Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Strangers in a new land

In Leviticus 19 it reads “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord you, your god”.

My family and I hail from Guadalajara Mexico. 
Guadalajara is a large city located in central Mexico and known for its folklore, catholic beliefs, and delicious food.

Growing up in Mexico was much different that living here as you can Imagine.
Both of my parents were professionals and both attended college before having us... My father was an agricultural engineer and my mom studied English and became a highly skilled secretary for a computer hardware company in town.

Even though my parents were employed and were working hard to provide me and my two sisters a promising future, the political landscape of Mexico during those years in the 90’s were ones that were ruled by increasing despotism and crime, in particular drug trafficking to the United States.

My parents did their best to keep the knowledge of all that from me and my sisters and let us grow up as kids should.  However, it was clear that something was not right, as we were living very poor.

We lived in a makeshift four wall space in top of another house, we had two beds, one for me and my two sisters and another one for my parents, next to the beds was the table where we would have our meals and next to that was the curtain that separated the place where we would wash clothes and take baths.
That’s the life we were afforded, and with both of my parents working, I cannot begin to imagine how the lives of other people were, but I assume they were worst.

We endured this type of living for many years and as anyone would, my parents started to think about an alternative to surpass the quality of life we were presented.

My mother had the opportunity to study in the United States years early with a student visa, and had accumulated enough time to obtain a work permit if she wanted to return to the United States to do so.  However, that did not include my father, my two sisters, and of course me.

My parents weighed the options:
In one side it was leaving everything behind...  Their jobs, their careers, their friendships, their culture, their families, and everything they know up to that point, and in the other was to stay, endure the state sponsored poverty, violence, and hope for my sisters and me to grow up and hope for the best.
My parents split the difference and decided they would go first while my sisters and I stayed back with our grandparents to wait for them.

And so it goes, my parents drove to the US/Mexico border in California, my mother presented the authorities with her paperwork and just like that my parents became immigrants to a new country, with nothing else but the will to re unite our family someday.
My parents would send us pictures from the United States and it all seemed so magical. You see, to people from other places, the United States is something beyond a place; it’s like an idea of what a perfect place is.  A place where all you have to do is work hard and good things will happen, a place where things are fair and just.

My parents were able to get jobs pretty fast, my mother became a bakery line worker, and my father worked similarly at a shoe factory.  They traded their professional jobs for menial ones just so they would save enough money to come and get my sisters and me.

Almost a year passed and my parents finally had enough money to come get us.  We said goodbye to our grandparents, friends, and the rest of our family with the notion that we might not see them ever again, we grabbed just what we could in our backpacks and we started our journey.
When we got to the border my sisters and I were clearly scared.  We never had gone past our city limits back in Mexico let alone into another country.

My mother told us to relax and go to sleep or at least pretend to. 
I closed my eyes and waited for my parents to tell me it’s ok.  
While I waited I remember hearing someone speak English for the first time in my life...
All I knew is this person that I could not understand had the power to not let us reach the magical, and perfect place we only seen in pictures.

I clinched my eyes shut even tighter, hoping for the best, then a moment of silence... 
The car starts moving forward…
 My mother finally whispers: “open your eyes, we are on our way.”

We drove up for what it seemed an eternity.  Looking out the car window the first thing I noticed were the huge billboards advertising food.  Then, which it almost seemed that I made it happen with my mind alone, we stopped at a fast food place and I sank my teeth into my first hamburger.  This is truly a magical place I taught.

We stopped at a hotel for the night and something happened that it had never happened before in my life; I had a bed all to myself.  The notion of it intrigued me and it almost made me feel uncomfortable.  But it was not for long, because shortly after that I discovered what a TV remote was and even though I could not understand anything, the pictures in the screen mesmerized me.

Finally after several days we reach our destination.  We had just traveled up from the middle of Mexico and across the United States to a place called Grand Rapids, Michigan.  My parents had arranged a very small apartment for us to live in but for me and my sisters it was the greatest place we had ever lived in.
Thinking back, I can just imagine what my parents were going through then.  Going to work, saving money, and living in a new place by themselves was one thing, but now they had three kids with them.  The responsibility of raising us in this new place must have been a huge burden on them, but at least our family was together at last, ready to face the new world together.

