The young soldier was ready. Just one more thing to do.
He tilted his laptop so the webcam centered his face on the screen. The worry lines and sad eyes had to go, so he took a breath and composed a smile. One more quick adjustment to his uniform, and he started recording.
ďHi Dylan. I hope thatís what your mom ended up naming you, cuz thatís the name we had picked out when I had to tell you goodbye, and thatís who youíll always be to me.
I wish I couldíve stayed around to find out if you ended up beiní a girl Dylan or a boy Dylan, but that donít really matter.
What matters is that you know who I am.
Iím your dad, Dylan, and youíre my kid.
I hate that Iím gonna miss all your birthdays, aní thatís why Iím makiní this. Since I canít be there in person, I figured this was the next best thing.
So happy birthday, kiddo.
If youíre a girl I'd have thrown you the best party and danced you around the room, laughin at the ribbons bouncin in your hair. Iíd plant a kiss on your forehead and wish you happy birthday under a spotlight.
If youíre a boy, Iíd have taken you to the ballgame and weíd pig out on hotdogs and peanuts and drink too much Coke. Aní Iíd have them spell out ďHappy Birthday, DylanĒ on the big screen.
Since I canít do those things, I want you to at least be able to see me an' hear me tell you. I promise Iím thinkiní Ďbout you right now, whether Iím in Heaven with Jesus, or stuck in a POW camp.
I wanna tell you why I had to go, aní I hope you understand.
See, Dylan, sometimes a personís got to make a choice. You gotta choose whatís most important for everyone, and you gotta trust that Godíll see you through.
To me, fightiní to keep our country free is really important.
Fightiní to keep other people free is just as important.
We got it good here, kiddo. At least we do now. I joined the service to help make sure it stays that way for you. Aní I know that over there thereís a daddy who loves his kids too.
If it means layiní down my life to save someone elseís...well, I wouldnít be the first one to do it. I figure yer momís raisiní you to know the Lord, so thatís all Iíll say about that.
Dylan, I love you so much it hurts, even though I've never met you. Itís a good hurt, though. A love hurt.
If youíre a girl, I know youíll feel that kind of hurt someday. And if you are a boy, I hope you do. I really hope you do, son.
I love you, Dylan. Happy birthday.Ē
The Soldier pressed STOP and wiped the back of his hand across his eyes. After logging onto his web mail, he composed his last love letter to his wife.
ďMy Sweet Dumplin,
You know I hope with all my heart that Iíll be back home with you for good in two years. Iíll be praying for that as long as Iím gone, and I know you will too.
But you also know thereís a chance I wonít come back.
This war wonít be over anytime soon, no matter what the media says. Thereís real fighting still going on, and people are still dying.
I made a video, just in case I donít make it home. Itís for Dylan. I want you to play it for him or her on the day he or she gets here, so my voice will be one of the first ones the kiddo hears. I probably won't be there for birthday number two, so play it for the kiddo then. And on every birthday after that if Iím not there for whatever reason.
I donít want Dylan to grow up not knowing me.
I love you my sweet apple Dumplin. And Iíll never stop. I hope to see you real soon.Ē
He attached the video and scheduled delivery for six months from today. After another swipe at his eyes, the young soldier shut down his computer, and stood to go.
The transport was waiting.
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