An Inspiring Story Of Friendship

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Curated by
Brittany Déjean
Content via In The News
In The News
Curated by
Brittany Déjean

We all get by with a little help from our friends.

When Jackson Smith was stationed in Afghanistan, his friend Brian McKenna did everything he could to be a supportive friend, going so far as to bring a cardboard cutout of Jackson to Mardi Gras so he wouldn’t feel like he missed out. Brian posted 90 pictures on Facebook of Jackson with people celebrating, the last one with their idol and New Orleans Saints football player, Drew Brees. “I cried my eyes out,” Jackson shares. “I couldn’t believe it.”

That just gives you an idea of the degree and depth of friendship these two men have. “It honestly never occurred to me to try to pay Brian back for what he had done because you’re never going to top it,” Jackson shares. Little did he know that a few years later, he’d have that chance.

An unexpected twist

“I got a call Sunday night from a friend of ours who told me that Brian had been in an accident,” shares Jackson. Brian had gone over his handle bars mountain biking and broke his neck, paralyzing him from the shoulders down and requiring a ventilator to breathe. Although hit with a life-altering setback, Brian has remained positive.

“It wasn’t 5 minutes in the dirt before I thought there’s really no point in getting upset about what I lost. This is my new norm. Part of the fun of life is not knowing what’s next,” shares Brian. “My life is a non-stop adventure. I don’t really know what’s around the next turn.”

The beauty of friendship

Jackson and Brian’s friendship grew even stronger. Wanting to do whatever he could to support his friend, Jackson had an idea. “The Saints are doing their last open practice, so I rush out to Kinkos, I get this picture of Brian and I go to the practice that night,” he shares. As Drew Brees came down the stands, Jackson scrambled to explain as quickly as he could to Brees about the picture with his cardboard cutout from Mardi Gras and asked for a new picture, this time with a cardboard cutout of Brian.  When Brian saw this new picture on Facebook, “to say it lifted my spirits and boosted my morale is an understatement.” If your friend is having a hard time, it’s just about being there in ways that make sense. “It’s knowing that your friend is in a real bad spot and then delivering the granddaddy of all gifts,” shares Brian.

“I have a positive outlook and try to make it fun, as crazy as that sounds because not having fun sucks.”

Their story reached Ellen Degeneres, who was touched by it. “I cannot believe how positive you are, your attitude is incredible, Brian,” she shares to him on her talk show.

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