To say the least, my sisters and I were very afraid of everything that was outside the front door of our small apartment.  People would knock on the door and we would scurry away.  Of course as the oldest I would have the courage to tell my young sister to ask who it was that was knocking. There was no point to it because we did not what they would say anyway.

Going to places in this new land was always a bit of an adventure.  I had to research English phrases prior to going anywhere in order to communicate what I needed, and hoped their response was something  like ”ok”, “yes” or “no”, or maybe just point in the direction I needed to go.

That summer went by pretty fast since everything was so new to our family, but somehow we made it work.  Of course a new challenge loomed over the distance for my sisters and me.  School enrollment was starting and it was time for us to join our new peers in the education battleground.

I enrolled in High School, while my sisters enrolled in Middle School.  The High School where I enrolled had ESL classes, which allows students to learn the curriculum in their native language, and as the class unfolds the teacher introduces things in English.  So in a way you learn English by learning math sort of speak.  Sounds good in paper, however the classes were very basic, and the learning I was doing was very minimal.

As you can imagine, I did most of my learning in the High School hallways, and soccer practice fields interacting with my peers and of course trying to impress girls.  Back in Mexico playing soccer is something that you do from the moment you start walking so I prided myself in the skills I had, however I was not allowed to play in matches because ESL classes did not qualify me to do so.

By my sophomore year I had grown extremely weary of the notion I could not play soccer because of the type of classes I was attending so I decided to start attending regular classes.

As expected, I struggled a lot to understand the subjects, I had to constantly look up meaning of words and phrases before trying to understand anything else, I was doing double or triple the work in order just to keep up, but no matter how hard I tried I never did. 

Around this time in my life is the first time I experienced the feeling of being considered inferior to anyone just because I was different…  A feeling I could not understand… I was working hard and my only motivation was to be able to play sports, which to me it was the only thing I knew I could do well, and not only I could not do it, I was being reprimanded for trying to do so.

To add to all this, during the span of my High School years, my father became increasingly depressed.  To this day I have no idea what it would be like experiencing coming to a new country and losing all your identity, past career, and knowledge and start anew as an adult, but I am sure it’s a burdensome sacrifice, and as it could be true with anyone, my father lost himself in the struggle and gave in. 

In the wake of my senior year of High School, I saw my father load up a truck full of stuff, and I saw him depart from my life, leaving my mother, two sisters, and myself to fend off by ourselves in this new land.
With my father gone, all the responsibilities became my mother’s sole burden to bear.  My mother had 3 jobs at that time, and we barely saw her.  It became clear to me that I had to forget about playing soccer and get a job myself, and take care of my sisters in order to help out my mother.

I remember my senior year of High school as me shoveling snow out of the drive way for my mom’s car to get out, taking my sisters to school, doing the best I could in my own classes, picking my sisters up after school, and me heading to work in a grocery store as a bagger, I would do zero homework to speak of, and really just looked forward to the next day to do it all over again.

In school, I would hear people talk about college and this and that, but somehow I knew that I would never go to college so why even bother… The ACTs came around, and I did not study for any of them, to me they just meant I would be able to work more since school got out earlier those days.
And to add to the struggle that was that year, I was 17 years of age, so that means that the moment I turned 18, the protection of my mother’s residency could not protect me anymore and I could get deported back to Mexico.

As you can imagine, I was heading to a life of the proverbial low skilled immigrant that you see all the time, but unlike their untold stories that never see the light of day, my life was saved by a pull up bar.
“Step right up!  Come see what it takes to be a Marine!!”  I jumped up to the bar, and easily did about 10 pull ups.  I got off, and I started to walk away… The recruiter chased me and started to sell me on many things that really I did not care about… Careers, College credits, this and that… I did not care about any of them, that is until he recognized the accent in my voice and said, “you could become an American citizen”.  I knew the only way to stick around and help my mother and my sisters was to not do what my father had done, so I told him yes, I want to become a Marine.

It took exactly one visit to the recruiting office and I was sold.  The next day, I showed up at home with my recruiter and he went to work on my mother for her consent since I was 17.  As you can imagine, my mother was scared and did not want me to go but she also realized that she did not have any other options for my future, so she looked at me, a moment passed, and she gave me a nod… telling me silently with a look only mothers can do, “to go make something out of myself”…  Then she looked at the recruiter and said “yes”.

