19 July, 2006

A Different Kind of Courage in a Marine

Meet Kris, a U.S. Marine.

I met him last March when I was visiting San Diego and asked Soldiers' Angels if there was a hospitalized service member who needed some support. I had thought I'd be meeting a wounded combat vet. I did, but it was a different kind of combat.

Kris is 18 years old and in the fight of his life. When I met him he told me his amazing story. I didn't share it at the time because I didn't want to breach his privacy. But considering the news coverage, I feel like I can now tell you about him.

He wanted to be a Marine all his life and as the article mentions, he was so determined that he collapsed just after Boot Camp rather than admit to the headaches and dizziness that were plaguing him due to his undiagnosed brain cancer.

But his determination and amazing life started long before that. He was living independently by age 16 and earning enough money to pay the rent and bills while still attending high school (and taking college courses). Although he's never attended college full-time and has been coping with cancer since only a few months after graduating from high school, he has completed the credits for an associate's degree in psychology.

Talking to him, one sees that "old soul" of children and young adults who have had to look Death in the face. When we met, he had not a bit of pity about him and the only outward acknowledgement of his health situation was the backward baseball cap that covered the huge scar running from the base of his neck to halfway up his skull. He was matter of fact but positive, open and honest about the physical and emotional challenges of his situation.

I'm so glad to see he is with his mother (as reported in the article above). His family wasn't with him in San Diego, and when I met him I saw how much he needed that family support. It made we wish I knew how to mother a teenager. 'Cause if ever anyone has had to do enough combat alone, it's Kris.

Please do read the whole story. Not all the amazing men in the Marine Corps are found on the front lines...

[h/t Soldiers' Angels Network]