Hearing the National Anthem brings a couple of tears to my eyes and I place my hand over my heart with pride. I sing “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” and “American Soldier” by Toby Keith a little bit louder than my friends and I follow the news regarding our troops with concern.

If you can relate, you must have a family member in the military.

My brother enlisted into the military at age 18 and was shipped off to boot camp two months after his high school graduation.

Being a junior in high school, the worst thoughts ran through my head.

Samantha Moore / Art Director

Samantha Moore / Art Director

I worried about him constantly: What if he gets deployed? What if he hates the military life? What if his superiors break him? and most seriously, What if he dies?

That’s the funny thing, right? Here, my brother made a choice, a decision he thought about his whole life. Ever since I can remember my brother wanted to go into the military and he made a choice to go after a life he wanted. This decision of an ultimate sacrifice, knowing the dangers and outcomes that could come with this selection, was made with ease, and me, being the selfish, worry wart I am,  wanted him home instead of going off to this new life.

I was blind to his act of bravery and sacrifice, not realizing how amazing he is for making that choice. However, I’ve realized a few things since that summer when he left.

The United States Army is the largest branch of the United States Armed Forces and my brother has been a part of that  ever since he graduated high school in 2011. Having a family member in the military is the most unknown feeling someone will ever have.

When I said ‘the military is the most unknown feeling,’ it means exactly what it sounds like. You never know what’s going on over there, you’ll never know if they’re doing okay and, you’ll never know if they are going to come back, or come back in one piece.

He has been overseas at least three times, including being stationed in Afghanistan, Germany, Bulgaria and Georgia.

When he first came back from Afghanistan, he wasn’t my brother anymore. He was a soldier and that was it. He came back broken. I could see the pain in his eyes.

Every move my family and I made had to be cautious, not knowing how he would react.

Our home life had changed, but I found it slowly getting better over time.

The first few months after he came back from Afghanistan, he would leave and come back, leave and come back between Fort Stewart, his base in Georgia, and our home in Connecticut.

It was a huge hump he had to conquer, even everyday actions could be a struggle. My brother being my brother conquered the Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) that he had from Afghanistan and chose to re-sign for another two years.

In those two years, he got shipped back overseas on two separate occasions.

He was first stationed in Germany for three months, then for five months and then he returned to the United States. Just a few months after that, he was sent back over, but this time to Bulgaria and then stationed for one month in the country of Georgia.

The next time I will be able to see my brother is when he’ll officially be done serving this February; that will make a total of 14 months that I haven’t seen my brother.

Not being able to see a loved one can be very stressful, especially when you don’t know everything that is happening.

Whether you have a family member, friend, friend of a friend or if you don’t know anyone in the military, just remember – remember these men and women for their safety and their hearts and be thankful that we live in a great country where these great men and women protect us.

Shelby Iava can be contacted at Siava@kscequinox.com

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