“Flip me over, Dad!” Jessica was slipping her foot into her father's cupped hands he was holding just under the water. She was six years old and loved her daddy-hero.
“Are you ready? One. Two. Three!” Adrien lifted his body and hands to launch Jessica into the air. She did a full back-flip and disappeared under the surface. Jessica's hand grabbed her father's leg under the water and he fell backwards, knowing that she would appreciate being strong enough to up-end him. They both surfaced and hugged each other.
“I love you, Daddy.” .
“And I love you too, princess.”
“Are you two going to eat?” Jackie was calling to them from the the hill above the beach. She had prepared a picnic for her husband and daughter.
“Coming.” They both yelled at the same time and headed for shore.
“Great idea, coming to the lake today.” Adrien had blessed the food and was biting into a chicken leg. Too bad that tomorrow I have to go back. To go back, meaning returning to Vietnam for his second tour of duty.
“Shhhhhh, baby. Let's enjoy the time we have left together.” Jackie winked at him as she passed some potatoe salad to Jessica.
Adrien opened his eyes. Gone were the memories of his wife and daughter. The golden glow from the street light and the flashing colors from the neon signs, reflected off of the walls of his cardboard home.
His toes were numb and his ankles were hurting with much pain. Try as he may, he could not move his feet at all. It had snowed, and he was half covered in the beautiful, but deadly, element.
“How did I end up this way?” His mind revealed to him again how his life had changed so dramatically.
He had about two months of duty left to do in Nam, when his best friend, John got cut in half by enemy machine gun fire. John had been his Christian friend. They always read the Bible together and prayed together. He was like family. This loss hurt him very deeply.
“How will I ever make it without John?” He cried over and over again.
The next day, he received his world-shattering news. His wife, Jackie and Jessica, had been killed in an auto accident. He cried, he prayed. He went into a sort of “daze”, not really listening to anyone or anything. The trip back to the “States”, the funeral, his discharge, passed before his eyes like a movie. He didn't really feel that he was participating in life at all.
Adrien didn't turn away from God, he turned away from life. He wandered the roads for years, eating where he could, sleeping where he could. Now, he was in Chicago, in one of the coldest winter nights of the season. Alone, there in his cardboard box, freezing to death, he prayed.
“Father, this has been a hard seven years. I don't know why I couldn't have just gone on with my life. I don't know why I didn't try harder to give it all up to You. Tonight, for the first time in years, I am finally able to think, to talk to You.”
“Forgive me for giving up on life. Forgive me for not having more faith and strength. I know that You are still there. My soul is ready Lord. Please take me home so that I may find peace and rest. Let me feel Your warm arms around me.”
“Daddy. Daddy.” He looked out into the snowy, cold night. He was sure that he heard her voice. He stood up and took a couple of steps along the sidewalk.
“Wow. I can walk.” He looked back and saw two legs sticking out of the cardboard box where he had been. They were his legs.
“Daddy, are you coming?” He turned back towards the road and there was his little girl, Jessica, his wife, Jackie and Jesus, all beckoning him to come to them. He ran.
Forgotten by his fellow men, this hero went home on a cold, snowy night in Chicago.
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