I graduated High School and I spent the rest of that summer getting ready to go to boot camp.  I knew that I was leaving my family behind to fend off by themselves, but I had no choice… It was my only shot to remain around.

I’ll be honest; I did not know what I was getting myself into.  I travelled to California and I was told to wait for my drill instructors at the airport USO.  I got there and there were big couches in front of a big TV and I thought “this can’t be that bad.”  A few hours passed, and then I saw a tall guy in uniform come through the door, I approached him and asked him, are you the drill instructor I am suppose to meet? And at that moment I realize he was because he gave me a look that said “you undisciplined piece of you know what”, he began to yell at me and to get on his bus, so I did.

The hours after I got picked up were some of the worst times of my life, these period are designed to break you so they can build you back up later on, and with my limited knowledge of the English language, well I got broken down even more.

You see, people that are learning English often take things very literally and do not understand sarcasm, so when my drill instructors yelled at me with all types of it, I would often do the opposite of what they wanted me to do, and of course I pay the price every single time for it.

I spent over three months becoming a Marine, but in reality I became something much more than that.  I became a man with true morals, discipline, and most of all a purpose.  My purpose was to defend the country that welcomed me, my family and gave us a true shot at life.  That right there was worth my life, and I was prepared to give it alongside many others if it was required of us.
Lucky for us, it would not be long before that notion would be put the test...

I was 19 years of age, and I had been serving for just about a year. The date was September 11th, 2002… The towers in New York fell, and our nation mourned…  I watched with my fellow servicemen in disbelief, but soon that disbelief turned into action as our sense of duty was calling our names. I never thought about it twice then, as I don’t do it now, but even though I was not an American citizen, I was ready to die defending my new land.

Just four months later I found myself yet in another new land.  We crossed from Kuwait into Iraq fulfilling our duty of protection to our country and to each other. We served under some of the worst working conditions one could imagine.  We all did our best to make the people back home proud of our efforts. We endured pain so no one else had to. Some of us paid a great sacrifice for others, and some paid with their lives.

In the span of six years I had deployed to Iraq four times for about a year each time.  It was not until my third deployment that I was able to claim my United States citizenship, which by that time was merely a legal formality, as I felt my entire being was that of an American citizen long before.

Back home, my mother and my sisters were able to obtain their citizenship on their own right with the help of immigration laws that saw them flourish.  My sisters were able to be very successful at school and were off to the University of Michigan on scholarships where both received degrees, and once my sisters were off at their university my mother also attended community college and also got a degree thus enabling her to open up her own business that she manages now.

Things were looking up for everyone, but this is often when things go badly, and it did for me…  After my fourth deployment, and looking forward to a career within the military until retirement, as I was riding home to start a new week, I lost control of my motorcycle and crashed.

Think about yourself going to sleep, what if when you wake up you are a completely different person?  That’s exactly how I felt when I woke up and was surrounded by my family and friends and the doctor who approach me and told me that I had just lost the ability to use my right arm.  My career, my dreams, and my everything… Completely erased and replaced by uncertainty.

However, I was wrong of thinking that way… Because I had not lost everything… I still had my will to keep going and survive that by this time it was well cemented within every single one of us in my family. So I stood up and I started walking, that walk became a trot, and that trot became a full on run eventually.
Running became my therapy to get over everything that was wrong with me.  I would do it for many hours a day, and I was getting pretty good at it.  After two years of doing it, someone took notice and asked me if I wanted to try for the Paralympics, and not knowing anything about it, I decided that I would.

There are many sports that are practiced to the highest level of competition in the Paralympics, but when it came to choosing a sport I decided to go for the hardest one there was, and that was biathlon.  In biathlon you have to cross country ski for many miles and in between you get to shoot a rifle at a target and attempt to hit your marks and continue racing.  I had plenty of training using a rifle in the Marines but I had never cross country skied before.

In the same manner I approached running a few years earlier, I would just go out skiing for hours until I figure things out and then do it all over again the next day and so forth.  Eventually, I got good enough to start competing, and then I start competing to earn a spot in the US team, and finally compete to earn a spot to go to Sochi, Russia at the 2014 winter Paralympics.  That took only a paragraph to say, but the effort that was required in order for me to realize this took me years.  But just like I had joined the Marines to make something out of myself many years earlier, I wanted to represent my country and show the world my gratitude to it through my greatest efforts.

