Three Years Later

It was early summer of 2009 just off the shore of Paros, an island in the Cyclades.  I stood on a ferry and looked out on rugged brown hills, a stark contrast to the pale blue sky.  White buildings dotted the landscape, grouped near the pier and slowly dwindling in number as they reached up into the hills.  The image reminiscent of sea foam as it breaks upon a rocky shore.

I took in this beautiful scene and sighed.  For this was not the beginning of a story, but the end of one; the last day of my semester studying abroad in Greece.  As the ferry sailed farther away and the island shrank into the distance my thoughts drifted back over the last three months.  I remembered my nervous excitement the day my flight landed in Athens.  I remembered meeting the thirty strangers that were to be my companions for the semester and the awkward introductions that followed.  The seemingly mandatory questions that everyone asks: Where are you from?  What school do you go to?  What’s your major?  I remembered walked around Athens together that first day, masking our exhaustion from the ten hour flight with caffeine.  We carefully tiptoed around each other as we tried not to reveal anything ‘weird’ about ourselves.

It seemed odd that these people, these friends that I now know so well, could have at one point been so foreign to me.  By the time I left the island I had spent nearly every waking moment with them.  Whether it be in class, exploring the island, relaxing on the beach, visiting other islands in Greece or even just hanging out in our apartments cooking dinner.  I got to know Mia’s mood by the type of music blasting through her door.  I learned about Matt’s life through our philosophical discussions during late night backgammon matches.  Allison was always ready for an adventure and at night you could usually find Adam cracking jokes over a glass of Mythos (Greek beer) at the bar.

To be so suddenly taken away from the constant companionship of my friends was a strange thing.  When I flew back to Connecticut for the summer I found that I had this void in my life.  All those people who, weeks before, I could walk down the hallway and knock on their door were now spread across the states.  If I had been born ten years earlier and gone on the exact same trip there is a good chance that I would never have spoken to most of my friends from Greece again.  I am sure that we would have exchanged the occasional letter, but as time went on and we moved into different stages in our lives we would have eventually lost touch.

Thankfully, today we live in an age of social media.  Smart phones, Facebook and Twitter have allowed me to stay connected with all of my friends.  I don’t think I need to explain the inner workings of Facebook and Twitter as I am sure than anyone reading this has, at the very least, a basic working knowledge of these sites.  But through Facebook I can send a short message every couple of weeks to find out how everyone is doing or I will check out their page to see what they’re up to.  I can look at their Twitter updates to see how they’re doing on any particular day.

A couple months after I left Greece I used Facebook to make plans to visit Mia at her school in Maryland.  When I came out to California, three years later, I saw through Facebook that six of my friends from Greece live near where I am staying and in the three weeks since I flew out here I have met up with all of them.

Studying abroad in Greece was a once in a lifetime opportunity, the memories of my time there will never fade and, thanks to Facebook, neither will the friendships I made.

Non-Profit Matches Veterans with Therapy Dogs for Life Changing Support

** In celebration of "National Pets For Vets Day", we wanted to share this heart warming story about how a service dog is helping a Vet with PTSD **

Brett Simon was a veteran K9 police officer who went on to work as a contractor for the Department of the Army as a bomb dog handler. However, after serving two tours in Iraq, he returned home suffering from PTSD.

Led by his Mom, Shari Duval, who had worked for veteran's charities near their home in Jacksonville Florida, Brett's family undertook two years of research to find a solution to help Brett and others with this condition.

Their research focused on canine assistance for PTSD. Ultimately, they started a non-profit organization. K9s For Warriors, dedicated to providing service dogs to warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress and/or traumatic brain injury as a result of their military service (post 9/11).

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