The Fourth of July is, and always will be, a day of remembrance for me. In 2002, an ex-boyfriend and sweet friend of mine was murdered. He was my first serious crush, enough so that shortly into our fledging romance a bunch of my friends wished us good luck in my high school yearbook. His note was short and sweet and something that I read periodically when I feel I need his encouragement:
Like many girls at sixteen, I didn’t know what true love was, but I enjoyed the heart palpitations I felt when he looked my way and was incredibly nervous when I sauntered (yes, sauntered) clear across the high school cafeteria to give him a note. I don’t often keep mementos from an ex, but I have a few things from our time together and time spent as friends. He taught me that it’s possible for a guy and girl to be friends even when they aren’t a romantic match and each year, on the anniversary of his death, I fondly remember the adventures we had together and how much his presence changed my life.
I still miss the way people would gravitate to him. He had a wonderful personality and was incredibly easy to be friends with. He graciously accepted my invitation to be my date for my junior prom; he came to my rescue when I needed it most. I think that’s sufficient enough to explain the situation to outsiders. My life had some high school drama, like many other teens, but he was a very happy chapter to my story.
Originally, he had wanted to be a Navy Seal, but his eyesight wasn’t good enough so he set his sights on becoming a United States Marine. At 6’5″, he is, and will forever be, my epitome of Marine.
He forged a great brotherhood with those around him, many of his closest Marine friends came to his funeral. When a group of us got together to celebrate his life, the good stories got shared along with some card games, alcohol, and soda. Earlier that day, many of us laid down sentimental or strategic items on his coffin to be buried with him. Giving back to him the Blue Angels key chain I picked up on our “first date” felt appropriate; he would always have this reminder that I had loved him back then and loved him enough to let it go with him.
In the time that has since passed, I have tried to find ways to honor him. Initially, it was simply to emblazon my car with his name:
Later when I struggled to be responsible in college, my thoughts drifted back to him and the idea set in that I could become a Marine. He was not the only influence in this decision, but I would say 80-90% of the decision was cemented with the pride I felt when his fellow Marines honored him at his funeral.
A lot has changed since then and I left photos at his family’s door to show them I accomplished my goal of finishing his legacy. Staying in wasn’t the right decision for me, but going in has redirected my life in such a positive manner. I cannot give that credit to anyone but Bart. He set the example, I merely followed it.
The fireworks are now always for you, Bart. Semper Fidelis.