In a few hours I head off to one of the most beautiful places in the world, Hana, Maui, Hawaii, for my sixth missions trip with Jonathan Shuttlesworth. A few hours ago, my 18-year-old nephew Christian headed off for Army National Guard bootcamp. The world keeps turning as they say. Last night, I received a text from Christian's mom saying they would be celebrating at the 99 Restaurant with a send off meal for Christian. Mom and I were on a way into a movie, so when it ended we stopped by the 99 on the slim chance they might still be there. They were—standing outside in a huddle around Christian and his father, my brother Paul, who had stopped by while on the job as a Lebanon Police Officer to give Christian last minute pointers on bootcamp. Paul, in his mid-thirties, had only enlisted last year.
The scene nearly broke my heart. You see, it shows how much we love that boy! Born to teen parents, he's our success story. Work and tears and anguish and love poured into him from all of us. When he flew off today he took all of us with him. I didn't have the chance to go and see him off, another thing that nearly broke my heart. When he registered for kindergarten, a crowd of us showed up complete with video camera. But, when I picked up my cell just now his Momma had sent me a photo of a teary-eyed Christian hugging her. She included me in the circle. He just called my Dad to say he had made it to the waiting point, found the clock tower his Dad had told him about, and my Dad reiterated how well loved he was. "You're the most loved boy I know," he said, wishing that he had known that he was that loved growing up. We come from a family of love, but Dad is right—Christian may just be the most well loved of us all. The Jarvis and Gifford clans are big, our hearts bigger and he has grown into a man who carries us all.
They say "Aloha" is used in both greeting and parties. I can't wait to see my Hawaiian ohana, the family I leave behind each time I return to the mainland, all the friends we have made. It is a wonderful greeting, but right now before I leave I say "Aloha" to our boy-turned-man. It will be a long four months, kiddo, but don't think for a minute you left us behind. Aloha is better than goodbye because we'll say it when we see you again real soon!