“Do all the men of the universe a favor and wear your hair like that for the rest of your life.”
In the rolling, wooded hills of Hamilton, Georgia, it was a cold Monday in December 2007. As the three sisters scurried around the house getting ready for Emma’s wedding, the letter arrived postmarked November 21, obviously sent from a mail collection point near a combat outpost in Iraq.
The handwritten message where a stamp normally would have been was apparent: Free mail, Go Gators!
On the other side of the envelope where the flap was, another handwritten message:
Axis of Evil: Iran, N. Korea, Auburn, LSU, Georgia.
As the mail was delivered, the busy house stood still to read the contents of this particular letter. Anyone under roof who took one look could instantly identify the envelope as an RSVP to Emma’s wedding from none other than sister Kathryn’s unspoken love, Florida Gator Superfan Capt. Adam Snyder of Fort Campbell’s 101st Airborne Division.
Three years earlier, it was probably one of the toughest days of Ranger School for Adam. Instead of being in the mountains of Dahlonega with his brothers, he was held back for an accidental discharge of weapon, an infraction he knew he did not commit.
A close friend with rank, found out about it and went to bat for him, demanding to speak to the Brigade Commander on his behalf.
“Can you attest to this Lieutenant’s character and integrity?” the Commander asked.
“I’d put my rank on the line,” said the friend.
The Commander agreed to have Lt. Snyder take a polygraph test to determine if he was lying about the accidental discharge.
The interrogating agent asked whether he had ever done anything bad and seemed to be pleased when Snyder answered yes.
“Once, McDonalds gave me an extra hamburger in my bag and I didn’t pay for it.”
The agent became extremely angry and continued to press Adam with intimidating questions, only to find out that he had never lied about anything, most especially misfiring his weapon.
So that Monday of December 2007, there was a hush in the room as Emma’s RSVP was opened. It read:
Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Thank you for sending me Emma’s wedding invitation. Unfortunately, President Bush has me on a great mission against terror and I cannot attend. Please send me an email on how I can get them a wedding gift.—Adam.
Though it was supposed to be the most joyous of times, tears filled the eyes of everyone in the room, but most especially Kathryn. Adam had been killed in action five days earlier.
She remembered his words when she had once enclosed a picture of herself in a letter. Do all the men of the universe a favor and wear your hair like that for the rest of your life.
Kathryn attended Adam’s funeral where the hero was laid to rest with the picture she sent tucked close to his heart, underneath full military accoutrement. Within a few hours of the funeral, she stood as Emma’s Maid of Honor. One sister’s happiest day was another’s saddest, but Kathryn was a tower of strength.
Life has a funny way of creating new pathways when we least expect it. After Adam’s death, Kathryn did what few would have the courage to do when she finished Adam’s mission of service and enlisted in the Air Force.
Shortly after her return, God sent her a Boaz. A simple and pure love, down on one knee on Santa Rosa Beach, “Will you marry me?” he said. And her life began as she knows it today.
She is happily married with a husband who adores her, three precious children, and a lot of memories behind her, but there is rarely time to look back. Kathryn’s life journey has inspired many who have also endured the unexpected storms of life. Challenged to learn a little more about how God works, her example proves the loving nature of a God who restores and never leaves us alone. It was a testimony to everyone she knew that there are always two shadows in the valley of death.
In loving memory, Capt. Adam Paulson Snyder (1981-2007), for his faithful sacrifice to God and country. 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 1st Brigade Combat Team (Bastogne), 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Platoon, A-Company.