Today is my birthday; I'm 24 years-old.
In many ways, I feel much older than my 24 years. It seems I've experienced a lot of things that most people my age have not. And although I'm not a big fan of reflecting on the past, I can't help but think about how much has changed in my life in the past year.
I think for most people, the time between 23 and 24 is pretty uneventful. Most are trying to settle into adult life at my age. But, the last 12 months of my life have been anything but uneventful.
As I'm boarding a plane today, to travel to Virginia to speak to another group about my experience as a Marine and the details surrounding my Medal of Honor, I'm thinking about how I spent my last birthday. If I remember correctly, June 26, 2011 was much hotter than it is today, but maybe that's because I was spending the day working outside on a construction site, pouring concrete and tying steel. That was a long day!
I would have never imagined then, that my life would be turned upside down in the way it has been since receiving the Medal of Honor, but these types of things cannot be expected, or even planned for.
Now, don't get me wrong, I am grateful for the opportunities receiving the Medal of Honor have brought me. I've visited interesting places and met wonderful people over the past year. However, no matter if I'm standing on the 50 yard line of the New York Giants football field, sharing a beer with President Obama, or sharing my story with a group of strangers, the reality of the price that was paid for me to enjoy these opportunities is always on my mind.
I will never know why I was pulled from my team in Afghanistan on September 8, 2009. I'll never know why my guys died and why I survived. But I do know that I was given the opportunity to continue living for myself and for each of them.
Celebrating another year of life is a bit of struggle for me when I know my guys will never have the chance. But, as I've said before, you can see situations in life as obstacles or as opportunities. I choose to see the opportunity and to make the most of it.
Tonight, when I speak to the group in Virginia, I'm going to tell the story of the my brothers, of their bravery and of their sacrifice. And I'm going to do my best to seize the opportunity I've been given to live another year on this earth.
Here's to 24!