I’ve been lucky.
Ever since my deployment in 2007, I’ve been able to keep in touch with my team: JV, JB, and JZ.
Unlike the experiences of my grandfathers and uncles who served in previous conflicts, I didn’t just go home and never see my fellow Airmen again.
Through social media, the grapevine, and in-person reunions, I’ve actually been able to keep track of retirements, career changes, families, and such.
Out of all my connections — military and professional colleagues, friends, and family — there is a special place in my heart for these three men.
For six months (if you include the time I spent training with them, too), I worked, lived, traveled, laughed, annoyed (I admit it), cared, and thankfully, survived with those guys. In the entire span of my lifetime, those months are just a small chunk of my life experience, right?
But whoa, was it extraordinary.
Because we actually worked together at the Pentagon for a few more years upon our return home, and because we live in the same region and invite each other to family barbecues and birthday parties, I actually get to see JV quite a bit.
I also got to reunite with JZ, who ended up being an attendee at one of my social media briefings a few years ago.
That was an awesome surprise for me, and I actually had Martin drive up with the kids so we could all sit and talk and catch up.
When I saw JZ, and got the scoop on how well he and his family were doing, and how his career was doing, there was such an unexpected sense of relief there for me. It’s one thing to see updates on social media or through the grapevine, or get emails every now and then.
It’s another to actually put eyes on your battle buddies, and see that they are well.
Which leads me to JB.
He’s the one dude from my team that I haven’t been able to see again in person.
The last time I saw him and his bald head was when they ran out of that kitchen (which was set up as the medical clinic) with him on the stretcher, out to the helicopter waiting to take him to Baghdad after his legs got shredded from the mortar blast.
He spent that summer in Washington DC at Walter Reed in recovery. Martin even got to visit with him.
But he was released and flown home just days before JV and I returned to the United States.
And we haven’t been in the same place ever since.
This evening, I’m on my way to put a status check on him as he retires from the Air Force.
It will be good to see him.