I used to think of heroes as older than me. In the last year or so I realized this is not always the case. My daughter went to a very small Christian school. She had a graduating class of 35. So everyone knew everyone really well.
I first met Rudy when he and my daughter were in the eighth grade. I decided to go on the eighth grade Washington, D.C trip. It really was kind of selfish on my part. I love history and I had never been there. There were a lot of boys on that trip. I had not had a ton of experience with thirteen year old boys at the time but I did notice they were loud and had a lot of energy. They got in trouble the first night we arrived when we went to the National Archives. I did notice almost right away that Rudy was quiet and pretty well behaved compared to most of them and never had to be spoken to.
One morning we were making sure all of the teenagers were accounted for. Rudy and his two roommates were alone in their room because we didn’t have enough male chaperones. So parents had been knocking on their door for 45 minutes and no answer. Calls to their room resulted in the same. Was something wrong? Had they run off? Had they been kidnapped by some crazy person? We found them dressed ready to go downstairs. They had eaten breakfast and were waiting for us in the dining room. Rudy looked at us like we were crazy. Of course he was up. Weren’t we leaving in a few minutes? This I found interesting. My children didn’t get up on their own. Ever. At 21 and almost 17 they still don’t.
In the next couple of years I watched Rudy. He was a sweet kid and he did everything with his whole heart. During Spirit Week he painted his whole body red and shaved his head except for the letters of the school which he left in the back. He put his all into the games and winning for his class.
In their junior and senior years I got to work with Rudy in the plays the Drama Department put on. I did props, costumes and whatever else. I was surprised to find that Rudy had gotten a pretty large part. He had always seemed kind of quiet to me. Shows what I knew. He was quite the ham. When he got out there it was like someone flipped a switch. Funny thing though getting him there was a bit of a thing. He didn’t care much for memorizing lines. Their drama teacher, his dad and I all gave him grief over it. “Rudy you have to know your lines! You are the only one that doesn’t!” The other kids in the play would roll their eyes. He would look at us all and just smile. “No worries Mrs. Dillon.” We, of course, would all worry. He knew he would get it. He didn’t get why we all didn’t have a little faith. Come opening night we would be sitting on pins and needles. “Does he know them? Has he got it? You bet he did. And everybody loved him.
In his senior year he told me he was thinking about going into the military. My first response was “Are you kidding?” He wanted to help people. He wanted to be a medic. Maybe be a paramedic or even a doctor when he got out. I told him I had not signed off on that. He just laughed and said “It’ll be good, Mrs. Dillon.”
After graduation he went to boot camp and training to be a medic. He wrote me letters and I sent him pictures. I worried about him and prayed for him and his family. When he went to Afghanistan the real worry began. He came home on leave after about six months and when I saw him I thought, he’s not a kid anymore, he’s a man. He looked and acted different. He must have seen a lot while he was there. He still gave me a big hug. While he was home his pastor asked how they could pray for him. He didn’t ask for prayer for himself. He wanted them to pray for the people of Afghanistan. I was so proud of him. He had grown into an amazing young man.
March 19, 2011 I was at a baseball game for the school. Someone, I can’t even remember who it was now, came up to me at the snack bar where I was working. “Did you hear?” Hear what? What was going on? “Rudy was killed in action.” No. It couldn’t be. This was not real. It was unthinkable.
Unfortunately it was true. Rudy Acosta was killed in Afghanistan. Shot by an Afghan national who had been hired to protect him. Him and the people around him weren’t even armed. They were on their base loading a vehicle with supplies.
Rudy saved at least two peoples lives that day and gave his. When I think back on what I knew about Rudy I realized he always seemed confident and at peace with what he was doing. He loved his family, his country and his Lord Jesus. He knew his destiny was in the Lord’s hands and he was good with that. He laid down his life for his friends and I know he was good with that too. We all miss him here but I am happy to say I will see him again. Can’t wait for that big hug in Heaven. I’m pretty sure there will be a long line but that’s okay. For a hug from one of my heroes? I’ll wait.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13