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In 2006, our lives intersected with a woman named Maya. She was a stranger to us, but we met her in an incredibly vulnerable moment, and that tends to connect people in a way that is transcendent.

Steve was sent by the Navy to be with her right after she was notified that her husband, Marc, had been killed in Ramadie. He was the first SEAL killed in Iraq. I see now that part of the shock of this loss then and even still today is because these men—the men in his platoon and task unit—were believed to be indestructible. Hero-gods. Then Marc was lost. Then others.

Steve escorted Maya back to San Diego and sat beside her at Marc’s funeral and memorial service. I sat a few rows back at both services, trying to breathe. Feeling like there weren’t enough words in the world to assuage one second of this loss.

Huge pictures of this gorgeous young man. Uniforms everywhere. Bagpipes. A 25 year old widow.

In the last almost-7 years since we met Maya, we’ve seen her now and then. We saw her recently at a building dedication at the SEAL complex where a huge facility has been named in Marc’s honor. She was radiant and gracious, as always.

Every year, since 2006, on this day in May, I think of Maya. I think of the extraordinary courage required to endure the grief she has endured.

Loss is not nameless and faceless. Loss is the most personal and intimate of human experiences.

If you’ve watched someone mourn or if you have mourned a grief this primal, then you know.

Today, our country honors those who have raised their hand and gone forward for the fight. We honor those who believe the cause is worth the cost. We honor those who have given, ultimately.

But I, quietly in my heart, honor those who have walked the worn path of grief. Those who have endured the loss in the most personal way. Those who sent off their person and didn’t get them back. I honor the ones left to pick up the pieces. The ones who are still here, remembering.

The Scriptures say that those who mourn are blessed because they will be comforted. God, be near the brokenhearted.

Today, I remember the mourners. They are my heroes.

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