When Rhonda Rollins sent her son Justin to fight for America as an Army Specialist, she didn’t know he would make the ultimate sacrifice. This brave young man lost his life in service to our country. He was awarded a Bronze Star for his actions, an honor which is now recorded on his epitaph.
Though Justin is no longer with us, a puppy he befriended during the last hours of his life has been returned to his parents. He and some of his fellow soldiers had apparently found a group of puppies, and took pictures of themselves and their furry friends in a rare moment of peace and warmth.
When the Rollins family saw the photos and made a special request, the Army was able to find the puppy shown in photographs of Justin and bring her back to their home in New Hampshire. Justin’s parents took the dog in and named her Hero, a sweet and affectionate pet who reminds them of their son’s love and courage. The unconditional love Hero brought back to Justin’s mother and father is a warm reminder of the dedication and patriotism which drove this young soldier to volunteer for military service.
This heartwarming story of a family finding their way through grief inspired 20/20 to profile Justin Rollins as their “Person of the Week”. This short video clip is from their broadcast. While 20/20 was interviewing Justin’s parents, the cloudy day briefly gave way to some rays of sunshine. As Hero walked into the yard, a brilliant sunbeam illuminated her like a spotlight. It was a beautiful scene and a ray of hope, not only for the Rollins family, but for everyone watching who grieves for a loved one, or fears for the safety of a loved one, who has pledged their life to the service of America.
Watching the video of Hero standing tall and proud in the ray of sunshine was an illuminating experience for many. The beam of light from the sky felt, to them, like a sign from above. Some looked at the refracted light or the texture of shadow in certain frames and felt they saw Justin Rollins’ spirit hovering nearby. Especially for those with strong faith, it’s easy to interpret this moment as having a deeper meaning. What better way, after all, for a soldier who has passed on to let his family know that he still loves them and is in a better place? But even for those who don’t see this moment as a supernatural event, it is a poetic and perfect picture of hope in the midst of tragedy.