My brother joined the Air Force a little over 6 years ago. I remember going to watch him graduate from basic training and I was so proud. It was a moving ceremony. We all thought it was a good move for him and he thrived and excelled in the military environment. The first few Christmases were hard without him, but we knew he was where he needed to be. Not being at the hospital when my niece was born was hard, but my sister and I and our parents were all able to fly out for a bit and see them. I remember him taking us to the airport in his fatigues and I'll never erase from my mind the image of my dad hugging him goodbye at the gate. He was leaving for Iraq within the next month after we left and we all left knowing it could possibly be the last time we saw him. That's hard. He left his two month old daughter and new wife at the hands of others to care for them while he was gone. I can't imagine. Watching my mom hold the phone to my dying grandmother's ear so he could say goodbye was gut wrenching to say the least. I don't know if it is because I'm the oldest, but times when I know my arms should be around him but they can't be are the hardest for me.
His son was born in September of 2010. But, as it is with those of us who make up the backbone of this country, we hadn't been able to afford to go out and see them. They finally made it home last week, though, for a visit! It wasn't on Christmas, but close enough!! We were all so excited to see them, but oddly, seeing them was actually painful in a way. You have to harden yourself some and distance yourself to get through things like not knowing your niece and nephew and the empty spots under the Christmas tree where packages should be that have been sent in the mail instead. I walked in to see my adorable little one year old nephew looking at me like he had no clue who I was and I started crying (which scared him. So, he may not want to know me after that! Haha!) because the reality of it hit so hard - they'll never really know me, nor I them. He hadn't had an extended visit with us in over 3 years and hadn't spent Christmas with us in 6. Having them here was so wonderful, but also a reminder to all of us that they were leaving. They still won't be here on Christmas day. The kids will have to get to know each other again next time we see them. And, I think we all got through it by thinking this was a temporary thing. That once we endured a few years of him being gone, he'd be back and all would be "normal" again. This time I think we all finally faced the fact that he won't be coming back to stay. These visits are what is "normal" now.
We wouldn't have it any other way. I can't begin to express my gratitude that I can still have visits with my brother. So many people have paid the ULTIMATE price and lost a loved one. And, not just in this current war we just ended, but in the whole history of our country. I never understood the sacrifices made until I went through it with my brother. He has obviously sacrificed more than any of us, but it has affected every single person in our family as well. Multiply that by all the service men and women in the history of the United States and that is a lot of sacrifice. That equals out to a lot of children with parents missing, a lot of broken-hearted moms and wives, a lot of grandparents who don't get to know their grandbabies.
My brother has spent months away from his kids. He has moved away from all his family and friends. He has given up every luxury this country of plenty has to offer to go over and fight... for you. For me. For all of us. So, what do we do with that? Send our companies to China? Refuse to exercise our right to vote? Forget what a privilege it is for our children to be educated equally for free? We build our big fancy houses, buy our foreign vehicles, and live in our little bubbles pretending that we can't make a difference in the world around us. (I'm including myself in all this!) Thank God there are a few good men and women out there who have given everything to allow us the freedom to not care. I think it is time we all stood up, banded together, and made this country what WE want it to be. Us. The backbone. The taxpayers, the laborers, the service people. Why do we sit back and let the politicians and corporations decide our lives for us? Wasn't that the whole point of "America." Isn't that what so many have fought for? So that "we the people" can run this country? I think it's time we all got out of our bubbles and made sure that all the sacrifices, both past and present, were not made in vain!