Evan and I talk about anything and everything. For hours. Sometimes we sound like a couple of chatterbox females. The guys love to tease us about our bro-mance. I think they're jealous. Here's the thing: He gets me and I get him.
We yammer about stuff like sports and who will win American Idol. And serious subjects too: Dreams for the future, stupid stunts we pulled as kids, and what might happen tomorrow.
Tomorrow comes up a lot.
We met at boot camp after joining the Marines right out of high school. An unlikely pair, we were thrown together and ended up as tight as an inspection-ready bunk: You can bounce a quarter off our friendship.
Funny thing is, we're nothing alike. I tend to be all brawn-that's what he always says. Evan? He's a brainiac, his nose constantly stuck in a book. Or surfing the Internet. But not for the same reason as the other guys: He just likes to learn. We nicknamed him the Google King...Goog for short.
Probably the greatest thing about Evan is how he totally rocks life. He lives all-out with such gusto, he reminds me of the Energizer Bunny.
He keeps going and going and going...that's Goog.
I never would have made it through boot camp without him pushing me. Every time I wanted to quit, he'd be in my face with a hundred reasons why I shouldn't. He's more loyal than a golden retriever and always has my back. And he makes me a better person.
Evan's also known as the platoon marshmallow. He's got a heart the size of a Black Hawk. Kind of a weird thing for a hoorah Marine dude.
I remember coming back to camp after sizzling days in the desert. The rest of us would pass out on our bunks, but not Goog. He'd rather play with the little Afghan kids. They really get into soccer and he's so lousy at it, they would hoot with glee at his mediocre attempts. Didn't matter to him.
"I might be the only Jesus they ever see," he'd say.
He talks a lot about Jesus. And God. The mention of heaven and stuff makes his eyes glaze over--almost like he's on another planet. Then I jab an elbow in his ribs and say, "Beam me up, Scotty." And we laugh.
He's pretty serious about his faith, yet he never tries to shove it on anybody. Always says it's more important to live it. And if I ever want to know more, I should ask. I like that about him.
Kind of wish I'd taken him up on the offer.
I hoist my duffel bag and head toward the jetway, remembering the last time we were on a plane together. We streaked across oceans under the cover of inky darkness. It was our first deployment. And I was scared.
Goog was calm and matter-of-fact. He assured me that we were ready for combat. We whispered all through the night as continents whizzed by, his quiet confidence soothing my fears.
He told me that no matter what happened during our tour, he would go home someday. Whether it was to Connecticut...or otherwise.
"It's all the same to me," he stated, voice earnest with conviction. "I'm ready."
As I board the plane, I realize that I am not.
"Ladies and gentleman: We direct your attention to Delta Airlines, gate 34, as representatives from the Guard Company, Marine Barracks, Retired, Washington, D.C. approach in preparation for entry onto the tarmac.
We gather today to honor the life of fallen soldier, Corporal Evan Jenson, Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, United States Marine Corp, who died in Helmand Province, Afghanistan last week after his unit came under enemy fire.
He is being escorted to Connecticut by fellow soldier and friend, Sergeant Jason Cavanaugh. During each stop along the way, Marine detachments will present honors until the Corporal reaches his destination.
Freedom is never free-there's always a price. Evan Jenson will be remembered for his bravery, making the ultimate sacrifice while trying to save members of his platoon during a sniper attack. He will be awarded The Medal Of Honor, posthumously.
May God bring peace to his family.
Please join us in a moment of silence and feel free to gather at the window to observe the tarmac ceremony as Corporal Jensen begins his final journey home."
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