Once upon a time I had a brother.
He was younger then me by two years. He entered high school the year after I graduated. He worked as a cook in a cafe all through school to earn the money to buy and maintain his first car. He dated some of the most beautiful girls in the city. I loved him more then I can express in these few words. He was my brother! He was my strength when I was weak. He was my balm when I was frightened. Knowing he was my brother made my life feel safer.
The government had a draft in those salad days when he and I were young and hopeful. He didn’t want to be drafted into the Army so he voluntarily joined the Navy. He had visions of being able to sail the high seas and visit exotic ports. The Navy decided that his talents would best be used in the Sea Bees. He was sent to Viet Nam. He was wounded while he was there.
A boy went to war, a tortured man returned. I’m not going to go into detail about that man; I feel like that would be tantamount to invading a territory that should be sacrosanct. Those feelings of anger and confusion were his and only his to share and he is no longer able too do so.
He lived through the war, but the war eventually killed him. He died a bit over a year ago.
When he died my sister-in-law called me and asked how I felt about my brother having a military Honor Guard at his funeral. My brother probably would have shuddered. But she was in charge of this last goodbye and she said that he could yell at her when she joined him in the “great beyond”. She wanted everyone to know that he deserved all honors that this country offered to those that had served and suffered.
Six months after the funeral my sister-in-law received a letter. It said that the United States Navy recognized that his early death was directly related to his service in Viet Nam. They awarded his widow a monthly compensation until her death. She called me in tears.
“I don’t want the money. I want my husband!” And together we cried our hearts dry.
I miss my brother more every day. I don’t think that I will ever tame the pain of losing him.
Tomorrow is Veterans Day:
My father served in WWII. John’s father was shot down behind enemy lines in WWII. John served in Viet Nam.
For all of those men and women that have given their lives in service, for all those that live with the memories of time served I honor you for your sacrifice. For those now in Iraq, I pray for your safety every night. I was/am safe at home while you put your lives on the line.
I watched a brother that I loved with everything in me and his agony still haunts me.
God Bless All of You