My Job Taught Me What Love Is


I work for a nonprofit organization that builds specially adapted homes for our Nation’s most severely injured veterans. These men and women are post 9/11 veterans who have suffered extensive combat related injuries. These are those who spend most if not all of their day in a wheelchair. These are those who have lost one or multiple limbs, in an IED blast more often than not. These are those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries or paralysis. These are America’s heroes who have sacrificed more than I will ever fully be able to understand let alone put into words.

Before I meet them I see their pictures and I read their stories. In one of the first pictures there is a young man and his girlfriend. They are both smiling on a trip somewhere, both so young she still has braces on her teeth. The next picture is their wedding, looking into each other’s eyes being so thrilled by the reality of getting to spend their lives together. In the next he is standing tall and proud, and ready in his uniform, her hand squeezing his, both still smiling. The next one he is somewhere else, thousands of miles away standing on foreign soil, gun in hand. In the next few there are hospital beds, and tubes, and wires, an entire family standing around a man who can barely move. A uniformed man stands next to the hospital bed handing the soldier his Purple Heart.

She is always there. She is in the pictures where he lays there asleep with machines keeping him going. She is in the ones where he first starts to sit up, weak and frail. She is in one holding a birthday cupcake with the number 26 candle stuck in it at his hospital bedside. She is there when he becomes strong again, when he leaves that bed and can push himself in his wheelchair. She is there nearly two years later, when he finally gets to go home. She is always there.

This is what love is. It is being someone’s strength when they don’t have their own. It is being so grateful just to have this person be alive that no matter the sacrifice, or the cost, or the hardship it may entail – you never question your dedication to them. Love is knowing that even if every single day of your life isn’t going to be an easy one, it doesn’t matter because you have that person there. I look at this couple and I don’t see that look from their wedding day. I see so much more. I see two people who EACH fight for each other every day. I see two people who know to never take each other for granted because they know what it feels like to almost not have that second chance at forever. I see two people who every time they look at each other there is more love there than there was the day before.

In today’s world people have become so consumed with the fantasy of a wedding and getting married and the “Happily Ever After”. Some have lost sight of what that commitment is truly intended to be. People today sometimes marry for the wrong reasons, they settle. People argue and fight and let petty things ruin their relationships. Others fight with everything they have and overcome even the hardest of obstacles. I have seen the real thing, true, unconditional love – and it knows no boundaries. It can overcome all hardships. As cliché as it sounds love can conquer all. THAT love, is the kind worth fighting for. That love, is the kind worth waiting for.

Check out Ashley’s new Thought Catalog Book here.

image – kenny barker