Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sending My Big Brother Off

On Friday, I sent my brother off to war. That sounds so dramatic. I'm not trying to be, that is just what it was. I wasn't sending him off to a conflict, for an operation, on a rescue mission because, technically, there is still a war happening.

This is his second deployment to Afghanistan and I wasn't able to go with my parents to send him off last time so it was really important to me to come this time. I was such an unsupportive sister during his first deployment. He received one box of biscotti in total from me the whole deployment. I just went into a state of denial that he was in a war-torn country, and my coping mechanism was ignoring him. Incredible selfish and incredibly embarrassing. It was a stark contrast from when I wrote him a letter every single day during his plebe summer at the Naval Academy. This one will be different, Petey, promise.

All of this is new to me despite the fact that I was grew up an army brat. My dad had the best deal ever - he was a veterinarian in the Army so I never once had to cuddle with a teddy bear like the ones they were giving out to the children on Friday instead of my dad.

Ryan hugging the "Uncle Peter bear" my mom insisted on snagging for him

I kept asking over and over again, "Wait...there isn't a ceremony?" And I kept getting the same answer from my brother with a little laugh, "No." I didn't press Peter for an explanation even though if you know my brother, he can go on and on about the ins and outs of the military (not a criticism, Petey, just a fact). I felt like I shouldn't be talking about unnecessary things when these were the last few moments before I wouldn't see him for a year. It just boggled my mind that we were sending them off to war like they were going on a field trip in grade school. Roll call and then get on the bus. The only difference was that they had to make a stop to get their weapons. I know that this is their duty, this is their job. Maybe there aren't ceremonies because what would be worse than the awkward standing among hundreds of families in a gym until a Marine announces that it is time to for a final goodbye would be to have watch a stuffy ceremony when all you are thinking about is how you will get through the next year without your loved one.

I kept looking around the gym at all of the quiet conversations happening. Every time I saw a mom with a baby and a husband in uniform, I had to fight back a sob because I cannot fathom the ache that fills up their hearts as they are left for a whole year without the love of their life and without their counterpart in the already demanding, sacrificing and confusing world of parenting. I respect all you military wives (like Sarah and my aunt-in-law Kathleen), fiancées (shout-out to my sister-in-law-to-be, Laura! Although to be clear, she is not a parent like the other two), girlfriends, husbands and boyfriends who survive and find a way to thrive during these deployments.  I am so sincerely thankful for your sacrifices.

And I am so incredibly thankful to my parents and all of the other parents who miraculously were able to hold it together until that awkward announcement for a final goodbye brought along tears, cracking voices and muffled I-love-you's. I would be losing it the whole time if I had to send my sweet Ryan away to a danger zone, but my parents knew that crying isn't the way to spend the last hour for a long time.

I pray that somehow God brings peace to our world. How Miss-America of me, no? But I do pray that. What a world that would be.

Peter, my big brother, who has always believed in me and took my dreams seriously even when I didn't, is such a great man. Sure, he is my big brother and we fight, but he is such a great man. Thank you for choosing to be in the military even though you knew the sacrifices that your job demands. 

And since there wasn't a ceremony to send you off, Petey, here is the often-used blessing that Grandpa gave me on a plaque for my baptism. I hope it reminds you of that amazing trip we took last fall to Ireland because of your generous gift. Love you, big brother.

May the road rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Ignore my frantic hand waving goodbye

Extremely touching moment when my brother saluted my dad, a retired Army officer, as he passed. 

Peter stepping onto the bus
Ryan waving bye as the buses drove away


  1. Very sweet post! He will be in our prayers!

  2. I too, pray for peace in this world. Until then I am so thankful for those who make it possible for us to live our lives and their families. Thank you for sharing, he will be in my prayers!

    1. Thank you for your kind reply and for your prayers, Brooke! It means a lot.

  3. This wonderful post about your brother (God bless him!) really hit close to home. I know how you and your family are feeling, and I'll keep all of you in my prayers.

    Our oldest son got engaged in August of 2008, then left that October for a year in Iraq. He came home and got married in December of 2009. After only 10 months of marriage, he had to go away for another year, this time to Afghanistan. And not long after he was deployed, we got a call: he'd just found out his wife was expecting twins! She moved home with her parents so that they could take care of her during a high-risk pregnancy, and the babies were born when my son was still gone. He met them when they were a month old, when he came home on leave to see them get baptized. Then he had to go back to Afghanistan and finish the last three months of his deployment.

    I don't know how these wonderful people in our military do it. They sacrifice so much, and they do it without complaining. Each and every time we Skyped with our son, he was always smiling and asking about his brothers. The closest he came to complaining was telling us that it was a bit like the movie "Groundhog Day" over there. And our daughter-in-law's family has no one in the military, so this was all new to
    her--and she handled the two deployments with so much grace and courage.

    I'm sorry for going on and on. It's just that seeing those photos of your brother in his ACU's, getting ready to go...they really bring back memories of how tough that is on everyone involved. As I said, I'll pray for him! (And for all of you!)

    1. Wow, Laura, what a story! Your daughter-in-law sure took the obstacles that come with being a military wife with grace :) And I am sure your point of view is even more worrisome than mine is. To send a son off to are a strong mama! Thank you for sharing with me, and thank you so much for your prayers.

  4. Cherish these moments and the photos! My older brother is (God-willing) almost done with a 9 month deployment. His amazing fiancee has been here the whole time, planning their wedding through the deployment, and eagerly anticipating his return. Their wedding is scheduled for March, just a few short weeks after (we hope) they return. Also, I'm with you about being terrible at sending greetings... With the exception of card at Christmas (which he apparently never got), it's been all emails and nothing else.

    Your family, especially your brother, will be in my prayers! Tears may or may not have come to my eyes when I saw the picture of the salute and then of Ryan waving. God bless you, and stay strong!

    1. I will be praying for your brother, his fiancee, you and your family! That is so great that you are all almost there. A wedding is definitely something to look forward to when you arrive home :) Thank you for your prayers, Sarah!

  5. Hi I'm Emily! Please email me when you get a chance, I have a question about your blog!


  6. The "sending off" is indeed something that all should see and understand. I was honored to be there when Peter left the first time (and Carmen still has her "Cousin Peter Puppy" that she was given by the USO) and it was hard for me as an aunt. I am so proud of Pete and all the servicement and women who are willing to board that bus into the unknown. May God bless them all and may peace reign in our lifetimes.
    Love, Aunt Laura