Last Wednesday I received a phone call from a friend asking me to play softball for them this past weekend. This was not an unusual request as I usually get the annual call from the same friend, for the same event. However, this year was different. When I returned the message, my friend explained that several members of their team would not be able to attend this weekend due to the funeral for one of our heroes in the military that was killed in service to our country. Out of respect for the family, I won’t mention this soldiers name, I will simply use his initials (E.B.) I am overwhelmed by this mans sacrifice for our country and thankful for his commitment to keeping us free.
I showed up to the games on Saturday morning and was given a jersey to wear. This was more than just a team jersey this time. In the upper left hand corner was a circle with the initials E.B. ironed on. It was very clear to me that this day was going to be about much more than some softball and time with friends. Half of this team was playing with a very heavy heart. It was just last summer that E.B. was a team member, playing in the same tournament. Now he was a hero to a country for a battle that is much greater than any trophy would could have won. Before each game, we gathered with the other team around home plate to pray and ask them to remember the family of E.B. There was something special about knowing that we have the freedom to do just that very thing. Stand anywhere in this country and pray for anything. Freedom is something we should never take for granted.
Later in the day, after the funeral had ended, we were joined by one of our friends that recently returned from 14 months in Iraq. I can tell you that my hand shake when I saw him was a little more firm and the hug I gave him was a lot tighter knowing he had made it back. As I stood in that outfield, looking across as he caught a fly ball, I was once again reminded of how precious this life is. In the blink of an eye, our family, our friends, our teammates and people we don’t even know can be taken from us. It makes these moments like Saturday seem that much more important. These are chances to forever remember our times together. Times to laugh, compete, and create lasting memories in the scrapbook of our minds.
Someone asked why we were playing softball knowing that the hearts and thoughts of many of my teammates were in another place that day. Although I didn’t know E.B., I simply answered “if it was me, I would want my friends to be here, doing the thing they love most too”. After all, isn’t it what he had enlisted to protect, to preserve and to give us the freedom to do? So E.B. I know someday we will meet. I look forward to thanking you in person for your service to our country and impact on a fellow softball player you never knew. May your sacrifice never be forgotten