The first time I realized how important my dad was to the world and to me was on a crisp, cool autumn evening as we walked hand in hand down the dirt road connecting our house and our horse barn. I was only 7 years old then, yet at age 22, the distant dream-like memory of a little girl and her dad from that lifetime ago still sparks the deepest and most powerful emotions I have ever felt. “I have been called up by the military to deploy to Afghanistan for about a year. I will be safe, and I don’t want you to be scared at all. Mom is going to take care of you and your brother while I am gone. I will be leaving at the beginning of January.” I was never one to act overly concerned or confused when my parents had serious conversations with me. The pride and patriotism swelling in his heart that day was displayed clearly in the way he walked. I mimicked that walk as I looked up at him, his face that could be identified as authoritative by a passing stranger, his mustache the staple of his deeply rooted love for riding horses, and his eyes always flickering with the slightest bit of sarcasm. I didn’t ask questions. I just put on the intense and fearless face that I inherited from him and that was that. But something changed inside me in that moment of maturity, and I had no idea how large it would grow or that it would be the beginning of a newly planted seed of passion for the rest of my life. It is true that time has the power to override feelings, and with time my mom, brother, and I settled into a world where his deployment became a second nature. But no distance will ever be able to dampen the intensity of the feelings that are so big you are not able to hide them inside. Instead you become the little girl who cries in elementary school during the prayer or when the class is making cards for deployed soldiers, the one who cries during the veteran’s day video at a pep rally, the one who cries during the homecoming football game half-time show at the sound of “God Bless the USA”, the one who sobs during American Sniper in the middle of a dark movie theatre.