Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Four Brave Men...One Fateful Day...

Go back in time to February 24, 2009. It was a Tuesday. A pretty normal day for you and I, to start with, anyway.

For Four Brave Men, American Soldiers, it was their last day defending the USA. An IED hidden in the soil exploded and shattered the lives of four families. Two of the men left behind wives and children. All four left countless family members and friends that would feel the pain of their loss as acutely on 2/24/2010 as we did on 2/24/2009.

Here is what I know about these Four Brave Men.

Scott Stream

Scott Bradley Stream was a 39-year old father of Megan and Laura, and husband to Rasa. His parents Gayle and Sherm Stream raised a boy into a man who was incredibly proud to be an American. Those who know him say that Scott loved to write. Incredibly enough, on 12/31/2008, Scott wrote a letter to a friend. How poignant it was initially, and so much more so after his death, less than two months after writing it:

Scott Stream's Letter - Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A strange thing...

When I think about what surrounds me, the institutional corruption, the random violence, the fear and desperation, I feel the reasons why I am here more and more sharply. As we grow in our soldiers skills, surviving by finding the hidden dangers, seeing the secret motives and the shifting politics...we grow a set of skills that is unique and powerful in this situation.

We also see what you cannot see in the States, you are surrounded by the love of Christ and faith in freedom and humanity, like a fish you think water is 'a puff of air' because it is always there, you do not notice it...we who are out of the water look back and see the world we love surrounded by enemies, poison and envy that wants to fall on you like a storm of ruin.

We who joined with vague notions of protecting our country see how desperate the peril, how hungry the enemy and how frail the security we have is. So the more I love you all the more I feel I must keep fighting for you. The more I love and long for home the more right I feel here on the front line standing between you and the seething madness that wants to suck the life and love out of our land.

Does that mean I cannot go home? I hope not, because I want this just to be the postponement of the joy of life, not the sacrifice of mine. If it costs me my life to protect our land and people then that is a small thing, I just hope that fate lets me return to the promise land and remind people just how great our land is.

War is a young mans game, and I am getting and old mans head...it is a strange thing. I just hope that I am not changes so that I cannot take joy in the land inside the wire when I make it home. I want to be with you all again and let my gun sit in the rack and float on my back in a tube down a lazy river...

Well, Scott...you have returned to the promised land, just a different one that you referenced when you wrote that letter. And trust me, because of men like you people KNOW just how great our land is.

Brian (Bubba) Bunting

Brian (Bubba) Bunting was a 29-year old with a smile as bright as the midday sun. Don't let the nickname Bubba fool ya...this Bubba was no slacker. After Bullis High School, Bubba had to choose...US Military Academy at West Point or the US Naval Academy in Annapolis! He ended up choosing West Point. At West Point he earned a degree in civil engineering. People that know Bubba are known to say that FAMILY was the most important aspect of his life.

As if Bubba's story isn't amazing enough, consider his young family. Bubba and his incredible wife Nicki were enjoying their beautiful son Connor. Bubba and Nicki were reunited in February of 2009 for Bubba's R&R leave. A few days after Bubba returned to the front lines from his leave, Nicki was notified of his death. A few days after that, Nicki found out that she was pregnant. In late October, Nicki and Connor welcomed baby Cooper to the family.

Never before have I encountered a more beautiful, strong, amazing woman. She's trudging through...she's making it, one step at a time. And one day, I KNOW that Nicki is going to explain to Connor and Cooper how awesome their Daddy was, and I'd bet with genes from Nicki and Bubba, those boys are gonna be pretty awesome too.

Daniel Thompson

Dan Thompson was the youngest of the Four Brave Men, at 24 years old. Dan was the only child of Lisa and Bob Thompson. Dan joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard during his junior year in high school. He received a degree in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement in 2006. His plan was to get into police work after leaving the military in late 2009.

Like the others, Dan had a smile that could brighten a room. He loved cars, playing hockey and riding his motorcycle. Although he was only 24 he had accomplished a lot and had big plans for his future.

