"All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible." ~ T. E. Lawrence
Both of my brothers (I’m the oldest and only daughter) are in the U.S. Army and they’ve both been on my mind much the past few weeks. The younger of the two, DJ, is going through boot camp training at Fort Jackson right now. And the older one, S, leaves for his second deployment to Afghanistan in a month.
My brothers inspire me. Holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day have taken on so much more meaning because I see the sacrifices that are made, I hear the war stories, and glimpse the internal scars. Like so many other women before me, I watch my brothers go off to war and when I see a war veteran now, I know the ache his family must have felt when he left and the rapturous joy when he returned again safely. For those who don’t return, I can’t imagine the pain their loved ones are left with. After S’s first tour in Afghanistan, I saw that haunted look when he talked of comrades who didn’t come home. Liberty looks a lot different now. Liberty stands tall with implacable courage, a tear in her eye, and scars on her body.
Politics aside, my brothers joined the Army in service to their country, and also in service to their fellow man, regardless of race. After DJ’s stint in boot camp, he will be joining the ranks of Army Intelligence as a linguist (a man after my own heart!) and hopes to have a more humanitarian capacity for his gift with languages. He wants to learn Arabic, be able to go into war-torn places and be a help to those in need.
DJ graduates from boot camp a week after S leaves for Afghanistan. It’s all happening so quickly now. I still have the memories of them as little boys with toy guns playing cops and robbers, or splayed out on the floor with block forts and plastic army men. Now to see them both as men in uniform, with real side arms at their hips, real M-16s in their hands – it’s surreal.
It’s heartbreaking that we live in a world where we still have to send our young men off to maintain our freedoms. My heart swells with grief to think that S has to leave his newborn daughter and beautiful wife for a year. But I’m so proud – proud that he’s my brother, proud of his courage, proud of his leadership, proud of his conviction to stand for the helpless in a war-ravaged country on the other side of the world, and proud of his commitment to protect his loved ones and countrymen.
And I’m proud of DJ with his drive to enter one of the most difficult departments in the Army, proud of his compassion for others, proud of his strength of character to be a positive force when he deploys.
This is to my brothers and to the millions like them who stand in the gap so we can live in peace.