The destruction was everywhere, shattered pieces of my life blown to bits by an unexpected turn of events that left my ears ringing and me struggling to make out what was still left. My familiar surroundings no longer seemed very familiar and I was looking for anything that might point me in the direction of safety, a place to assess the damage, and the air cover to begin putting the pieces back together.
That’s when a guy I’d never met before walked into my life, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “I’ve got you.”
Almost two years ago as my marriage fell apart seemingly overnight, I was in a rough spot. I was keeping it together on the outside but destroyed internally and didn’t have much understanding of what came next. Disappearing onto an Eat, Pray, Love tour of the world and not leaving a forwarding address seemed like it would make the most sense at the time. But until I figured out how to skip town and minimize the damage I’d leave behind, I kept showing up for events and at places I knew close friends would be because they were the only constant that I had at that time.
And at one such event, I met a friend of a friend named Perfecto Sanchez. We knew nothing about each other and, aside from our friends that introduced us, not much about either of our backgrounds had that much in common either. But when I told my two friends what was going on in my world, I also mentioned it to Perfecto just so he’d be in the loop. Little did I know that Perfecto has a storied history of leaving no man behind.
Almost immediately, Perfecto tossed me on his proverbial shoulders and made sure I didn’t stay in the bombed out remanence of my most recent version of life. On Christmas day a few weeks later, he refused to let me play Ebenezer Scrooge and drug me out of my house to celebrate the day with his friends in deep Brooklyn. A few months after that, he would open his house to me and let me crash until I got my own apartment situation sorted out and we'd then take off for surf lessons in Costa Rica to ring in the new year. Just a couple months ago, we drove across the country for the #Americais tour bringing awareness to leadership, innovation, and entrepreneurship on our way to SXSW.
I’ve never become such good friends with anyone as quickly as I have with Perfecto. And as I started to find my grounding again, I started to understand and see where Perfecto’s loyalty and life philosophy extended far beyond random new friends and way back to life long history of family and friends.
Perfecto is from New York City and has “families” all over the 5 boroughs. It took me a long time to figure out which ones were blood-related families and which ones weren’t. But another family that Perfecto is a part of is the family that I am most honored to have seen him be a part of. Perfecto graduated top of his class at West Point and then served on two tours in Iraq. His heroics there led the Discovery Channel to produce a documentary about his leadership and service and commitment to those under his command. I had the privilege of attending the opening night of his 10 year reunion at West Point last year and I got to see the looks on the faces of those that he served with when they were reunited for the first time in a long time.
And it is with the same love and loyalty I know he led those men through life and death situations in conflicts across the globe that he did what ever he knew how to begin showing me a new kind of freedom in my own life.
Today, Memorial Day, my gratitude extends to a man who’s life creed now represents what #Americais to me: Any time, Any place, Anything for Freedom, Friends, and Family.