First Published January 20, 2012
This bracelet honors a true American Hero. 1LT. Jacob Fritz. Five years ago today he was Killed In Action. Five years ago today I lost one of my best friends. Jake and I always had this bond. I couldn't tell you what it was. We were opposites. He was laid back, conservative, a leader and I was high strung, wild and liberal. We always joked about our "politics" yet NEVER once downed each other about it. He loved me for me, the good, bad and ugly. I loved him for him...never bad or ugly. I have 1,001 stories about Jake. I like to keep some buried deep in my heart for myself on days like today. Some, I love to share because they paint the perfect picture of who he was and why we all loved him.
Jake and I had these crazy nicknames for each other, HTG. LOL. They were for us, and still, make me laugh today. He came up with them as a code when we wrote silly notes to each other at school. (I'm so lucky we grew up in the time of notes and not texts, I can still look at these anytime I want, Blessed)
When I was in High school, I was out of control to put it lightly. It was Jake who gave me a good "talking to" when I ended up at the police station one night. He never got angry or asked why did you do something so stupid? He just sweetly tried to get me on the right path.
The car, oh the times we had just driving and talking. That car makes my heart sink, and soar at the same time. I get a pang of grief, followed by a smile when I see it. When I see his brother in it, it takes my breath away and takes me back 13 years. I see him in his football jersey parked in the driveway grinning yelling, come on...lets go for a drive before the game. (Blessed) OR, Let's slide down the roof of that barn for fun before I leave for West Point. I ended up with torn clothes, cuts everywhere and a stomach ache from laughing so hard. (Blessed)
At 16 I decided I was going to move out of my town of 100 people and to NYC. This is logical right? LOL Its super easy to just pack up and find a Carrie Bradshaw apartment that is affordable. It was Jake who had reminded me; I need a college degree, money and strength to live out this dream. And when I decided to fall in love and get married instead of going to College, it was Jake who promised to be there, no matter what. He said he would come back from West Point to be there and support me as long as I promised to think about going to College. I promised, and when I got married on 9-11, he was there. I was married in a small park that only sat about 100 people. We didn't invite many friends because family filled it up. I invited Jake, knowing he would find a way to be there. And as I stood saying my vows, I saw him walking up the hill in his uniform. His grandfather had passed away, and he left right after the funeral to keep his promise. Through his grief, he celebrated my love. (blessed)
When my son was born, Jake came to visit during the summer. He was in town because he drove his little brother to swim lessons and stopped by a few times a week to visit. One of these visits I was so sick with the flu that I didn't make it out of the bathroom the entire time he was there. This was the summer before he left to go to Iraq. He sat by the bathroom door talking to me while my head was in the toilet. (Blessed) One of the other times, he got on the floor and "army crawled" with my son. My little guy didn't crawl, he drug himself, and Jake showed him how it was done. :) My little guy, "Army Crawled" for a long time after that. My son loves that story. He loves Military Guys and thinks its pretty cool that a real life Army Hero showed him how to crawl. (Blessed)
A week before he passed away. He called me. (Blessed) The connection was terrible, and the delay was infuriating. He wanted to give me a hard time about my childhood home. His friends had moved into it and found my "I LOVE JACOB" shrine painted on the back of my closet. He laughed, I was embarrassed, but finally I had a good laugh about it. After about 10 minutes the static and delay were so bad that I couldn't hear him and I yelled that I couldn't hear a thing and I would email him or my space him. There was no reply, so I just hung up. The guilt eats me alive. I gave up. If I had known that would be the last time, I would have kept trying until it was clearer. Why did I give up so easily?
And on the day he passed away, I woke up and turned on CNN. There was a helicopter crash that killed five soldiers. I jumped on Myspace and sent him a message. A few hours later I got a reply; all was fine. Then, I got the call from my brother-in-law. I knew it wasn't true; he said he was fine. ALL WAS FINE.
Things I do to help others is my way of honoring him. I try to do what he would do in certain situations. I know he would have been proud of work I have done over the years, My "causes" and craziness. Sure, there are times during my "causes" I cuss and lose my temper but, if he were here, he would just get a bit frustrated with me and laugh. I wore my bracelet when I worked in Joplin, proud of his presence in my life through some of the things I do and don't do.
He was my best advisor. He was my greatest confidant, the only person in the world who heard what I had to say and never once got mad or judged me. He was my friend. He was my husband's friend. He was everyone's friend. We all have stories to share about the boy with the bluest eyes and biggest smile. Mine are mine; they are MY stories, OUR stories, MY memories and that is pretty great, and makes me the most blessed girl in the world.