I came from an event last night honoring retailers who went above and beyond to support our veterans. I know, random. My star of a father co-owns and edits a retailer magazine that is jumping up the charts in the business. Everyone knows him; we could hardly get across the room without 5 people stopping him, saying to me, “Your father is a great man. He has done so much for this industry, this business, [my product], etc.” To be fair, I thought the event/award was going to be about some stores giving away free food and picking up the tab on some grocery bills, but it was so much more than that. It was sponsoring trips for WWII vets to visit the WWII Memorial in DC. It was baking thousands of cookies for troops overseas. It was the man who started an organization that gives $30,000 in education scholarships to every child of a Marine killed in the line of duty. Millions of dollars in donations to the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Care – Afghanistan, sending soccer balls to kids in Afghanistan and Iraq, to kids who “didn’t start anything. They just want to be kids.”

It was an incredible night, far more than I thought it would be. I sat with a US Marine Corps Colonel who looked like James Bond (and who, care of my dad, introduced himself to me as “Bond. James Bond.”) who has been serving for over 25 years. I sat with a just-retired Lance Corporal who lost three limbs because of an IED (who happened to remind me of Prince Harry), and is making the most of it, working with prosthetic legs, determined to work with wildlife or land so he can still be outdoors.

I got back to my apartment, where I found out that one of the men I met and frequently spoke to during my internship with the National Park Service had died. He didn’t always get a great rep from the press but he was always laughing and joking with me, and frequently had me into his office to talk or give advice, or bought me and the other few interns lunch in the cafeteria. He was a great man. And he committed suicide. I won’t go into the particulars of why – and we’ll never know, truly – but does it matter?

We take life for granted. The incredible servicemen I met last night, the men and women I never will, Bill, they have all struggled. Some got lucky, many will not. Life is too short. Tonight gave me the highs and lows of the harsh reality. Make the most of it. Go get your dreams. I know I am going to try.

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