Words cannot begin to describe the amount of gratitude and appreciation that I have towards our United States military. Coming from a family of military veterans and, more recently, a fiancé serving overseas, I've always known the great sacrifice that these men and women make selflessly for our country. But having the opportunity to spend a week in Diego Garcia has opened my eyes to an even bigger picture of what the sacrifice entails.
The men and women on Navy Support Facility Diego Garcia are given year-long contracts to this island that is 31 miles from tip to tip. It is in the middle of the Indian Ocean with zero cell-phone service and minimal Wi-Fi, leaving them with little to no connection to the outside world. They have to leave behind their families and their friends and they get placed on this island with one restaurant, one store and not much else. Being able to talk with them and build connections, you see their eyes light up when they talk about their kids back home or their spouses who are waiting for them. Their eyes also light up when they talk about the pride that they have for the United States and how the sacrifices they're making are worth it for the protection of our country.
Having experiences like this and seeing firsthand what our military does showed me that there are never enough "Thanks" I could give or enough ways to show my gratitude. For them, us being there was a morale booster. There were new faces on the island and new people to talk to. They were all so thankful for us coming, but I couldn't help but think how ironic it was when I was the one beyond grateful for all of them. Everyone was so excited to show us what their role and job was on the island and I learned so much more than I already knew about how important each and every aspect is. I also couldn't believe it when they all woke up to join us at 5 a.m. for Super Bowl Monday but I guess that is one thing all Americans can agree on.
I left Diego Garcia with a full heart and more pride and gratitude for our military than I thought possible. I will carry with me the many connections created, the stories shared and the memories made for the rest of my life.
- DBC Nikki