I read with great sadness this morning of the passing of Professor Stephen Hawking.
I have had the incredible honor of meeting some very tough people in my life – none tougher than Squadron Leader (Ret) Ned Cullen, MBE, and his Family.
Ned is a Royal Air Force Fighter Pilot and “TopGun” graduate – and one of my best friends in the world. He looks exactly what you would think a dashing, brave, smart talented RAF Fighter Pilot would look like – reddish blond hair and all.
Ned and I met in 2002 as our nations trained together for a very sensitive, very special mission which ultimately went down in the western deserts of Iraq in March of 2003.
On the first night of the war in Iraq, Ned was there, overhead protecting the UK Special Air Service (SAS) and our special forces while flying in his RAF Harrier jump jet – taking the fight to the enemy night after night.
One evening in April of 2003 Ned came up to me and told me he was not feeling 100% – that his fingers were tingling a bit. That did not stop him from flying combat missions night after night.
Upon returning to the UK in the Spring of 2003 Ned was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease or Lou Gerhigs Disease as it’s known here in the US.
What would stop most people in their tracks… has never… not once… not for one second stopped Ned or his incredible wife Heather, or their Son Rory from attacking life.
There are hard as nails people you meet in your life… and then there is the Clan Cullen.. every single one of them.
When I think of bravery – I think of Ned.
When I think of courage – I think of Ned.
When I think of tenacity with a huge side of humor – I think of Ned.
When I think of unconditional, never-ending, pure to the core love – I think of Heather and Rory.
Every single day the Cullens attack life no matter what gets sent their way, and every person who is blessed to know them and love them is grateful every day for the chance to be in their lives.
Today is a tough day for the world with the loss of Professor Hawking. He was a giant of a man.
It is also a day to rejoice at the incredible honor of knowing and loving other giants who even now continue to walk this earth – and yes, I’m talking to you Clan Cullen. I love you all.