“It reveals the mettle that you’re built of, that you spent your life building on…what you are. I learned from my Dad, in his final day, how to die with courage and grace.”
– Doc Cheney, 3/75 Ranger.
This past week, my best friend CPT Cory Brown, lost his grandfather. This man was more than just a grandfather to Cory. To Cory, his grandfather played the role of the father figure. So, this has been a difficult past few days. When I received the news, I canceled my plans the next day to be there for my friend.
Cory and I met in college. Seven months after meeting each other, we both left for the Army. He went to OCS, and I, the enlisted route. I went on to the Ranger Regiment in Fort Benning, GA, and he went on to be an MP officer in Grafenwoehr, Germany. I missed his wedding due to my first deployment, and only saw him a few times over the stretch of the next few years. As I was getting out of the military, he was finally off on his first deployment. Never during our military careers did we ever cross paths. Our main line of communication was an occasional email or message via Facebook. But, he was always there for me when I needed him to be. As I went through my divorce, and Run Ranger Run, I received nothing but positive reinforcement from him. Many times he would say the things that I didn’t want to hear, but needed to be said. An occasional, “Smitty, get your head out of your ass,” or, “I’m gonna come over there and knock some damn sense in your head,” was appropriate at times.
Today, at the funeral, I witnessed my best friend be the man that his grandfather made him out to be. He stood at the podium in his ASU’s, fighting back tears, struggling with every other word to describe the love and admiration he has for his grandfather. Cory wants nothing more in life to be half the man that his grandfather was. But I can tell you this, his grandfather watched from heaven today, knowing that his grandson is twice the man that anyone could have imagined him to be.
The integrity of our character is defined by our actions in times of adversity. Like the quote above, today I saw my best friend’s mettle, the inner workings, the strength of which he is designed. Ever since I have known him, he has done everything within his power to be more than where he came from. He constantly feels he has to do more, whether it be another deployment to get more stripes on his uniform or one day work for a certain government agency. Many times he can be his own worst enemy, causing more stress than needed.
Growing up, I was told by my father that you will only have one or two friends in your life, but you will have many acquaintances. The way to distinguish the two is by differentiating which ones would give up their life in order to give you yours, and you do the same for them. Today, I got the chance to experience the true friendship that I share with Cory. I can only hope, that one day, I am half the man that he is.