Not wanting to break the sacred laws of journalism, as a rule, I avoid writing in the first-person. But not this time. Some stories deserve being told, and if they happen to be true, so be it. This is one such story.
My oldest son, Steven, served 14 years in the U.S. Army. During this time he was deployed to the Middle-East four times before being medically retired for a sustained injury.
One year prior to Steven’s being discharged, while he was stateside in Arizona, his best friend and battle-buddy lost his struggle with PTSD. His friend’s lifeless body was discovered in a hotel room. The cause of death. Suicide.
His friend originally hailed from Texas so Steven and a few of his friends made the long drive to attend the funeral and personally deliver condolences to the family of their deceased brother in arms, Sgt. Christopher Perez.
Upon returning to Ft. Huachuca Arizona, and being very distraught, in an effort to clear his head and contemplate life, my son went kayaking to be alone with his grief. He and Sgt. Perez had been through a lot together. They had witnessed horrendous things they never cared to witness again. They had survived nightly mortar attacks. As a result, the two had become inseparable.
As Steven was gently floating down the river in his kayak, he became startled when a dragonfly interrupted his thoughts by landing on his forearm. He stared at it as it sat there not moving. Finally, it fluttered and left his arm, but it did not fly away. The dragonfly kept circling him before it one last time touched down on his arm for a brief moment before heading on its way.
Throughout history, in almost every part of the world, the dragonfly has been viewed as a symbol of change. It represents a transformation of self-realization and a greater understanding of the deeper meaning of life. In Japan, the dragonfly is a national emblem as a symbol of joy and rebirth, while in some Native American cultures it is a symbol of departed souls.
Steven, in his spiritual nature, considered the dragonfly’s odd behavior as a sign from his friend. A message that he was okay. A message for him to carry on with his life in the best way he knew how. It gave him peace.
Unfortunately, peace is often temporary. As a result of his wartime experiences and the loss of his best friend to PTSD, one year later, Steven followed suit and is no longer with us. PTSD is an evil disease that takes 22 of our veterans every day. 22. Think about this.
On any given day, a host of colorful dragonfly’s visit my backyard. In a sad sort of way, I welcome their appearances. They may not bring the degree of peace I seek but will never again have, but they remind of Steven’s story, and it was well past time to share it.