The Miami Dolphins could never win another game and I’d consider them the best team in the league every single year because of what they are doing on the field today.
They’re honoring a man who was just walking into the best of his life…serving his country, making his parents proud.
That was his goal. To make his parents proud. And he did, according to his father, a man I met on a recent airline flight.
It was a Southwest flight, so I got to pick where I sat once my number was called. By that point, many window seats were taken (my choice any time I get it), but there was one not too far back, with space above the seat to stow my rollaway. Plus, the guy who picked the aisle seat on that flight was wearing a Miami Dolphins cap. Done deal. I knew he was my kind of people.
He had his laptop out and was taking care of business, so he seemed annoyed when I stopped him long enough to let me move by to the window, but gave me a smile when I told him I liked his hat. Immediately, we formed a bond.
I let him know I grew up a ‘Fins fan and still cheered for the aqua and orange when they played.
I told him about my uncle, who named his dogs after the great player and Coach, Csonka and Shula, about my guy who grew up in Ohio, but as a child, pretended to be Marino, Duper and Clayton with his friends and was forever a Dolpins fan because of it. I told my new friend about how I treated my guy to tickets to the NFL Hall of Fame when Marino was inducted, along with our son.
And then, my new friend told me about his son.
About how they also were huge Dolphins fans, but lived in New Hampshire, so they typically only saw the Fins on the road. But he did get to bring his son to one game in SunLife Stadium—he’d planned it as a huge surprise. He described it all to me…landing at the airport and explaining they weren’t going to visit his grandma in a nearby city, but heading to a game to see their favorite team—in their home stadium. He described the trip into the pro shop where they spent a bundle on all the fan gear they could never find back home. He described it as a real father and son super day—the kind you dream of having with your kids, with his only son—where it’s all smiles and sunshine and memories to last a lifetime.
And the tears began to sneak out of his eyes as he shared just how happy he was to have had that time with him, because his son is now gone.
He died this past May. Just five months ago now. His father explained Cameron, it was the first time he used his name in the conversation, was only 26 years old, just launching his next step in life in his military career.
He’d just bought the orange (for the Dolphins) Jeep he’d always wanted. He was feeling good about everything about to come in life.
And then he was gone.
Just like that.
Some of his military friends alerted the Miami Dolphins that they’d lost one of their biggest fans. The team sent aqua and orange roses to his funeral.
And not just that. They also invited Cameron’s entire family to a game so that they could present him a military memorial on the field…the same field where his beloved Dolphins played their hearts out, where Cameron and his father cheered them on any given Sunday.
And that game is today. Cameron’s father, his mother, his entire family, will be there to see this happen first hand. Honored guests of the team.
His dad explained to me on the flight that he wasn’t sure how he’d be able to walk into the stadium again…where he and his son found so much happiness…where he’d never be able to take his son again. I know he’d exchange any on-field honor in a heartbeat just to hold his son again. But that can’t happen. So, he’ll hope to hold it together through the game, and hopefully find some joy in the moment for his son.
We hugged as I left the plane. Exchanged business cards. I knew I’d never forget him, or his son.
I’d give anything to be there to witness this with my new friend, but I know this moment isn’t about me. It’s about Cameron. And Cameron’s family. And one amazing football team honoring its fans, even after they’re gone.
Miami Dolphins Number One! Maybe not in the standings, but definitely when it comes to heart.