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Summer is winding down in Buffalo. When I think of summer, I think of end of the year barbecues, the sun drifting lazily over the lake, spontaneous thunderstorms, and night swimming.
I moved to Buffalo in 1997, when I was 9 years old. After decades of Army-sponsored globetrotting, my mother and father decided it was time to move back home. They wanted to reunite our family in the land of the Bills, blizzards and Labatt Blue. We moved to our new home Dec. 5, and winter was already in full swing.
The weather gave us a genuine Buffalo greeting and our moving day was met with several feet of snow and near white-out conditions.
Of course, weather is just a part of life in Buffalo, and there was no amount of snow great enough to keep away our welcoming party. The whole family showed up to welcome home its prodigal members. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, neighbors; everyone was there to help us move in.
My father, who is not originally from Buffalo, always says the best people on the planet are from Buffalo. They are salt of the earth type of people: hard working, well grounded, loving. It was the people of Buffalo - my family, friends and neighbors - who helped me grow from child to adult. I graduated elementary school, middle school, high school and college in Western New York.
After college, I decided it was time to give back to the people who had given me so much. With a brand new degree in nursing, I joined the Air Force and waited to see what life would bring. I knew I would miss Buffalo very much, but I couldn't help but feel that I had to give the rest of the world a try, too.
I've heard people say that no matter where you go, you can find a Buffalonian. Two days into my Air Force training in Alabama, I met a woman from Buffalo. She was a doctor, assigned to a hospital in the South. Shortly after that, the Air Force sent me to California. I met a man at a bar from Buffalo. We lamented over the impossibility of finding good wings, the delusions of the Raiders and Niners football fans, and the families we had left back home.
And now, three months into my Afghanistan deployment as a nurse, I have met more than one Buffalonian. Some were healthy, some were not. Sometimes I have helped care for men wrapped in gauze and breathing through tubes, only to see their names again days later in the local news online.
Summer is still upon us here in Afghanistan. It's unbearably hot and dry. Some days, it's so sandy you can barely see down the road. But despite these complaints, I am, for all intents and purposes, safe. I'm "inside the wire" in an air-conditioned medical facility. I don't have to worry about stepping on an IED or being shot at from a darkened window when walking down the street.
I think about Buffalo and the people there every day. Buffalo is my home. The city and its people are what have made me who I am. Never forget to appreciate where you are, because chances are, you could be someplace far worse. In my safe haven, I remind myself of that every day.