was needed.
After that, he used to tell me, his life was full even without children. He was single, could come and go as he pleased and he had my kids to spoil, to love, to be there for. Which he always was. Always! My children love him. And even though he doesn’t live close, they know he is always there for them. Have always known that.
And when, four and a half years ago, I found my oldest son and reunited with him, Sergeant Chuckles cried with me, celebrated with me, and understood just how much it meant to have him back in my life. When he received the okay from me, he reached out to my oldest son, embraced him in the same way he had always embraced all of my children and took leave to come out and reunite with my only child that he had been there, every step of the way, from learning of my pregnancy to giving birth.
Then, just a few years ago, Sergeant Chuckles learned, against what the doctors had told him, that he was going to be a father. And along came the sweetest, cutest little girl. “T” is amazing. She looks so much like her daddy. She has his spirit, his personality and even his dance moves.
She is his everything. His world revolves around her. And a year ago, when it came time, AGAIN, for him to make the decision on whether or not to retire from the Air Force, he decided to go ahead and do it, for her. So that he could be there. So that she would never have to know what it was like to have her daddy so far away, unable to see him, talk to him, know that he was okay.
But, Sergeant Chuckles has always had the blood of an American soldier running through is veins. It is not only what he knows after over two decades of serving our country. It is what he used to dream about, plan for, when he was nothing more than a small boy with his entire future ahead of him.
So it did not surprise me when he took the offer given him and returned to the Air Force before his retirement became official.
What did surprise me was the fact that just a couple months after that, he was called to go overseas again. To Afghanistan this time. He has been there since January, fighting for all of us, for our freedom, our way of life.
And here at home, his little girl misses her daddy. And his family prays for his safety.
So today, on Memorial Day, I want to use my blog to honor him. To love him. And to let everyone out there know what an amazing, courageous soldier they have fighting for them.
I love you Sergeant Chuckles. Be safe!