USA Hockey

April 11th, 2012 § 0 comments

Last weekend, we headed to Tampa International Airport to board a plane destined for Newark, NJ to the confusion of many. “Why are you going to New Jersey for vacation?”; “What’s in New Jersey?” they would question. It wasn’t about what was in New Jersey, but who: my godmother and her family, whom I have yet to see since my wedding ten years ago. We were overdue for a visit. We were also headed to Lower Manhattan for a day as well. My small town, Alabama wife had always dreamed of going, but never thought it was possible.

But that’s not what this post is about. We’ll save that for another time.

On Sunday evening, while we were enjoying our chicken cutlet dinner complete with perogies and my godmother’s famous garden salad, something was happening in Norway that I was unaware of. In just 24 hours, that would all change.

Monday morning we headed for the airport careful to arrive two hours early in the chance there was a back up at the security checkpoint. There wasn’t, but that was alright. “We can entertain the kids for two hours,” we thought.

That was until we noticed our flight was delayed past the time we needed to catch our connecting flight at Reagan International. After an hour or so of trying to make something happen, a United Airlines Attendant booked us on a 6pm flight back home… two hours had just turned into six hours.

This might be a challenge.

In our third hour – the halfway point – we noticed three young men in their mid-twenties talking quietly amongst themselves a few feet from us. They were obviously in great shape – all three of them looked like they could hold their own in a 3 on 3 basketball tournament… and after talking with them, I still think they can.

These men were all verterans – one a United States Marine and the other two, part of the U.S. Army. I heard one joke about something, “I’m not the first one in; you’re the Marine.” They all laughed. These three brave men fought and served in our military and paid a severe price for the cause of freedom.

Two of them had lost one leg and the other had no legs.

“What have these guys been through in the last seven years,” I wondered. What have they seen? Who have they lost? Who did they save? What’s their story? I had to strike up a conversation with them – if not for anything else, but to say thank you. So I had a raise the risk moment and stood up with my napping son in arms and sat down across from them.

“Excuse me,” I interrupted. “I have been sitting here watching you guys for some time and I couldn’t help but over hear some of your conversation. You are a Marine and you guys are regular army?” I asked. After clarification, they started telling me about their latest accomplishment – winning gold medal at the 2012 International Paralympic Committee Ice Sledge World Championship held in Hamar, Norway. They defeated Canada in the semi-finals to advance to the championship game against Korea. Canada had beat them earlier in the season so it was nice to have the opportunity to face them again… and win!

Two of them took out their gold medal and allowed my family and I to hold them. The kids even put them around their neck. They introduced themselves to me. “I’m Rico. This is Josh,” one said. “And I’m Jen,” said the other. They told me I could find out more about their sport at USAHockey.com. I knew they didn’t want to or couldn’t talk about their military experiences (although I could have listened for days) so the conversation ended just as fast as it had begun, and next thing I knew we were boarding the plane.

Most of the time, a raise the risk moment isn’t about us. It’s about being able to speak or to serve into someone else’s life and let them know they are important. Important to us? Yes. But more importantly, to God. The few minutes that I had with these men, I wanted to encourage them and bless them and to better pray for them. I ended up celebrating with them as well. Look for opportunities to hear from others taking an interest in their stories and their accomplishments. When you choose to make a lifestyle out of investing in others, you learn quickly that there is a return of equal or greater blessing.

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