So, in preparation for the latest Nicholas Sparks sapfest, I'm reading this right now...
Don't lie, you know you've watched the trailer about 342 times, too.
Obviously there's a lot of military reference in the movie (and book). I haven't written about it in quite a while, but two of my three brothers were in the military right as we graduated high school. I was preparing to embrace the role of sassy, carefree, college coed, as they were off to defend the country from radical fundamentalist terrorists. Doesn't quite seem fair, does it?
I realize Mr. Sparks earns his keep by churning out the sugary chick lit, but last night, as I flipped through the pages, I was surprised to be overcome with a different emotion. When my brothers were gone, a little piece of me went with them. Throughout my college days, I watched the news multiple times a day. I emailed and sent care packages. I counted down the days until they came home on leave, I spoke about them at every opportunity. A lot of Americans are patriotic. A lot of Americans try to empathize with the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families--and I'm endlessly grateful for those people who are so consciously aware of our military. But I honestly think living the life is an entirely different ballgame.
Throughout their four-year commitments, each of my brothers was deployed twice. Navy boy off to an extended tour on the USS Ronald Reagan... Marine brother in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait... My brothers being gone changed my family dynamic forever. When I was leaving for college, I was in a blur of daydreams about my schedule and dorm rooms... they were prepping for boot camp and life in a barracks. We all left the house at 18, but our destinations were so, so different. I can't help but feel guilty for the life I was privileged to lead because of what my brothers were doing. Because of the way they chose to live their lives. Because of their selflessness. Because of their sacrifice. As I breezed through the book last night, I didn't get immediately drawn in to the love story... instead, I was caught up in remembering how hard it was--for me, not even them--when they were gone. I'm only aware of how it hurt my heart to have them gone--to try to envision their feelings of loneliness and heartache is insulting... those four years of each of their lives left an imprint on them. Yes, as cliche as it sounds, the mark was the evolution from cocky high school boy to reputable, respectable and honorable young man. To say I'm proud of my brothers is one of the most profound understatements of my life. Of course, there's always this element of them materializing in my head as these irritating pests that live to make my 11-year-old life anything but enjoyable. In a way, I hope that image exists forever.
Again, as I was reading and immersing myself in the life of a fictitious character, it dawned on me how these wars will be (are already) in the history books. How I will one day tell my babies that their uncles fought in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. It's strange to envision my 18-year-old brothers making history, living history, when months prior, they were bickering with me over who knows what, as we prepped for another day of high school. But this is reality. Most of our military are just a boot camp experience older than being considered children. It's a concept that consistently blows me away. Our country's solitude is essentially in the hands of hundreds of thousands of young people. Not to mention the select few who make a life out of the military... the handful--in contrast to those who serve a four-year commitment and move on to other arenas of life--who spend decades moving from place to place, wholeheartedly jumping into yet another overseas deployment.
We're forever and ever indebted to them. Forever and ever and ever.
I love you boys so, so much. Thank you for making life easier on me. Better for me. Better for everyone in our country.
You've made me feel like the lucky one.