I am not sure what is it about growing up in a small town that breeds life-long friendships. I’d like to think that I am good at maintaining relationships over time and distance in general, but there is just something about growing up with someone in a tight knit group that makes the relationship that much more special.
I am somehow lucky enough to have more than one of these types of friendships from childhood. These people have seen me at my lowest and at my highest, and through it all, they loved me unconditionally, stood by me in the hard decisions, listened to me cry and made me laugh all at the same time. There is a depth and richness to these friendships that is irreplaceable, and I cherish it.
One of these dear friends of mine joined me for a couple of weeks in Croatia and Turkey.
It is not shocking to anyone who knows him when Viet jumps on a plane at a moments notice to fly to somewhere crazy, exotic, and/or remote. His passport is tattered, worn, the extra pages that were added are barely hanging on by threads of tape, and it holds the entrance tickets to some of the most incredible places on earth.
What you won’t find are the stamps to the places most people never go. The places that are hard to even think about much less travel to. He, along with so many men and women, have blanks in their civilian passports where stamps for war zone countries should be. These “missing stamps,” as I am calling them for imagery, tell more about someone than any other stamp one could have.
As I write this, he is being promoted to Major in the Marine Corps. He has seen the worst and the best in people. He has been to finest places and the darkest places on planet earth. He is powerful, humble, guarded, open, tattered, and whole.
The calling on his life is high. He takes great care in what he does. His perspective on life because of his experiences is something that I only hope to attain someday.
He lives for today without being reckless.
He cherishes the people in his life because he has such a deep understanding of how precious life is.
He smile is full of warmth despite the coldness he has witnessed. In fact, his smile is one of the best I’ve seen.
You won’t hear any war hero stories out of him. You can barely get out of him that he is a pilot, much less a Marine. I hope that his goodness, selflessness, and approach to life rub off on me just a bit. We could all use a few doses of these.
Viet, congratulations! Thank you for serving our country, and for giving me the freedoms I take for granted every day. Thank you for your friendship over the years, and most importantly, for being you.
Here are a few images from adventures in Croatia: the city of Split, road trip to Plitvice Lakes National Park, & the island of Hvar!