Schuyler Patch

And finally, Schuyler Patch. Many of you have gotten to know him through my blog posts. Schuyler was my nephew. Only 12 years my junior, Schuyler was like a little brother to me. He and his big sis Amber spent lots of time with us as children and I love them both like a sibling. Schuyler was a goof. He was a charmer. He was always ready for a good time and some good laughs. He had a great laugh, and a big hug. He was family oriented...family meant a great deal to him. Our family never backs away from a hello or goodbye hug, and always says "I love you". Schuyler and I "talked" through an instant messenger program while he was in Afghanistan. Oh, how I loved those talks! He was persuasive...he was always trying to talk you into something. I could practically hear his laugh from heaven the day I got my memorial tattoo for him. Simply, he was a great man and he had so much more to do, but it was not to be. Our entire family will miss him forever.

I hope there's a spot in heaven where Schuyler and Mom are having a great time. I hope they get together with Bubba, Scott, and Dan tomorrow and gaze down at their family and friends and smile as we try to smile through the tears and get through the day. I hope they can find a way to send us each a sign that they are OK now and that they're at peace...waiting until we meet again. I hope they can send down some feelings of comfort to the brave men who served with them. Those men will feel pain tomorrow like none of us can understand. They were there...they saw their friends...their brothers...die.

I hope that it gets a little easier each day, and I hope the four families can meet some day. I hope that we can sit down, and tell each other a bit more about our one of those Four Brave Men. I hope that people really NEVER FORGET and remember that every day there are thousands...tens of thousands...American Soldiers that are fighting and protecting our freedom. And remember that when you read a story in your newspaper about an American "casualty" in the Middle East, there is NOTHING casual about it. That soldier is someones Scott, Bubba, Dan, or Schuyler. They too, have a story. I hope that people respect Veterans...all of them.

I will never forget these Four Brave Men, and every time I see an American Flag at half staff I send out some thoughts for the person that flag is honoring. God Bless Dan Thompson, Bubba Bunting, Scott Stream, and Schuyler Patch...may you rest in eternal peace and know that above all, you are LOVED.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bits & Pieces of Me.....II

Here's another blog post of bits and pieces. No one single topic, just little stuff that's been floating around my cosmos lately.

Little Gestures

I know plenty of women who need those grand gestures from their man to know they really love them. I'm no fool...I like a good grand gesture as much as the next gal, but what really gets me are those little gestures. You know...the hubby knows something is bothering you so he does something nice, especially when you least expect it.

Jeff's pretty good at those little gestures and I totally love that about him! Last week was a rough one, as many of you know. Wednesday was Schuyler's birthday, and I wasn't sure how I was going to deal with it. I had blogged about it and talked about it on Facebook. Jeff never mentioned it...at all. But, on Wednesday, as I was heading back from the gym (the first time), he called me to see where I was and what was going on. Kinda an unusual conversation, but later I realized he was trying to figure out when I'd be home so that the flowers were delivered to me when I was home. Yep...he sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers to help brighten my day. What a guy.

His second (and I guess 3rd, really) gesture of the week were household projects. Now, please understand, Jeff is the "call someone to do it right" kinda guy. And normally, I appreciate that! But, we had a few minor things that I really wanted done.

The first involved our outside light pole that is in front of our house. Around Halloween (yeah, October 2009) Jeff put a red bulb in the light thinking it'd be festive. Then Christmas rolled around and it fit the festive theme again. After Christmas it was still there. I wasn't a big fan of the red bulb. The one nice thing with it is that I could give people directions to the house as "follow the road down and we're the first whore house on the right".

Well, today the bulb has been changed...I am no longer living in a whore house. Well, not advertising it anyway.....ha ha ha.

And finally, the last kudos for my hubby is that he put up another flag bracket on the garage for me. The last one snapped off during a high wind, and I have been without the colors since. We hung the flag after we got home from Schuyler's funeral and I was anxious to get it back. Tonight as I walked Albus out for his evening pee I just smiled when I saw the beautiful Old Glory displayed once again.

Thanks, Jeff....you're one in a million.

Spring? Maybe? Hopefully? Please?????

Man, the weather here the last 2 days has been incredible. Mid-50's to mid-60's. That feels SO incredible after the cold. Today was awesome....sunny....slight breeze.....warm sun on your face. Ahhhhh....I can feel spring just around the corner. The bulbs are peeking up and I'm ready to say "Adios Winter". Who's with me?


