As a reporter–and a curious person in general, I’m usually the one asking questions. It’s rare that someone asks me anything personal–anything about me or my life.

So last night, when Sgt. Tirsa Cole talked to me, I felt like I’d found water after crossing the Sahara.

I walked into the room the female soldiers share and she was watching a TV show on her laptop. She looked at me and we started chatting. She asked: Do you have any children?

No. No children.

Married? No never married.

I was truly touched that she asked such personal questions. And those questions led to my answers about why I never married and the men in my life. The great love of my life. The life I have led. My career. The choices I made about my career.

It wasn’t a long conversation…though it was sweet and I’ll treasure it.

There’s a greeting among the Zulu in southern Africa. It translates as “I see you.” And the response is “I am here.”

I love this expression. When I ask questions…and especially when I listen to people’s answers, to their stories, it’s my way of saying “I see you.”

I know many people don’t like reporters. Soldiers don’t necessarily like reporters…they have a healthy skepticism of or a downright disdain for our motives and methods. Some are wary around me. Some keep their guard up. I understand.

However, those who choose to trust me, who choose to speak to me from their hearts…or from other places…who aren’t afraid or ashamed to share the stories of the girl back home or the wallpaper of photos of girls wearing next to nothing (that they’d never bring home)…I want those soldiers to know that “I see you.”

When I smile at you when you return from patrol, I see you.

When I listen to the story of the men–young men, boys–you’ve lost under your command, I see you.

When I walk behind you in a line and laugh at all your bawdy jokes, I see you.

When you talk about the pride you have in your soldiers, I see you.

When you talk about your lousy day, I see you.

When you talk about your wife and the dress she wants to buy for the ball, I see you.

When you sit in the MWR and try like hell to complete a phone conversation with the woman you love, I see you.

When you bow your head in prayer and say grace at the start of your day or before a meal, I see you.

I see you. All of you. Whether you see me or not.

Thank you, Sgt. Cole, for the gift of your questions and listening to my answers.

Thank you for seeing me.

I am here.

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