For a guy that could not play soccer in High School because he could not speak English, walking out in front of a huge crowd in a foreign land to represent the United States in the sport of biathlon was a dream come true.  Loud and mesmerizing with camera flashes everywhere, the ground shake with tremors from the crowd, and an intimidating field of athletes from everywhere in the world standing right before me… but I was not paying attention to any of that…  My gaze and my attention was solely at the grand stands where my mother, my two sisters, and my wife to be were sitting… Looking at me… Proud, but more importantly…  Together, yet again in a new land.

My family and I came to the United States as strangers but we did not come with malice in our hearts.  We came because we believe in everything this nation stands for. We came to share the promise of this land, and to make it better alongside everyone else. 

We might be different in many ways but if my story tells you anything is that we all want the same things in the end.  We all want to live our lives to our full potential. We all want to provide our families with a bright future.

In our religious teaching we are taught to treat strangers with love…  And I understand how that could be a bridge too far to cross since we have seen many hateful attacks in our soil to let anyone in, let alone love them.

All I ask is for you to have an open heart and love the great possibility that beyond the walls of our narrow human instincts, there might be someone just like you, a stranger, ready to love you as well.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The opportunity of impossibility

Biathlon and Cross Country skiing saw me adapt, grow, and succeed in its field of competition.  To this day, both sports, especially biathlon, holds a special place in my mind and heart.

However, both sports, also left me motivationally depleted.  While competition and training was challenging, fun, and full of new experiences, the inner workings, rules, and overall culture of the sport was ultimately my downfall.

Imagine an athlete that has decided to make a sport his craft..  He sleeps, lives, and studies that sport, he rejects his possessions and moves to a new place with nothing but a dream of becoming the best..  His family thinks he's crazy, the people around him thinks he's weird, he sleeps on an air mattress, his bank low in funds, and with just enough food to make the same dinner everyday, he keeps going..

The only one that supported him.. His grandfather dies..  In a whirlwind of emotions he has the perfect race..  He is in.

He competes and gives his heart out at the biggest stage, this is the beginning of something great.. 

He keeps going and going..  The mental and physical stress catches up to him and he gets sick.. The saddest part of the story and unbeknownst to him comes with a click.. He asks to be believed in once again..  Not good enough..

In a world where belief is measured by how much money you are worth, stories like his are easily dismissed.

Without the opportunity to be great it is impossible to prove your worth..  

And so, He keeps going..  Finding opportunities..

Enter Triathlon..  And I keep going..


(Listening to "Cut the cord" by Shinedown)



Monday, April 4, 2016

The disability of success

In the world of Paralympic sports, not only do you have to adapt to learn, train, and compete in sports with a disability but you also have to find the support necessary to enable you to do those things in the first place.

For some of us it's easier with prior military service because there are always organizations willing to help, for others a wealthy family can enhance your chances, and for the really unlucky ones you are to fend on your own, but regardless we all find a way to compete.

Speaking of competition, in my own account, competition is what drives me.  When I am competing my disability is non existent, I want to beat other competitors, and I honestly it feels good to pass other able and disabled athletes because it's hard wired into my being to beat others at whatever.

So we find the resources to train and compete, and then we become race junkies going wherever we can to satisfy our addiction to being better than we are expected to be, and then something funny happens, we become good enough to taste and dream about Paralympic competition.

The pitch is simple.. Acquire all the gear, train like mad men with a plan, compete in the races that count and.. Sell your disability to the highest bidder by masking it as inspiration, and if you do that then you can win a medal.. Ironically, at least for me, that's when my disability started.

You see, for years we try to pretend we are not disabled by doing pretty amazing things, but the moment we become Paralympic athletes we also have to prove that our disability is also profitable.  In a system where cash is king, inspiration is easy to sell..  So even if we think we are not disabled, the system that is suppose to abdicate us from the throne of disability is.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

Eulogy of a great man

Mi Abuelito, mi Héroe, y mi Inspiración:

Desde que yo recuerdo mi Abuelito ha sido el hombre másfuerte, más cariñoso, y más estricto que yo he conocido.  

