Almost two years ago I received an email from OAE's first veteran Eddie. It was beautifully written, well thought out and eloquent. I followed the email up with a phone call to a man who literally said 3 words throughout the entire conversation (I now lovingly refer to that phone call as one of the most painful 4 minutes of my life). Two weeks later I had the pleasure of finally meeting Ed when he arrived at my house for training. I approached to introduce myself and he immediately took one very obvious giant step away from me. I immediately thought, maybe I'm in over my head..... But we trucked on and it wasn't easy. I'm a pretty open person. I don't believe in awkward silences and I can strike up a conversation with anyone from anywhere like I have known them my whole life.. well almost anyone...Eddie was really hell bent on putting that part of my personality to the test. Lesson after lesson of few words and no eye contact; I used to lean down to try to catch his eye while he stared at the street and say "Is this your happy face?" Finally I just reached out to his wife, "I don't know what to do, he hates me and I need him to like me enough to let me help him" I was reassured that he liked me so we continued.

Almost two years later and Eddie is at an indoor water park with his family and his service dog Callie. He is texting me pictures and telling me that, while it's still hard, it's easier with her there because instead of worrying about shooters he is focused on his dog. He is hands down one of my most favorite people to talk to and spend time with. He is smart, observant and loyal and I am grateful everyday for our friendship and all the things he teaches me. It is truly amazing how much can change in two years.