There's so much unhappiness in the world. I've been trying VERY hard to focus on the happiness. They say ignorance is bliss and I'd much rather be blissful than stressed out all the time. So, here are some simple things that bring me happiness.
  • Reading "Guess How Much I Love You" for the 3,496th time to Avery while we're snuggling in bed
  • Watching Drake make something creative out of Legos just because he wants to
  • Sunshine
  • Seeing Albus play with his dog-pals Tia and Lucky
  • Organizing and cleaning out yet another cluttered drawer or space
  • Going to the gym and sweating it out
  • Talking to my family on the phone
  • Date night with Jeff
  • Seeing the smile of the sweetest 12 month old in the world, Molly
  • The promise of spring flowers
  • Laughing with friends

There are so many more things and people that make me happy, but that's a good start. Hell, happiness in itself is a good start, right?


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

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Happy Birthday to you.....

Well, here we are. We have almost made it full circle. Today is Schuyler's birthday. He would've been 26 today.

For a while, I kinda struggled with how to refer to this day. Should I say "today would've been Schuyler's birthday" or "today is Schuyler's birthday". I went with the latter, because even though he is gone from this Earth, today is still his birthday. He would have been 26, but today is, and always will be, his birthday.

Right now I feel OK. I don't feel great, but I also don't feel horrible. I do realize something, though. My 2 oldest brothers and my Dad are together in California. Amber, John, and Amy are together in Kewanee. That's why I wanted to go up...I'm the only one alone today. Yes, I have my wonderful husband and my amazing kids, but they are a branch off of the original family tree. I don't have my base family here, and that, in all honesty, kinda sucks.

But, right now, I really do feel OK. Amber, John, and Amy met at the cemetery this morning. They wanted to give Schuyler a shot (or two) of Jack Daniels, and then they would also throw one down in celebration of his day. Amber called me and put me on speakerphone so that I could take my shot with the 3 of them. Now I don't feel so disconnected from it all. I was kinda sorta there for that, and they were there with me.

I could hear the pain and grief in John's voice. That is so hard to hear, but I fell some relief that he is feeling it, and not pushing it into the depths of his mind and body. That would be so incredibly awful, so as bad as it is to feel it, I'm glad he feels it and lets it out. They were best friends, my brother and his son. They fished, hunted, worked, and played together. Like all friends they had great times and like all fathers and sons, had big conflicts. But in the end, they always worked it out. They were best friends.

I can't imagine losing that, out of order, as it were. See, we expect the child to bury the parent. It's not in our nature for the parent to bury the child. My Mom and I were best friends, much in the same way John and Schuyler were. But, we lost each other "in order". The parent lived her long and fulfilling life, and then left the child, me, to figure out how to navigate through the days without her.

So, today, as all days but maybe even more-so today, I will think of Schuyler often. I remember him as a tiny baby, as an adorable toddler, a mischievous teen, and finally as a grown man choosing to defend our freedoms. There are several defining qualities of Schuyler that those who didn't know him missed out on.

First of all, Sky was a charmer. He could have probably charmed the robe off the Pope. He had this smile...an incredibly illuminating smile. When he smiled at you, how could you even think to say NO? Normally his smile was followed by his laugh...oh, that laugh! That laugh wasn't just a chuckle...it spoke volumes. Most of all, that laugh said "Come on and give in....you know you can't resist THIS smile...you know I'm gonna get what I want"!!!

And he usually did!

His hug. Hug really is an inadequate term for what he did when he threw his arms around you. Embrace is probably closer, but still not quite on the mark. Schuyler could squeeze the life out of you with just his normal, "hey, great to see you again" hug. He never, that I can remember, gave you a quick squeeze. It was ALWAYS that humongous bear hug that made you realize the kid truly, honestly, and completely loved his recipient.

He loved, he really did. And, most of all, I know he fiercely loved his family. We all loved him...who could help but love that kid? But looking back on the letters, photos, and notes that he sent home it's absolutely clear...he loved his family. He enlisted and volunteered for 2 deployments so that he could protect us. He also volunteered so that those guys with kids and a wife at home maybe could stay at home just a little longer...he told me that directly on more than one occasion.

Schuyler could be a total goof-off. He could be so immature. But I firmly believe that when he put that uniform on, he was someone different. He was an American Soldier....he was a GREAT American Soldier. He took that job very seriously, and more than one of his brothers-in-arms told me that if they had to choose someone to have their back, he would always have been on the top of the list.

