Probably the worst month of my life was the month the Iraq Conflict began. My brother John, a Marine, was the first to battle. In fact, his troop were the Marines who got in trouble for raising the American flag over Basra. His troop was also featured on 60 Minutes 2 (when that was still around) and a Reuters reporter was embedded with them taking compelling photos of their every move.
At the time, the media was the only way if we knew my brother was dead or alive. We were a desperate family. When we saw his face on 60 Minutes, Wally and I got a call from our friend John saying that he thought he saw them. I called my parents immediately who had already gotten a phone call from a nephew saying that he thought they saw him too. While it was a brief glimpse, we knew he was alive -- at least for that moment. We ordered copies of the footage and rewound and played several hundred times just to see his face. In the deep recesses of our minds, I knew we were all thinking the unthinkable, will this be the last image? Other the month, additional images from Reuters confirmed he was indeed still okay.
People often asked, 'did you talk with your brother? how is he doing?'. My response would be (because I wasn't in the mood for dumb questions and yes there are dumb questions), 'He's not one of those soldiers on the sidelines. He is actually one of the Marines fighting this war.' I couldn't eat or sleep. I was miserable to be around. I cried often and considered going on Prozac. Every phone call I received I expected the worst. As I saw hundreds of soldiers names reported as dead, the pain became harder and harder to take. I did the only thing I could do. I made him a PR darling. He was featured in The Bergen Record, The Star Ledger and even on MSNBC as the boy who always wanted to be a Marine - a true American hero. I attended rallies for the troops and supported my brother's efforts with yellow ribbons and pins for all who wanted them.
At the end of that month, I received the call that I had been waiting for. To hear my brother's voice, alive and well was like nothing I could ever put into words. It was a blessing my family will never take for granted.
If you don't agree with the politics of war, just know that there a real people/families that are effected by war each and every day. My family was one of the lucky ones. We still have my brother that I can call anytime of the day to say hello but other families don't have that luxury, that blessing anymore. So today on Veteran's Day, I salute my brother for his bravery and courage in the face of conflict. He is my American hero.
The Young Girl and the Sea
8 months ago