a heavy, thankful heart

My heart is heavy — for a variety of reasons.  I am a sensitive person (a shock to those who think they know me, I’m sure) and I am always overthinking and overanalyzing things.

Tonight, however, my small stresses — my tiny problems — they all paled in comparison to the lives of the men involved in Operation Red Wings.

I took my grandparents to see Lone Survivor a few weeks ago.  Even now, I shudder when I think of the movie and the certain danger in which these men willingly put themselves.  They knew they would be coming face to face with their own mortality, and yet they signed up to put themselves in harm’s way because they believed so firmly in what they were doing.

Michael Murphy was the man who willingly walked into a line of fire in order to get a clear cell signal so that he could call in and save his men.  He knew it wasn’t safe.  He knew he would die.  And yet he still risked — and, ultimately, lost — his own life in order to save the men he considered brothers.

Shane Patton is another whose story I cannot shake.  I still see the young man who wanted so badly to be part of a team — to be part of something bigger than himself, really — when I go to sleep at night.  He was only 22.  His life had just begun.  And he still was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice — and he did just that, in order to save Michael Murphy, Marcus Luttrell, Danny Dietz, and Matthew Axelson.  He gave up his life in order to try and save them.  Though he was unable to complete the mission, I am still haunted in particular by his story of selflessness.

There were 19 men in total who risked their lives for their country.  They made the ultimate sacrifice.  And yet our country chooses to mourn the lives of celebrities who die from drug overdoses — something of which I am guilty, I’ll admit; though I’ve been making a concerted effort as of late to consider how insignificant these celebrity deaths are in light of the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.

I love my country.  I love that my country is protected by brave men and women like my cousin Gregory.  He is who I often think of when my mind swarms with thoughts of the ultimate sacrifice paid by those 19 men in Afghanistan in 2005.  He is only two years older than Shane Patton.  His life has also only just begun.

There is really no other point I am trying to make here than this:  I am deeply moved by the actions of our military after watching Lone Survivor and Murph: The Protector.  Michael Murphy’s life was an inspiration — and I can only hope that the young men of today will see this movie and aspire to be like the warm, caring man who willingly put himself in harm’s way in order to save his men.  I can only hope that they take a look at the life of someone such as Shane Patton and be inspired by his story as well — a young man whose life had just begun, and yet he was willing to sacrifice himself.

It is the soldier, who salutes the flag
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

I have a heavy, but thankful heart tonight, as I reflect on the movies I’ve seen — on the lives I have had the privilege of witnessing.  I am so thankful for men like Michael Murphy and Shane Patton and Danny Dietz and Marcus Luttrell and Matthew Axelson and the other men who gave up their lives in Operation Red Wings.  I am so inspired by their selflessness and regard for their fellow men.

And I am so proud of the men and women who put on the uniform everyday to do the exact same thing these men did.  Your sacrifice — your selflessness — has not gone unnoticed.  Thank you for looking out for me.  Thank you for protecting me.  You have made me proud to call America my home.

you are beautifully and wonderfully made

Demi Lovato’s devotional book “Staying Strong” has been helpful to me in more ways than one.  Her words are inspiring — her story more so.  But nonetheless, it is the title of this blog that I consider one of the biggest lessons I have learned from her.

Ms. Lovato notes on the first day’s entry that she says this phrase to herself when she is in doubt, when she needs a pick-me-up, or when she just needs to hear the words.  But her words are an inspiration to me — because they are the perfect descriptor for my favorite person.

Each and every single day, my uncle Artie inspires me.  He inspires me to keep going.  He inspires me to stay strong.  He inspires me to live each day to the fullest — because, even though some would view him as “not normal” or “stunted,” he strives to make each day a good day.

I used to align myself with the “play dirty” attitude that many conservatives have adopted.  After a conference and a string of incidences I’ve witnessed in the last month or so, however, I have come to realize that playing dirty often involves “talking dirty” or “acting dirty.”

Today, I finally reached my breaking point with the “movement” when, in an attempt to make fun of someone with whom he did not agree, one of the writers in the group to which I used to belong decided to say someone had gone “full retard” because this particular someone said something with which this writer did not agree.

In comes my uncle Artie.

I’ve heard people use every name in the book to describe him — some nice, some as ignorant as the person referenced above.  I confronted the person who used the inflammatory language.  His defense?  “It was in a movie.”

I guess it’s different for people who don’t have an Artie in their lives.  I feel bad for them, really, not being able to witness the beauty of Artie’s selflessness and kindness.  Artie would give someone the coat off his back if the opportunity were presented to him.  And yet people in the political game — like the fellow I referenced above — choose to relegate him to a tasteless word.

This person will be representing the group for which I used to write at a political conference in March.  My hope is that he (or the directors of that organization) catch wind of this blog.  I hope they read it.  I hope they understand that that nasty word he used to describe someone with whom he did not agree is not indicative at all of the person who I look up to as my big brother.

A selfish part of me hopes this boy and the people he will be representing never get to meet someone like Artie.  They don’t deserve to know the kindness he shows everyday — whether he’s offering to get my phone from my room for me or offering me the last biscuit at dinner.  They don’t deserve to be privy to that kind of selflessness.

But at the same time, I do hope they get to meet Artie — or someone like him.  I hope they get to see how beautiful Artie (and all the other Arties) really and truly are.  I hope they feel terrible regret for using a word like that.  I hope they have to come face to face with the facts that that kind of language is hateful and should never be used — by republicans or democrats; independents or libertarians.

To the person who made the hateful comment: I pity you.  I pity that you’ve never had the opportunity to meet someone as amazing as my Artie.  I hope you understand that even if it was in a movie — heck, even because it was in a movie — it is unacceptable to use that language to describe someone solely because you disagree with them.

To the people who defended it: shame on you.  I pity you, too — for the exact same reasons I mentioned above.

And finally, to my Artie: I love you more than the moon, stars, and the entire universe combined.  You are absolutely perfect.  Don’t you listen to any of them.  Just keep your sweet spirit, and let them continue on in their ignorance.  You are beautifully and wonderfully made.