Simply, he was a good boy, who was turning into a great man. He died that day with 3 other great men who were defending the freedoms that we so easily take for granted. He left behind no children to carry on his amazing characteristics, but he left behind a family that loved him and continue to love him so incredibly much.

Happy Birthday Schuyler....this Jack's for you.
Aunt Lori

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Is This Gonna Work?

Rarely do I worry about how something is going to work. Usually I just let the chips fall where they may and it works out how it works out.

The next 10 days are an exception.....

See, I can't help but wonder how these next 10 days are gonna work. This Wednesday, 2/17, would've been Schuyler's 26th birthday. One week after that is the day he was killed in action (KIA) in Afghanistan.

How's this gonna work?

I wonder how John is going to handle the next 10 days....I wonder how Amber will handle it. Hell, I even wonder how I'm gonna handle it. My Dad and 2 brothers are together in Palm Springs, so although I wonder how it's gonna work for them, I feel comfort in that they are together, so they can share the burdens with one another.

See, that's how we do it in this family of mine. You lean on one another. When Schuyler died, all anyone could process is WHO CAN GET THERE to be with John. As it turned out, Dave and I were the first siblings on the scene. That's how we do it in this family...there is no divide and conquer...it's more of a group effort. Band together and help each other get through it.

I am on the fence right now...should I drive up there for the 17th, the 24th, both, or none? The only one that seems like an unlikely answer is none. The rest....well, I just don't know. I know Dave, Jeff, and Dad would probably appreciate and feel a bit better if the answer was at least one of the two, and more so if I chose both. Unfortunately, I'm not sure about John...and he's really the one that I'm most worried about. Schuyler's birthday is a celebration, but the day he died stirs up so many memories, so many emotions. The phone calls, the details filtering in, the questions, the pain...the unimaginable gut wrenching pain.

So, I sit with one more day to figure this out...17, 24, or both? I want to be there for John and Amber for whatever they need from me. If they need someone to listen, someone to get the Kleenex, or someone to get another round of shots....I want to fulfill that need. I guess for me, fulfilling their needs fulfills mine in some strange, family matriarch way. I see helping them as a way to honor Schuyler and help myself at the same time.


I'll let ya know what I come up with.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

~ ma vie est belle ~

That is the one phrase that kept going through my head today, on my 37th birthday...

My Life is Beautiful ~ Ma Vie Est Belle ~

Yep...honestly and truly....that kept floating through my head all day long.

My life isn't without hardships, and my life isn't always joyful. But my life, even with difficult times and sadness, is still Beautiful.

I have a wonderful husband who is the best partner I could've asked for. We support each other in all things and I know no matter what, he's here for me. We have a true and amazing partnership. There is probably nothing I could ask of him that he would refuse, and vice-versa. How beautiful is that?

I have two amazing healthy kids that I love more every single day we have together. They make me laugh, they amaze me, and they show me that sometimes it's really the simple things that are most important. How beautiful is that?

I have a GREAT family. From my wonderful Dad, to my three amazing brothers, and all those connected to these people....I simply have such a wonderful supporting loving family. We completely support each other in whatever is going on...total and complete acceptance. They have all played such a pivotal role in who I am today. I love that we're always picking up the phone to razz about how our weather is better than yours, or our team beat yours, or just to say HEY...how's it going?!!! I know people who don't talk to their siblings and/or parents, and I am so incredibly filled with joy that this is SO FAR from the case with my Dad and brothers. We're always there for one another and would literally do anything for each other.....How beautiful is that?

I live in quite possibly the most awesome neighborhood in the entire world. These neighbors look out for one another, help when needed, and just generally reek of awesomeness. It's not just in times of chaos and crises that we come together, but also in ordinary day-to-day help. We watch each others kids/dogs/houses when someone has to be gone. We're just there for each other, all the time. These neighbors have become some of my best friends and I so look forward to seeing them daily. How beautiful is that?

