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As I boarded the plane, a thousand thoughts spun crazily through my head. My brother was leaving. He would never again look normal on a swing acting just plain stupid with me, make silly faces when my mom was lecturing, or tell me about his school crush. He was entering a new phase of his life, and it seemed I wouldn’t share in it as I did now. That bothered me. This fact was so foreign it made me want to freeze time and stay his ­little sister ­forever.

He had always been my source of strength. Who is my brother, really? Is he the political nut that everyone calls him at school, or the guy who snuck to the roof to watch sunsets with me? He represents strength, ­never-ending love, and especially faith. I was so proud of him and so excited about where he was going, but part of me wished I could go with him.

When my dad and I arrived for the swearing-in ceremony, the auditorium was enormous, the stage was filled with flags representing different military branches, and in the middle was the largest of all: the American flag in its full glory. It stood rigidly, blazing red, white, and blue.

My brother looked different, confident. I wasn’t even looking into his face; I was observing the way he stood and marched into the auditorium, with his back straight and chin up, with a newly acquired sense of purpose and direction. His shaved head made him look different, but his uniform was spiffy. The moment I saw him I wanted to run and give him the biggest hug and kiss, but I was restrained by my dad. I contented myself by looking at the lines of identical men raising their right hands and signing over the next five years of their lives in service to their country. I wondered if they were scared and uncertain and if they knew what they were doing.

After what seemed like forever, the swearing-in ended and the officer in front yelled a blood-curdling “At ease.” My dad had his head turned, probably to hide tears. I raced out of my seat and hugged my brother. When I finally let him go, I noticed a difference in his face. Yes, on the surface he was out of breath from my suffocating hug, but he looked gruff and very military. And if you looked even deeper, his brown eyes quivered and moved with excitement.

I was getting it slowly; he knew who he was and where he was going. His future was uncertain, but he had taken the first steps. And those steps carried him past the double doors and yelling officers, past childhood, into the Navy, and then – who knows – the rest of his life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.





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scary_fruit said...
Nov. 15, 2008 at 12:52 pm:
I love this article, and I think that others who knew a veteran would've agreed. Keep writing!
 
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