Just a few days ago I received a message from an active military officer who said he and some colleagues would be running in honor of Mitch while deployed in Iraq. He offered his well wishes, prayers and love from "the dustiest place on earth."

He then concluded his letter with the following salutation:

CW3 Officer Leach
Blackhawk pilot

I was so moved that someone occupied with other matters would take time out of his life to remember little Mitch and support our desire to help and encourage others. I then responded to his message with the following:

[Officer Leach,]

Holy cow. That would have blown Mitchell's mind. He always admired military officers and their sacrifices to keep him safe. When he was home on hospice, he cried tears of gratitude when he received messages and photos from every branch of the military. Your doing this will be especially amazing for our family.

Thank you, good sir. On so many levels, thank you.

UT, Chris Jones
Ordinary Dad
Grateful Human

… and that was my letter to him. I had no credentials to point to, no rank or military file. The only title I held was that of ordinary dad and grateful human. I just wanted him to know how much I appreciated his gesture. In so many ways, it felt as if he was saying, “I've got your back.” Although he was way over there, on the other side of the earth, he seemed to care about what was going on over here.

Then, as promised, this good officer (and father himself) sent me some photos of little Mitch with him and in the window of his Blackhawk and indicated they'd be flying Mitch with them that day.

To think that a stranger could be so kind and thoughtful to do something like that in honor of a little boy who died, and a father who misses him deeply, humbles me. 

When I thanked him for sharing these photos and honoring my dear son he replied, "Mitchell, though not physically with us, is still having profound impact on all who heard about his journey. Having kids will definitely soften a man up but make us stronger at the same time."

This good man has it right. Having children does soften our hearts yet teaches us to be strong in ways that really matter. I can't help but think our Father knows that better than anyone. He sees so much more than we see: that hardships make us wise, heavy things make us stronger, service makes a heart compassionate, and death teaches us to appreciate life.

Although I enter the battlefield of grief each day: wounded, weary and heavy with sorrow, I stumble into noble souls like this and I take fresh courage. I am reminded why we are allowed to suffer (so that we might learn and grow) and that when we serve each other with love and kindness, when we have each other’s backs, we are serving our Father. 

Thank you, my new friend, for reminding me to have another's back is the only way to be.