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To Our Very Own, Unknown Man

Today was the day we laid you to rest. I've heard about you my entire life yet never really got to know you. By the time I was born you had already been with the U.S Air Force for 10 years. You came home for a few Christmases but barely spoke about anything but your travels. I remember gift after gift being sent home to your mother and video after video of all the beautiful things you collected while you traveled. You were quite the collector. Occasionally, I too would receive some beautiful garment from another country and thought how cool it was for this Montana girl to have something so extraordinary. Yet even in those moments we would only talk about where the stuff was from and move on to the next item. As the years went on and I grew up the more elusive you became. Less and less you came back and I grew into a woman with a family, running a million miles a minute.

When you finally retired (from what I still had no clue) you were more reclusive than ever. There were times I'd pick up your mail out of duty while you were gone, until yesterday I'd never been inside your home. One time while getting your mail from the post office, I had never been so welcomed by the USPS. You had so many packages that I was lucky to have driven a truck. We filled the entire bed and back seat with boxes, only the Lord and you know what they held. I cracked up laughing as load after load came and the mail carriers happily stacked boxes in the truck so as to redeem their warehouse space. When you came back as a sign of your thanks you gifted us a beautiful hand crafted ornament of the White House that we treasure still so many years later.

But while I sit writing this I am reflecting back on the events that transpired yesterday as we laid you in your final resting place. There were minimal people at your funeral and I know that your sister and niece had to do some real digging to learn more about your past. Your nephew who had spent some time with you in Germany had a few stories to tell and finally 36 years later I feel like I got to meet you. I learned that you spent 10 years with the U.S Air Force after that you went to work for NASA. I mean even if we stop right here, how many can say "work for NASA"? Yet, that's not where we stop, you then were recruited to work at the National Security Agency, the NSA. In case some are not quite sure what that means, here is what my unprecedented Google skills found as definition. The National Security Agency is a national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of the Defense, under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence. Yep, I had to pull my jaw up off the floor also. We had the NSA within arms reach for years and I never had a clue.

President Trump's administration called your mother yesterday, there's a sentence I never thought I'd write. You may not have been known by us but you were most definitely known.

It's always interesting what looking back reveals. I can only imagine the information that you had in your brain. The stories that you could have told and the secrets you had to keep. You traveled the world and saw things that we can't even begin to dream up. The gifts and and videos make sense. They were the only things you could actually talk about. This may also be the reason you chose not to have relationships although I don't know that for certain. We never got to know you, your heart, your thoughts, your likes or dislikes, never anything more than very surface level. Yet only yesterday I learned that you have been protecting us our whole lives. I can see the love in that. I can see the sacrifices you made to protect and serve us and the entire United States of America and I can't but wonder how many more of you are out there.

So thank you to all the hidden men and women out there sacrificing your families, your relationships and self to protect us. I also want to send up a very special thank you to my uncle (I didn't know you but in glimpses here and there) you were extremely special to my mom. I was blown away that grandma spoke to the Trump Administration yesterday because of the impact you made in your lifetime and for your country. Thank you for always being there even though we couldn't see you. God Bless you uncle, our very own, unknown man.

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