The Best Gift I Ever Got: The Most Touching Presents Ever Exchanged

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More Than a Ring

When I was 19, in 2001, I was both excited and anxious about starting at the U.S. Naval Academy. Parents often attend Induction Day, but my mom couldn't afford the plane ticket. Before I left she hugged me and handed me an envelope; then I boarded the plane alone.

After takeoff I opened Mom's letter and read how proud she was of me. "Maita [her pet name for me], you are bound for greatness," she wrote. My mother had sacrificed so much throughout my childhood, and thanks to her love I felt prepared to take on any challenge.

To my surprise there was also an antique ring in the envelope. The ring had been passed down to my mom by her own stepmother when she began her journey as a woman. It's platinum with a square face and a diamond in the middle. As a young adult, I knew this gift represented my mom's recognition that I was growing up.

I've carried my mother's unconditional love and strength in my heart and on my finger through four years at the Academy and two combat tours in Iraq as a Marine officer. The ring reminds me of the sacrifices my mom made for her children. I think of that as I serve to keep this country safe and look forward to the day when I can pass this heirloom along to a daughter of my own.

-- 1st Lt. Maia Molina-Schaefer, 27, Al Asad Air Base, Iraq

Continued on page 3:  Back in the Saddle


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