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A Hero's Welcome, a Lifelong Friendship

hpiatt
Not applicable

I was on reserve.
 
There were three trips in open time, this particular run: the dreaded double-Sacramento flight that arrives after midnight, Central Standard Time. So I wasn't looking forward to the call from scheduling that I would soon be receiving, notifying me of my assignment.
 
When they called, I gladly accepted, but on my way to the airport I found myself drowning in negative thoughts. After all, I had been up all night with my son, was running late getting ready, and wouldn't be in bed until the wee hours of the morning. It didn't take long for my attitude to change when I walked onto the airplane. My attention turned to a gentleman sitting in the front row, both legs amputated and a portion of his skull missing.
 
I smiled and said, "Hello."
 
While stowing my luggage, I was overwhelmed with emotion as I recalled how I had been so negative on my drive into work. I was disappointed in myself for not seeking out the positive and counting my blessings. As I looked into the face of LeGrand Strickland, I knew my life would forever be changed.
 
It already was.
 
We were already delayed over an hour due to weather when LeGrand noticed my memorial bracelet I wear in honor of CPO Adam L Brown. He asked about Adam, which gave me the opportunity to share Adam's story. Adam and I grew up in the same hometown, and attended the same school and church. On March 17, 2010, while serving in Afghanistan, he was fatally wounded when his Seal team came under heavy fire. He gave the Ultimate Sacrifice, laying down his life in order to protect his fellow teammates and to defend the freedoms you and I enjoy today.

My bracelet reads:
CPO Adam L Brown AR Navy
Enduring Freedom 17 MAR 10 KIA
Rarest of Warriors, John 15:13


After sharing Adam's story with LeGrand, I inquired about the two bracelets he was wearing. He said they were in memory of his friends, one for his Commander and the other for a soldier - both lost their lives when LeGrand sustained his injuries in Afghanistan.

As LeGrand shared his story of that fateful night, I was overflowing with the desire to see him succeed and overcome the many challenges he would soon be facing. I hugged him and thanked him for his service. I told him that every time I looked at an American Flag I would now not only see Adam’s face but his also.

I became friends on Facebook with LeGrand and his wife, Carrie, and immediately began following his progress. I watched him face challenge after challenge while he underwent intense therapy to gain the strength he would need to someday walk again.

On January 27, nine months after our first meeting, I had the privilege to work his flight back home to Arkansas.  I witnessed first hand that all his hard work and many hours of therapy had paid off.

As he walked onboard, took those first steps, and made his way to his seat my heart was filled with joy! He had fought another battle and this battle he had indeed won!
 
Thank you LeGrand and Carrie for inspiring me in so many ways and reminding me to count my blessings! I love you both dearly!

And thank you to ALL the Southwest Employees who helped in organizing this tribute to LeGrand. I have never been more proud to work for Southwest Airlines as I was that night.

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