And, finally, I come to friends. Some of you I have known since grade/high school....you know me as Laura! Some of you are college friends....you know me as, well....let's just not go into the crazy details there! Some of you are former colleagues....you know me as Lori Martin the professional, but also the office crack-up! Some of you know me from my childrens' school....you know me as Drake and Avery's Mom. Some of you found me somewhere along the way from one journey to the next. But, all of you are great friends. You have seen me at high points in my life, and several of you have carried me through the lowest points of my life. Some are casual acquaintances, and some of you are my best gals. The common thread is that I wouldn't be who I am today without you touching my life in the way that you have. I am so blessed to have great friends that are still hanging around, even after all these years. Great friends....loyal friends...reliable and honest friends....How beautiful is that?

So today I start my year as the 38-year-old Lori Martin. So many things are different from the 37-year-old Lori Martin. The biggest change is that the 38-year-old Lori Martin no longer has her Mom to call with every bit of needed advice, encouragement, or just a shoulder to cry on. She's gone. Another big change is that Schuyler is gone...never again will I hear his hearty laugh or feel his gigantic embrace.

Those things make me sad, but I also feel both of them with me every day, which makes up for not having them physically here. They may be gone from this Earth, but I feel their presence. Sometimes it's at the most random time, and others it's when I really need them the most.

The 38-year-old Lori Martin is staring down the barrel of 40. The actual number doesn't freak me out as much as the fact of getting older and what that does to a person. I worry about my health and well-being. That's why the 38-year-old Lori Martin is hitting the gym like a maniac and trying really hard to be "Fit By Forty". I'm not going to get derailed this time...it's time to make the changes and get my health in order.

See, I figure with all of this beauty and all of these beautiful people in my life I owe it to them to find a way to be with them as long as possible. Who else is going to harrass them if I check out early? I love that you all make my life beautiful. I love that I can make most of you laugh, even when having the worst possible day.

So, here I am...the 38-year-old Lori Martin. Thank you for being a part of my beautiful life. I'm so thankful for having such amazing family and friends...I love you all and wouldn't trade you for anything in the world....how beautiful is THAT?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In An Instant

It's so easy to get busy with the day-to-day craziness of life and just forget how quickly things can change. It doesn't matter if you're a single 20-something gal living la Vida loco or the 30-something Mom of 2 busy kids, wife, sister, daughter, and friend that tries to balance it all while maintaining a shred of sanity. No matter who you are or what stage of life you're in, we all lose sight of that one amazing gift we've all been given and we forget that it's not a never ending contract.


It's just one little word. Four letters. Two consonants and two vowels. Even now looking back at it typed out, it seems so little, so simple. It's just LIFE. Don't we all say that from time to time? It's LIFE. Get over it. That's LIFE.

Yep...it is. It is just life. But how quickly it can change. Last February my life was moving along and everything was pretty much hunky dory and then BAM...outta nowhere, in one split second, everything changed.

When I trace the events back, it's so amazing how one decision, one event, set in motion a change that rocked our family.

Apparently, it started with a broken down vehicle. Four soldiers had to move into other vehicles when they had to abandon theirs. Why did the vehicle fail? What broke down? That, I guess, was the thing that set this in motion. Then, why, of all the vehicles in the convoy, did Schuyler get into THAT one? From accounts at the scene, he got into a Humvee that was either in the front or toward the front of the convoy. Why THAT one? Choosing a different one would've made an incredible difference...the difference between life and death.

Obviously the events in Afghanistan are front and center on my mind this month, but something else this week has gotten me thinking about this very topic. A friend of mine has a co-worker and here's his story. His wife took a shower 2 weeks ago on Saturday. She apparently fell in the shower and hit her head. She didn't think she was really injured, so went about her day. Later that afternoon/evening she passed out at a family dinner. Apparently something was wrong. She was rushed to the hospital and taken through a battery of tests. As it turns out, something was severely wrong. She had a brain bleed and was not expected to wake up....EVER.

The husband (my friend's coworker) brought her home yesterday from the hospital with hospice. She was coming off of the machines keeping her alive and going home to die in her own home. She passed away this morning.

Just like that....In An Instant. This couple was going along with their normal, probably hectic life, and BAM. That "in an instant" event flies in and changes the course of everything. Not the course of the day...not the course of the month...the course of absolutely EVERYTHING. His life isn't the same.

That just freaks me out.