En México, cuando yo era pequeño, me acuerdo visitar la casa de mis Abuelitos, y me acuerdo sentir un par de emociones diferentes. Por un lado, tenía ganas de jugar con todas las cosas que mi Abuelito tenía como con su máquina de escribir que hacia palabras y que yo me imaginaba que cuando uno escribíaen ella la mente se pegaba en el papel, con su espada decaballería con la cual yo me imaginaba luchando contra piratas en un barco, y también me gustaba ver y leer sus artículos y posters que tenia de cuando él había sido un boxeador y viendo estos yo me creía luchar contra todos aquellos con los cuales el lo hizo tirando puñetazos al aire…

Y por el otro lado, ver a mi Abuelito era también como someterse a una prueba, la prueba de mi madurez como hombre.  Yo tenía que fajarme, peinarme, y tratar de mantenerme limpio durante todo el recorrido desde nuestra casa hasta la de mis Abuelitos.  Cuando él hablaba conmigo me preguntaba quecomo estaba, que si estaba cuidando a mis hermanas y sobrecómo iba en la escuela.  Después de las preguntas, el me decía lo tanto que nos quería, a , a mis hermanas, a mi Mama, y a mi Abuelita.  El siempre, siempre me decía esto. 

Ya cuando tenía más años, y ellos vivían lejos de nuestra casa en Guadalajara, yo me acuerdo que mi Abuelito era un hombre lleno de información, el era como lo que es tener una computadora en estos tiempos.  El me enseño a jugar domino, juegos de baraja como el conquián y el póquer.  Y cuando éljugaba, el jugaba en serio y siempre ganaba.  No creo que haya habido alguien que le hubiera podido ganar alguna vez. El también me daba lecciones sobre la historia y de cómo todo lo que ha pasado se repetirá y también me hablaba sobre lo que yo podía hacer para salir adelante.  

A mi Abuelito Mariano también le gustaba mucho bromear.  Siempre me llamaba diciéndome, “ven, mira esto”, y cuando iba el estaba allí listo y hacia alguna travesura a mi Abuelita, y aunque ella a veces se enojaba para nosotros era muy chistoso.  

Ya cuando nos venimos aquí a Grand Rapids, la relación que yo y mi Abuelito teníamos era una de nostalgia.  Siempre el me decía como le gustaría regresarse para México con todos nosotros y yo no sabía que decirle, lo único que podía contestarle era “si, Abuelito ya vámonos!”.  El se emocionaba tanto que hasta comenzaba a empacar sus cosas.  

Y cuando era hora de terminar nuestra visita en su casa, el nunca nos quería decir adiós, pero cuando nos montábamos dentro del carro, podíamos ver que el salía afuera para vernos partir y se quedaba viéndonos hasta que desaparecíamos en el horizonte todo el tiempo diciéndonos adiós con su brazo.  

Cuando regrese después de mucho tiempo de no haber estado en Grand Rapids, la enfermedad de mi Abuelito ya tenía sus garras clavadas en su mente.  Se le empezó a olvidar todo, y el siempre repetía las mismas preguntas.  Pero había una pregunta en particular que el siempre me hacía y esta pregunta siempre marcara mi vida.  El preguntaba: “Que has hecho con tu vida?” Y si él estuviera aquí ahora, yo podría contestarle: “Abuelito, si yo pudiera llegar a lograr por lo menos una fracción de lo que hiciste y amar como  me amaste, entonces yo creo que mi vida estará completa.”

Mi Abuelito Mariano siempre vivirá dentro de  con su amor y sus palabras.  Y algunas de estas palabras fueron: “El tesoro de nuestra familia ha ido pasando a manos de cada generación…” Yo digo hoy que en nuestra generación, el recuerdo de él con su amor es el tesoro el cual él me había hablado ese día.  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Across the world..

The Sochi Paralympics are over and I am a better man, athlete and human being because of it due to the perspective I have gained in all those aspects.

I am a better man because I have afforded my family the opportunity to be proud of me and serve as a role model as my grandfather did, to attest that no matter what happens in life, if a poor, fatherless, immigrant, down on his luck can reach this level of accolades then ANYONE can!

I am a better athlete because I have gained important experience to become better the next time around, I have created bonds with my teammates that will last long after our last competitions are past, and I have shown my coaches the kind of demeanor I have in order to help me become greater.

