They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I'm assuming they're meant to be left unspoken; sometimes that is just too easy.
This weekend, my family made the trip to Camp Leguene to welcome my big brother home from Afghanistan.
Oh man, what mixed emotions.
Initially, it just felt wrong to be there. Sitting in the freezing cold for three hours, waiting, I went through a whole realm of emotions. We were able to meet a lot of different people, there for a lot of young men. It wasn't just the wives and kids of officers, because most of the Marines coming home are just...boys. Boys become men due to the tragedy of war, unfortunately. It did me good to be reminded that war is not just about husbands and wives. It extends so far beyond. Moms and dads and siblings and nieces and nephews and grandparents and friends. It did me good to see that amidst the sports scores and political debacles and medi(a-induced)ocrity that seems to have enveloped America, SOME PEOPLE still remember there is a war in progress.
I choked back a lot of sobs, hearing about 21 year olds who were coming home from their third and fourth tours. It was seeing a mama prop one of her four little ones on her daddy's duffel bag for a picture that made me bite a hole through my cheek to keep from bawling. A few hours later, I saw that same mama, her three girls dressed in pink, puffy coats and one little boy in camo. I heard her instruct her crowd, "When I see Daddy, I'm going to run. You just stay close, okay?"
Finally, FINALLY, the buses pulled to a stop. The high of that moment, the shouts of the crowd, there is just nothing like it. I was too caught up in the moment to worry about my camera settings and the one above is one of the very few clear shots I got.
I don't think I've ever seen my dad cry. Not like that. He tried to keep it in, tried to make a joke. It didn't work. Even my brother's eyes got a lil misty seeing our dad cry. All he could say was, "Man, you're a sight for sore eyes." I know there was so much more he was saying with that simple statement.
Seeing that dimpled face make his way over to his gear, watching him shake hands with the Marines he served over the last seven months...It was just weird to reconcile my memories of him with the man in front of me.
The boy that used to stay up late and play go fish with me from the top bunk...
The boy that used to fart on me and laugh...
The boy that would race me to the counter to beat me to the bowl with bigger scoops of ice cream...
We built so many pillow and blanket forts together as kids.
So many memories of riding Alligator Road to school in his crappy, blue Ranger. I can still feel the regret of getting him in trouble as a teenager. He was so much nicer to me than I was to him.
I remember the exact moment he introduced me to the fifteen year old that would eventually become his wife.
The moment he stepped through the operating room doors holding his firstborn.
The day he preached his first sermon.
I have always been a fan of my big brother.
Hearing stories of the danger he was in; convoys taken, working side by side with known terrorists...it kept me awake all night Saturday night. I am so very, very thankful that the God we serve still works miracles. I am thankful He kept a barrier of protection around my brother. I am thankful he came home when so many don't. I am thankful for the reminder that prayer matters and God is so very real.
Welcome home, big brother.