Over the course of my life the 4th of July has looked so different in every season.
When I was a child my Dad would go out early in the morning with lawn chairs to mark our spot for the parade. All my cousins would join us as we fought over candy thrown from the parade floats. Then we would all head back to our gray ranch house for blueberry buckle. Eventually my Dad build a float so we could ride in the parade, advertising for his picture framing business.
In High School I was political and patriotic. I had a red, white and blue bedroom and a love for the movie “Saving Private Ryan.” This was before I really knew what it was to lose life, to feel the permanent sting of death. I waxed eloquently of things I didn’t really understand.
Then I was broken and graciously reassembled through perseverance and the love of a God who never lets go. When people talked of sending soldiers to war I could only think of the men who went and the families on their knees in prayer. I wondered with all my heart if the cause was worthy, worthy of missed Christmases, intense trauma, and possibly their lives.
And now dawns a whole new Fourth of July, for this year I am the sister of one of these soldiers. My brother Brian, has enlisted in the Army, not the reserves or the guard, but the whole enchilada. As of next month I will be one of those families with a solider’s picture on their fridge, and perhaps next year the tree in our front yard will bear a yellow ribbon.
I still remember the day he called me with his plans, telling me that in the absence of our parents he wanted my approval. I asked him the usual questions, mainly why he wanted to enlist. He said he needed a path and discipline in his life and that he felt God was clearly leading him to the Army. I told him that I would support his choice, but I would way rather he let me send him a conference on discipline instead of going overseas.
Those who sent soldiers were always “they” the talk of sacrifice was hard but abstract. Yet, now we’re sending Brian, my shy, blonde baby brother, all grown up, a married man and a solider.
I called him last week and told him that I was so proud of him, but I would still rather he get a job doing quality control on cotton balls. We’ve lost so much in our small family so I’d rather have him get paid to fluff little white balls than training with weaponry of any kind.
It’s hard to deny that this is his path, he’s specializing in Mental Health Services, because his response to our family struggle with Mental Illness is to help others who are struggling. We’re the same in this way, I fight this darkness with words, and he will fight the darkness of war in the minds of those who survived it.
This year I’m a solider’s sister and I feel a scary connection with all those mothers, sisters, wives and daughters who sent their loved boys off to fight the darkness.
I love you Brian, I see you in our Caedmon, in his blue eyes and his obsession with sweets. I’m proud of you, how you’re following your path, forging something new, bringing your own brand of restoration where there is clearly a gouging need.
God, keep my baby brother safe. Please bless America alongside every other nation, help us to reach across oceans to show your love as we give sacrificially and gain an understanding of our excess.