Scared Brave

September 18, 2008
By Kayla Chambers, Springfield, MO

Every American probably remembers exactly what they were doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was a tragic day in American history that will forever live in infamy. No person should forget that day, but for many, time heals all wounds so we eventually can go days, or weeks, or even a year without that day crossing our mind.

Nine-eleven didn’t really affect me as much as a fourth grader, but for my older brother Stephan, it was a different story. It was the fall of his senior year, and he was deciding which college to attend. That year, he was Senior Class President, ran track and cross country, was a State Medalist in swimming, played football, and was involved in numerous other clubs. When he graduated, he was at the top of his class, and was clearly ready for any college. Stephan enjoyed doing things that everyone else was scared to do, and loved being different; he defined individuality. So while many of his peers went on to college, he chose to go into Recon for the Marine Corps.

I never hated my brother for joining the military or for following his new dream, but I made myself that day he left for Iraq. I made myself dislike the government, Al Qaeda, and Iraq so much that I wouldn’t be able to miss him. I made it so that September 11 never happened, and my brother was simply away at college. I had become a coward because I was too afraid of facing a life without my brother in it.
When he returned home from Iraq, I was thrilled that my best friend had come back from war alive and in one piece. Then he began showing me the videos he and his buddies had taken. I watched graphic clips where insurgents and his buddies would die. It was the most gruesome thing I would ever witness in my life. It disgusted me that my brother had taken murderous home videos, and then found it necessary to show me. I began to question if my brother was the hero that everyone thought he was. But then I learned the lesson he was trying to teach me. I was the luckiest girl alive; my brother had survived a war that thousands had not. My family was still together, and he was not only protecting me, but every other family in America. My brother and all the other soldiers asked to be sent to fight for our country and our freedoms. My brother’s videos taught me a lesson about courage, bravery, and sacrifices that I will never forget.
When my brother returned to Iraq for his second tour, I wasn’t only terrified of my brother’s future, but mine as well. For the first few weeks I thought about him daily. I always wondered if he was one of the soldiers that had died. I began thinking about his videos and realized that I didn’t want to be the coward I was the first year he was overseas. There was no way I was going to forget my brother’s life so I could live easier. I was going to be a strong, brave sister of a Marine, regardless of what it took.
I’d like to believe that I have become that today, even though my brother is no longer in Iraq. Stephan showed me those videos not to terrify me, but to make me braver and stronger. He wanted to show me that even through a dark time in history, his sister needed to see the light. He wanted me to believe that he would survive when most of his buddies would not. He made me courageous, because no one else was, because I had to be.
When I think about September 11, I remember my brother, his buddies, and every soldier still in Iraq--alive, dead, or missing. Those men, along with their families, know the true meaning of sacrifice. The thoughts of the videos then come to my mind, and I remember the true meaning of bravery. It isn’t the ability to be willing to die fearlessly, but also to the ability to face tomorrow without someone you love. Only then do I process the meaning for the war and thoughts of the Twin Towers, the planes, and my little fourth grade class room surround me.

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