"Sure you wanna do this, Montgomery?" Fellow U.S. Air Force Pararescue Jumper Nolan Briggs asked above the engine hum."I'm sure." Joel shifted away from the window as the luxury jet broke through wispy Southern Illinois clouds on descent to the one place on earth he never wanted to see again.Refuge. The irony made him snort.Nolan leaned close enough for Joel to inhale toxic doses of mafia-strength garlic. "'Cause if you don't, we'll handle it."Teammate Manny Pena joined Nolan in the passenger aisle. "Yeah. Nobody'll know if you don't make the jump, dude."Joel fastened a gaze on his well-meaning friends and fellow PJs, and aimed a thumb at his sternum. "I'll know."And so would that kid. "It's gonna be tougher than you think," Nolan said. Hardest mission of his life. Especially on a cold Friday in September.Joel laced his boot. "Nah. Piece of cake.""Right. Like running a catering service with an Easy-Bake." Manny clicked the overhead bin open."No sweat." Joel tugged his chute pack from under the seat."Not a drop," Nolan agreed. "But the offer still stands.""He asked for me. I can't let him down, guys." Joel retrained a determined gaze on the small town peeking up at him. Recognition of his old neighborhood clogged his throat. He clenched his jaw against a surge of unwanted emotion. He looked away from familiar landmarks. "I'll be fine."As long as he steered clear of that house, and the uncle who'd destroyed his family, he'd be fine.A chorus of unconvinced faces stared back at Joel when he looked up.A torrent of vulnerability rushed through him at their perception. He torqued his gaze out the window. True. They could do this without him and spare him the pain.Except for one thing.He tugged the letter out of his chest pocket. Unfolding it, he eyed the elementary attempt at cursive.My name's Bradley. I'm eight and I have cancer. My teacher called Dream Corps who said I should write a letter about my wishes since doctors say I might not get a transplant in time. I want to meet a Special Forces soldier more than anything. Well, almost anything. Having a family would be nice. I heard a PJ grew up in my town. It would be awesome if he'd come see me but I know he's kinda busy with wars and rescues and all. Anyway, if you find him, tell him he's my idea of a hero...Words blurred. Joel blinked, refocused and read: Thinking of soldiers who fight terror helps me be brave and fight mine. If me and God win our cancer war, I promise to plug my nose and eat my stinky call of flower so I can grow up strong and come help the soldiers win theirs. Love, Bradley Tennyson. Refuge, IL U.S.A.Joel folded the letter Dream Corps had forwarded to him. He crimped along the crease and came back with blue fingertips, probably from one of those messy erasable pens. He rubbed fingers on a hanky, but the ink didn't come off. Weird, since it had transferred from the paper with no trouble.Ink imprinted his hand, but scribbled wishes stained his heart. Family. The very word stung. Joel couldn't help the little guy with one, but he could make the other a reality. No matter how hard the next hours proved to be, Joel's discomfort in coming back to the site of his most painful childhood memories would be a speck of dust compared to the earth of hurt this kid faced.Joel pressed thumbs into the corners of his eyes and lifted his face. He swallowed, but his voice box didn't seem to want to loosen and let him speak."I appreciate you guys offering me an out, but..." He met and held each man's respect-filled gaze, drawing courage from the admiration in each one. "I need to do this."Grins erupted all around, revealing to Joel they wanted him to conquer this every bit as much as he did.Nolan tossed Joel his goggles. "Don't tangle up on a power line before you hit the ground, Montgomery. It wouldn't bode well to fry your fanny in front of a load of little kids."Joel smiled back at theWyatt, Cheryl is the author of 'Soldier's Promise', published 2008 under ISBN 9780373874668 and ISBN 0373874669.