Monday, July 4, 2011

Brothers, Baseball, and Beer: The Airman and the Marine

Sometimes it’s all right for men to cry.

I was standing next to my younger brother Patrick, who was decked out in his dress blue Air Force uniform, as we waited for his soul mate Kerry to make her way down the aisle. As the bridesmaids and groomsmen, who included Kerry’s sons Tyler and Cody and her daughter Amber, found their places to the left and right of Patrick and I, I thought back to all times I’ve spent with my brother. All of the memories of backyard baseball games, poker nights, The West Wing marathons, New York trips, and even petty fights over who got to sit next to my mother during movie nights came back to me in a flood. 

So often, it’s the older brother's job it to show the younger one how to be a man. During the past few months, it’s been the other way. I stood by my brother’s side as he became a part of a wonderful family, and continued the Ford legacy of being a good man. I felt my heart swell and knew I was going to have to force tears from my eyes.
Patrick and I waiting for his bride
Here I was the best man, whose job it was to keep the groom upright and nerve-free, and I was losing it.

As it turns out, I was not going to be alone in my emotions for long.

From my place beside an Airman, I watched a Marine redefine heroism and courage. Kerry’s brother was badly hurt overseas but was hell bent on walking his sister down the aisle. He was also in his dress uniform with his medals proudly hanging from his chest. He struggled maneuvering his crutches over the wet and uneven grass, and gave a sigh of exasperation as he finally settled into his wheelchair, unable to make the trip upright. Kerry wrapped her arms around her brother and held him in a long embrace, making sure that he knew it was not a defeat. He wheeled steadfastly next to her down the aisle to give her away to my brother.
Josh and Kerry
Before taking his soon-to-be bride’s hand, Patrick stepped in front of Kerry’s brother, stood at attention, and offered a crisp salute. The Marine crisply returned one.

There was not a dry eye in sight.

I didn’t try to force the tears back or make it seem like I wasn’t crying. I just let the tears fall freely. I’ve been lucky in life to be constantly surrounded by good men, but moments like this ensure that I never take it for granted.

I wish I had added one more thing to my best man speech, which I’m sharing with you in this blog. Life is made up of moments that remind us how much good everyone of us has inside, and those moments should be treasured and remembered forever. Thanks to an Airman, a Marine, and a glowing bride, I have plenty.

And, sometimes it’s all right for men to cry.
Patrick and Josh
Good Men and Women

Good evening.

I'm the middle child, so this is a big moment for me.

I’d like to share with you a quote from a letter I found while writing this speech.

“I don’t know how much pleasure it affords you to go over these days of the past, but to me they will ever be remembered as days of felicity. And how happy the thought that years increase the affection and esteem we have for each other to love and be loved. May it ever be so, and may I ever be a husband worthy of your warmest affections. May I make you happy and in so doing be made happy in return.”

Harvey Black, a surgeon in charge of the field hospital for the 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia during the Civil War, used these words to express his love to his wife Mary from the battlefield in 1863. Despite being written almost 150 years ago, they still beautifully express the sentiments that we came together to celebrate; fidelity, happiness, and love.

When Patrick was sent on missions to Afghanistan the past few months, Kerry expressed to me her worry that the Air Force would conveniently schedule a return trip that would force her man to miss their wedding. I reassured her that he’d be there no matter what.

You see, the Fords have a legacy of going AWOL to get married. That’s just what my grandfather did before he was shipped off to World War II. He was going to be there for the woman he loved by any means necessary, and that’s a trait he’s passed down to his grandsons.

Needless to say, I’ve never been more excited to tell someone “I told you so.” And I’m sure Pat’s relieved that he didn’t have to break any laws to be here.

My brothers and I were lucky enough to be born into a family defined by good men. Our father, our grandfathers and uncles on both sides of our family, are all men who value honor, trust, and dedication to their families above all else. Pat, never forget these good men that came before you and the place that you hold in that legacy, especially since you put on that uniform. No matter how hard life might get, these men, those that are with us and those that aren’t, support you.
In the presence of good men: Me, Patrick, Cody, Tom, and Tyler
The Ford family has also been blessed with strong women. I’m sure most, if not all, of you in this room have met my mother. She’ll be the first to tell you that without women like her, as well as our grandmothers and aunts, that the Ford men would be lost in the tall grass. Kerry, it’s been an absolute joy getting to you know, and I’m proud that you’ll be joining these amazing women. I know that you’ll keep Pat on the right path all of his life. He’s my best friend. I’ve gotten him this far; you’ve got him the rest of the way.
Kerry and Patrick
Regardless of all the family support you’ll have throughout your marriage, it’s up to you two to protect and grow your love. Everyone in this room will tell you that it’s not going to be easy all the time. Life isn’t supposed to be. Every kiss, every hug, every good moment is made that much sweeter by persevering through every fight, every hurt feeling, and every moment of doubt. You two are a team. You will get through everything together. Trust in each other, respect each other, and love each other.

So let’s raise a glass to a good man and a good woman. I love you both, and I wish you the best of luck.
The Airman and the Best Man

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