Giving your life to your country

At the beginning of November, the dynamic of my family changed significantly. My 19-year-old brother left for boot camp with the hopes of surviving the three-month intense training process and come out a Marine. The few, the proud, the Marines.
He first called to tell me about this decision in the middle of the summer. As the oldest in the family, the younger siblings often call to run an idea past me first. I listened with rapt attention and asked the questions an older sister and journalist-by-training would ask. Had he thought it through? Did he know what this commitment entailed? Was he ready to give his life to the country? Would he still be able to practice his faith? Did he realize this meant marriage and dating was pretty much off the table for awhile anyway? He had answers to all my questions – he’d obviously given it serious consideration. I told him the decision must have been a difficult one and I supported it whole-heartedly. Not everyone was as supportive. His previous high school teachers tried to tell him he was too smart to throw his life away like this. The military was for those who couldn’t get a college degree or had no interest in that – his GPA proved the intelligence was there. They figured he had lost his common sense somewhere along the line. A trusted friend suggested he take some time off, go the community college route and think it through fully. He patiently listened to all the backlash his decision got, but remained convicted this was the route for him.
For me… I came of age while we went off to war after the tragedy of September 11th. I hated the idea that America was marching its troops into a foreign land to sort things out. The arguments around the family dinner home when I came home from college were heated and usually ended with my dad and I acknowledging we would never see eye-to-eye about the war. My liberal college education and journalism degree, he argued, was corrupting my sense of justice. I watched a cousin go off on three separate tours in Afghanistan. He came back unharmed each time, but I don’t want to even consider the things he saw and can’t talk about with any civilian back home.
Still, my disdain for the war, doesn’t keep me from supporting my brother, my cousin and our troops. And amazingly all the people who tried to argue my brother down from his decision are equally supportive. Since he left on the 1st, my family members have been posting about his departure on Facebook and the outpouring of love and support from friends, relatives and even basic acquaintances is overwhelming. No matter the position on war, the decision to give your life in service of a country and the way of living we have come to expect is to be revered and respected.
I hope he’s not getting his butt kicked too harshly in training camp – but knowing his little beer belly and previously lazy sit-around attitude I’m sure he is suddenly wishing he did a few more crunches and took the dogs out for a jog before heading off. I look forward to the man that will emerge after these three months and will be beaming with pride the first time I see him in uniform.


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