Do you know a soldier who returned from the war in Iraq?
We do…he’s our next-door neighbor!
A soldier who enlisted at the age of 18, Dave is now just 23 years old. But he has seen more in his short life than any of us can possibly imagine.
When he first moved in, the neighbors “talked”—as neighbors sometimes do! Dave was quiet, kept to himself, rarely talked, and only spoke when getting the mail or tending to his garden. He was recovering from severe leg injuries that almost required amputation of his left leg. And while at Walter Reed Naval Hospital when the news was given that he would most surely lose his leg, his young wife left him. She didn’t want to be married to a “cripple.”
Dave was devastated. Not only had he served two tours of duty in Iraq, saw too many of his fellow soldiers die in combat, but now he was fighting for his own life, and—yet—his wife still wanted a divorce.
In the spring of this year, my husband walked over to Dave’s house and asked about some shrubs that he had just planted. It was the beginning of a growing friendship. Every day, Mark watched as Dave transformed the front and backyard of his home into “Paradise Lost.” He put in waterfalls, ponds, two decks, a fire pit, and totally transformed the corner lot. Then he set out to revitalize the neighborhood: he landscaped his neighbor’s yard, landscaped our front yard, the corner lot, and built another deck for a friend. Now when you turn the corner to our street, it looks like “Better Homes and Gardens.”
Dave grew up with gardening. His father owns one of the largest landscaping companies in the county. But when asked why he does what he does for free. He responds, “There’s something about seeing beauty come to life.”
Out of the ashes of his life—horrors unspeakable—this soldier stands as a proud beacon to our freedom. The “unknown soldier” is a welcome part of our neighborhood: the rumors have FINALLY stopped. Sure, there are still some folks who don’t accept Dave, but that’s their loss and our gain!
Dave was instrumental in my hubby’s recovery from his broken hip: Everyday he brought over his beloved lab, Sage, as a therapy dog; took Mark fishing in celebration of his “move” from the walker to the cane; invited us over for barbecues and most importantly, gave us a beautiful view out our front window—a reminder of what God can do in all of our lives…"trading ashes for roses."
On this Fourth of July, we will spend the afternoon in Dave’s tranquil backyard, grilling steaks, and then go to a nearby farm to have our own private fireworks display in celebration of the freedom we all enjoy because of soldiers like Dave!
Enjoy some beauty from our garden, thanks to Dave!
Fourth of July, soldiers, freedom, gardening, friendships