Most importantly in my opinion, I am a better human being because I was afforded to travel across the world and meet other people that are going through the same situations as all of us..  Wanting to live happily, wanting to love, wanting to belong, wanting to be great, and wanting nothing more than peace.  We should not live in a world where boarders and ideals set by other "people" and enforced by media and ignorance dictate the level of humanity we all have.  We all belong to the world, I am an American, proud to represent my nation, but I am even more proud to be human.

Monday, February 3, 2014

SOCHI-Da! An update and thank you

Being named to represent the United States in the Paralympics is something I strived for the first time I decided to start training like an Olympic athlete.

I remember it was just a few weeks after the amputation of my dominant arm that I was lucky enough to talk to Bryan Boyer (of all places at the Tucson VA) after a check up following my amputation, and he mentioned that there was an opportunity to find rehab doing Biathlon..  Biathlon? Why not give it a chance I said..  Called Marc Mast at the Wood River Ability Program in Ketchum Idaho, packed my bags, and it was on.

Tried it, loved it, and now look at me, in the midst of my second season and already have achieved this level. I am lucky indeed and sometimes I beat myself up for the stupid rookie mistakes I make but when I step back and look at the magnitude of it all, I should be incredibly proud.

I am proud! In this last year I have achieved and experienced things that there's no way I would have done if it wasn't for skiing. First and foremost, I have learned to live and compete with a disability that has allowed me to appreciate life and find what my character is made of, and I have found out that my soul still burns and I love it.

I have also gotten the chance to be a part of an incredible team and community when I came to Maine to start training..  Will Sweetser, Sarah Dominick, Seth Hubbard, and Amber Dodge, my coaches and now friends, have taught me how to train for competitive cross country skiing and biathlon and not only that but to enjoy skiing and be part of something greater, such as being a role model and an inspiration to kids and adults alike, and for that I feel honored and content.

Being a member of MWSC has allowed me to travel to Europe, and Canada and train with athletes such as Kris Freeman, Noah Hoffman, Welly Ramsey, Brandy Stewart, Raleigh Goessling, Katrina Howe, and Sam Tarling, which I learned something from each one of them and I feel extremely thankful to have had the pleasure of skiing with them all.

Two or three workouts each day, with shooting practice in between, healthy mind and body activities, and a whole lot of pain..  That is the price to pay but I could not have done it if it was not for Paul Fitzgerald, and Jeff Steffen at Team Semper Fi..  Those guys are awesome and they gave me the tools to make a run for it and run I will.

When the going went from tough to just painfully hard and especially on those hot summer Maine days, I knew I could always count on my sweet and really kick ass skier herself, my girlfriend Lindsey Hall.  Listening to her every night was the recovery I always needed to go on, and I am forever thankful for her and her family that opened up the doors to their house in order for me to train and afford the training.

Paralympics, parallel to the Olympics..  Not below or above but in the same spectrum of hard work and dedication..  I do not claim to be anywhere in the realm of Olympians and their path to glory just as Olympians can not claim the path to mine..  I am a Paralympian, I might look different, and I might not be as fast as my fellow able-bodied skiers and marksmen, but I have every single intention to being successful at my craft as they are.. John Farra, Rob Rosser, James Upham, Eileen carey, and Bethann Chamberlain, thanks for seeing that in me.

Sochi approaches, and I must say I am extremely excited and nervous..  My Mother Rosa, my two sisters, Edna, and Tania, and Lindsey will be watching from the stands as I achieve greatness..  I am extremely lucky to have a family that would support me this way, and to them and in the name of my true father Mariano which he was always the inspiration that drove my family forward before me, and that I have lost this year to a terrible illness, I dedicate this year's effort and everything that will flourish out of it.. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Accidental patriot: hero of my own soul

People call me a hero..  They give me thanks for fighting for our country.  And I appreciate it..  I love our country and I would do it all over again if I could, however, I am a hero not because I saved someone or acted bravely in combat..  I am a hero because I did not let my circumstances dictate who I would become.
I elected to fight because I knew that if I stayed I would have become a no one.
I was not by myself..  I fought for myself with a lot of people that were fighting for themselves as well, together fighting for a greater purpose that at least in my case was not clearly understood. We became accidental patriots. Heroes of our country we might be, but Heroes of our own soul we are without a doubt.
To this day we still fight..