The two babies in the picture above are me and my baby brother. It’s August 2006 and I’m about to send my brother to boot camp in Kentucky. He’s 17. And he’s my only brother.
I’m one of five kids. And I love all of my siblings, but I’ve got too many sisters. My relationship with my brother is special. It’s different. Because he’s the only boy.
The night we took this picture was the last time I’d see my brother for three months. These days, not seeing him for three months at a time is pretty common, but 12 years ago we saw each other pretty often. I probably cried after we took the picture. And he probably deflected the emotion because that’s what he does.
He doesn’t emote well.
In 2008, I sent him to war. I was a wreck. Christmas 2007 was an emotional one. It was the first time in years that all of the kids (minus the oldest sister) were together at Dads. When I was leaving to head home, I remember hugging the shit out of him, crying my eyes out and telling him “Come home. Come home exactly how I’m sending you. Okay?”
It was a long deployment, but he made it home. He made it home the same way I sent him.
I mentioned my brother and I have a special relationship, and we do. But he and our baby sister probably have the most unique relationship. I’m six years older than my brother. He and the baby sister are only 18 months apart in age. They pretty much grew up together. Shared friends. They are really close. She was really upset when he left.
I can’t imagine how hard it was to be in high school while your brother, your big brother; your best friend; your protector, is thousands of miles away.
When he got home, it was right around her birthday – his return became her gift. You know those military homecoming videos? She got her own version. I don’t have video, but it was the best reunion.
We knew where her next class was and met her on the way. She took a second to process what was happening and then dropped her stuff and ran to hug him. We all cried and cried because we were just so happy to have him home.
Two years later we went through it all again. It wasn’t any easier the second time around. I think it was harder actually. Because now he wasn’t just our brother; he was also a dad to a very young daughter. And a husband. And his wife was pregnant again.
But we were fortunate again, and he made it home exactly how we sent him.
This Veterans Day I’m grateful and thankful for all of veterans and their families. I’m grateful for the sacrifice they all make to serve our nation and protect our freedom and interests both domestically and abroad.
And I’m eternally grateful and proud of my brother for his service every day. I’m proud of the career he’s made out of the military and proud of the work he does with his unit.
But I’m most proud to be his sister.