This is obviously why Mom gave me these bits of wisdom, which seemed really useless at the time.
  • Don't go to bed mad
  • Always say "I Love You" before you leave
  • Never let the fight/argument linger
  • Tell people how you feel about them

I can't imagine how I would feel today had I not closed each discussion with Schuyler with an "I Love YOU...I'm proud of you...and I miss you!"

I think my Mom was already on her journey out by the time they let me in the ICU. I told her again, though, just in case she could still hear me. I don't, for even a second, doubt that she knew, even had we not made it there before she died, that I loved her so incredibly much.

So...just remember as crazy and as hectic as things get sometime, it can all change in an instant. I know it's not possible most of the time to slow down and take a slower pace. But, no matter what, or how fast you're going, you can always tell those folks who are important to you how you feel. Living like that surely means dying with no regrets.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Well, it is here. February 1st, 2010. This is the month that marks the one year anniversary of so much change and upheaval in my life and my family. This is the month that it all changed.

A year ago Avery was going to a pre-school program. She went on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I'd come home and log onto my computer. Almost every Tuesday, I'd hear that familiar "ding" and there would be Schuyler, my nephew, ready to chat from his post in far-away Afghanistan. Even then I cherished those chats. Those chats let me know that he was, indeed, safe and OK at that given point in time. Those chats gave me a small piece of mind until our next chat. We'd joke about his stench, given that those soldiers get showers only sporadically, and talk about what's going on in my house.
Lori and Schuyler ~ 20+ years ago!

He never wanted to talk too much about what was going on with him, and I know that was because he wanted to shield me from the bad stuff he was seeing. He did talk about the good stuff...helping people that really seemed to want the help. Unfortunately it seemed those people were the minority on many levels. Two men from Central Illinois were killed in either late January or early February. It was during that time that Schuyler's tone changed. He talked more about serious topics...we still joked, but he had more serious things to discuss. He talked a lot about planning for the future. I think on some level, the tragedies he had recently seen and the loss so close to home made him realize that the violence was getting worse and it was important to acknowledge that.

So, every Tuesday, we'd chat. I tried as best as I could to counsel him on the bad stuff. I tried to help him understand that we were ALL waiting for him to come home and live the life he so deserved. I tried to make sure that he knew, above all else, that we LOVED him and were SO VERY PROUD of him.

Schuyler Brent Patch
2/17/1984 ~ 2/24/2009

To Schuyler:

Today, the month begins. The snow is on the ground, and I find myself sitting at the computer, gazing out the window. No longer do I listen for the "ding" on Tuesday mornings. I don't check my e-mail in-box for your latest news or photos from the field. I know that you are gone from this Earth, but I have also accepted that you are with us. In what form I do not quite know, but I know you're with us.

Many days I wonder why the loss of you seems so much more difficult and emotional than the loss of my Mom, which came only 4 months and 10 days after you left us. She was my best girl friend and confidant. I dreaded the day that I would lose her, and yet, that pain seems more bearable than losing you. I think there are several reasons, but the two main ones are that we lost you so young. One week after your 25th birthday your life story ended. There were SO many unwritten chapters, and I think all of us long for the rest of that story...it would've been a beautiful story, I'm sure. Also, the fact that your death was such a public and ceremonial event...all the flags...the people lining the streets...the bagpipes...the 21 gun salute...the gymnasium full of people...These things stick in my mind as fresh as if they had happened yesterday. I miss you both more than I would've ever imagined. The doctors don't know why Mom died...it was unexplained. I think she died of a broken heart. Losing you was so incredibly devastating to her. Interesting that God chose to call her home and mend her broken heart on July 4.

As the months have progressed I feel different. I do think I feel better, and am in a better place than I was in those days and months following your death. I am trying to enjoy my life. It's a good life, and hopefully it will be a good, long story, with fun times and difficult times, but in the end, a happy ending where everyone lived happily ever after.

I realize that the best memorial to you and Mom is to live and be happy. Enjoy our life. And, above all else, love your family and the people around you. The love of your family is by far the GREATEST gift that any of us will ever see. The love of your family can carry you through the toughest times and hardest trials. The love of your family is like nothing else, and without it, you have nothing.

Amber, baby Schuyler, and me...1984

I miss you.....I love you....and I'm so incredibly happy that you were in my life for 25 years and 1 week. I will never forget the sacrifice you paid for our freedoms. You are, and always will be, a TRUE American Hero.