Tears rolled down my cheeks as I gave him that one last hug. My brother was going to boot camp for 13 weeks, and I was a complete train wreck. It’s hard to be okay when someone you’re used to seeing every day of your life goes away for that long. He’ll be 14 hours away, and it’s not like I’ll be able to call him up to have a nice chat or text him to see how things are going. Every day now we anticipate his letters in the mail, which is our only form of communication.
That exciting feeling you get in your gut when you open the mailbox and see that little, white envelope with the eagle, globe, and anchor in the left-hand corner is something you really can’t understand until you’ve experienced it. You hold it in your hands for a minute, flipping it over and over and thinking about what your last letter to him said and trying to guess what his reply will be. You hear his voice inside your head as you read the words he wrote--you know exactly how he would sound. It’s like he’s right there next to you having a normal conversation, like he’s really not 14 hours away. Like telling me he has to go get ready to hike 6 miles with 200 pounds of gear on, or asking how softball and volleyball are going and telling me not to let our parents advice about how I played or what I did wrong frustrate me--they’re only trying to help. These are the little things you learn to appreciate even more. Even though it does end up making you miss him more, you look forward to seeing that little, white envelope in the mailbox every day.
Missing him isn’t the worst part. I’m constantly haunted by the violence and reality of war. I know it will still be a while before he might actually get deployed, but it’s something I can’t prepare myself for. I begin to notice how close war actually is to us when I see pictures of fallen heroes flash across the TV screen. Or when I watch movies about war and the only thing I see is my brother as one of the main characters, knowing that’s his life now. It used to be something I thought about every once in a while; it never really hit home until the day he left for basic. Even though I couldn’t be more proud of him, war is all I can think about. It has become my new reality.
Tears will roll down my cheeks once again as I give him one more hug. But this time, I’ll have a little more experience in coping with the reality of it all. The only way I comfort myself is to pray, and tell myself that he’ll be okay. But it’s not always that easy--the reality is something that can’t be ignored.