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Dear Chief Byers,

My heart is very proud.


As I read this morning, that Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward Byers will be awarded the Medal of Honor by President Obama on February 29.


What an unbelievable day it must be for him, for the entire community that makes up the elite group we know as, the United States Navy SEALs.


As I continue on in my journey of sharing what this community means to me, I have had the privilege of meeting many of the men, women and children that make up this group.


I am always astounded at the level of courage, strength and fortitude with which the ENTIRE community operates.


It’s inspiring, motivating and always leaves me in tears. Every single time.


Until January 25, 2012, I had never really even thought about US Navy SEALs and what they meant. It’s embarrassing to admit, but all I ever really knew about SEAL Team VI was their success in ridding the world of Osama Bin Laden.


But it’s been four years now since I became intimately acquainted with our US Navy SEALs, and I tell you, I CAN NOT nor will I EVER forget.


I think about them everyday. Usually when I’m watching my children play together or when I am in the company of good friends. I am acutely aware of how closely I came to never getting to experience any of it.

As I watch the news clips about Chief Byers, I also can’t help but wonder, in the deepest parts of my heart, “Was he there that night?”


If I do my math correctly, Chief Byers most certainly could have been. It’s a strange feeling to stare at his picture in the newspaper and wonder if I’ve ever seen that face before.


Was he among the many who parachuted into the dead of a moonless night, walked twelve plus miles into a camp of drugged out, crazy pirates, and found two hostages, huddled under blankets, sick, terrorized, and at the end of their mental ropes?


Was he the one who offered me clean water and medicine when I was so very sick and in so much pain, weak from infection, riddling my starving body?


Maybe he was the one who offered to go back and get my Birkenstocks because he knew we had a long walk ahead of us, and when asked, went back into carnage, TWICE, to bring back a small black powder bag upon my bold and most insane request.


Was he part of the group that piled on top of me, to shield me, while we waited for the Black Hawks to come in and whisk us away from hell?


It’s difficult to believe that I can’t remember, but in the most extreme circumstances I will ever experience in my life, I was in so much disbelief that I was actually still living- I could hardly put two words together and remember my own name, let alone anyone else’s.


Or their faces.


They were covered, for a while, and then they weren’t.


But still, I sit here, wracking my brain…..


It could have been him, who was shaking my shoulders and pulling the blanket away from my face, delivering the message that I was, after 93 days, FINALLY FREE.


It could have been him, that brought be back to a full and beautiful life- in which I now get to walk safely, the sidewalks of my suburban neighborhood, waving a normal hello to neighbors, breathing in the fresh air of American freedom as I take my little one to school?


If I sit back and think long and hard about it, it probably doesn’t make sense. He was in Afghanistan only weeks before I was successfully rescued in Somalia. Chances of him being sent on two massively risky operations in two different regions, so close together, could be pretty low, I would imagine. Or maybe not.

I’ll never know.


What I DO know, however, is that while it may not have been Chief Byers forming a human shield around me while I laid on the cold desert ground, shaking with such immense relief at being found ALIVE, it was BECAUSE OF HIM, that I was able to limp myself to the Black Hawks, and slump against the side, tearfully whispering the truth to myself: It was all FINALLY OVER.


Because of Chief Byers, and all of his brothers and colleagues, because of their beautiful wives and faithful families, humanitarians such as Mr. Joseph, and myself, get to continue living, having been given the unique task of making sure everyone knows what these men are capable of, what they have done for us, and what they will continue to do for our country.


After having spent so much time with some of our nation’s finest, I can GUARANTEE you, as Chief Byers humbly accepts the Medal of Honor for his acts of valor for the rescue of an American citizen, it won’t just be him standing up there.


He will bring with him the spirit of one courageous man, one step ahead of him, who took the first bullet, and he will bring with him the commitment of those who are out there right now, working tirelessly to make us one of the safest and freest countries in the world.


It may be about him for those few moments, as it should be.


But, when he was lying on top of that American hostage, in the rubble of an Afghani tomb, and when the soldier who swooped me up, over his shoulder, running with me out of captivity and back to a life of my own, he did it for ALL OF US.


He would do it for any of us, and he would do it all again, in a heartbeat.

Because that’s what they do.


And that’s why I’m here.


Thank you, Chief Special Warfare Operator Byers, and to ALL OF YOU, even if I don’t know who you are, for continually putting your lives on the line, and for sacrificing so much so that we can live ours.


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Jessica Buchanan © 2017

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