Last week I got to visit Las Vegas with the Armed Forces Foundation to celebrate wounded warriors over Armed Forces Day. What I didn't expect to find was life inspiration.
Let's be clear here, when I was first invited to come to Las Vegas for the Salute our Troops event at The Palazzo I was TERRIFIED ... excited too, but mostly terrified. Airfare from Southwest Airlines, an amazing hotel, LAS VEGAS, its a lot, but the part the scared me most was being able to tell the story in a way that brings honor to the men and women in attendance. I am just me, I have not done a lot of official coverage of events, or officially interviewed anyone, I have a ton of stuff going on at home with my husband, I prior to this didn't have a lot of background knowledge on The Armed Forces Founda,tion, AND it's my first time in Vegas.
Overwhelming, right? But, as I have come to find, I think that gives me an advantage. There is no lack of story here, these men and women are PHENOMENAL human beings, and as humble as they come. I can't lie to you and tell you this has been a hard job, but what I can say is this: being here among these Wounded Warriors, and their guests has really encouraged me to take a step back again and reflect on what TRULY matters, and using the hand you have been dealt, both literally and figuratively, to it's fullest capability.
Wednesday after the welcome ceremony for the trip died down, I needed to gather my thoughts and figure out how I was going to approach this assignment. What better way to do that than spending some time in a private pool on The Palazzo's pool deck, sounds like a dream right?
Before I even sat down I was drawn to a young man relaxing on the steps of the pool. My guess was he wasn't older than 25 -- a cold drink in one hand, a cigar in the other and not a single care in the world. The more we talked the more intrigued I became by him. A spokesperson for Building Homes For Heroes, Army Cpl. Christopher Levi and I had an instant connection -- a heart for helping our nation's Heroes.
When he finished his drink, he politely excused himself from our conversation and took a swim all the way across the pool where he climbed another set of stairs, and maneuvered his way to the edge. He stood there for a minute in a moment of reflection more than anything else.
That moment, that split second in time, seemed like an eternity to me. Because when pulled him self up the steps and made his way on to the pool deck I couldn't help but shed a few tears. It was in that moment that I realized that this young man was a double leg amputee.
That was a lot to take in for me. He didn't mention his injury in our conversation, and, to be completely honest, I didn't look for one either. His eyes and his smile told me everything I needed to know and everything else, well, it didn't really matter.
(Side note: the pool deck was so hot that, as Bruce Simon the CEO of Omaha Steaks told us last night, we could have grilled the amazing meal they provided us all right there on the pool deck, and you know what that DID NOT phase Cpl. Levi).
This last picture was Cpl. Levi telling me that THIS moment, the very moment I just had the absolute and total honor of witnessing, was his VERY FIRST time swimming in a pool with no legs.
I guess there really is a first time for everything. Cpl. Levi will have tons more firsts in his life, and so will I, but in the grand scheme of things my firsts are trivial in comparison.
To read Cpl. Levi's bio and find out how you can get involved with Building Homes for Heroes CLICK HERE.
Kristle is the author of Forget The Dog Not The Baby, a blog that shares her personal experiences regarding her husbands injuries in Iraq, and their journey through healing. Kristle is always there to offer support, encouraging words, and a kind open heart to all Military Spouses.