On February 22nd, 2010 Operation Enduring Freedom, the current U.S. war in Afghanistan, surpassed the Revolutionary War as the longest war in American history. I am sure those who read the articles marking the occasion found it to be a sobering reminder that our troops have been in harms way for over eight years. Personally, that reality flashed on my radar screen about five months ago. My older brother, Aaron, volunteered for the National Guard a few years back and at the end of last summer he received deployment orders for February of 2010.
The challenging part for me hasn’t been the possibility that he might miss my wedding, scheduled for later this year—I can always Skype him into the ceremony if he does not get permission for leave. It hasn’t been getting time off to visit with him before he leaves—I feel great about having used some vacation days to visit with him last December and to attend his deployment ceremony in mid-February. It hasn’t even been managing the heightened level of stress that my family is experiencing—all of us are feeling a sense of urgency to get in some quality time before he goes.
It’s figuring out the best way to say goodbye that’s been the challenge for me. Certainly I don’t want to talk about the unthinkable. At the same time, the fear is real that my brother may not come back. But I just do not feel right acting as if I may never see him again. What good does it do anyone to expect anything less than my brother’s safe return home? I certainly do not want to be the one to put that on him.
What follows is an excerpt from a letter I wrote to Aaron when we were traveling together to visit family this past December.
December 25, 2009
Thank you for volunteering to defend our country. I wanted to write to let you know that I am proud of what you are doing. I think that it is brave to volunteer to serve in the military; I think it is even braver to follow your dream. I can tell that this is the mission you have always dreamed of completing. I know it has been hard for us to make time to spend with each other over the years, but I have still been keeping you in my thoughts and prayers. I will continue to do so while you are overseas…
…Please take care of yourself and do everything necessary to keep yourself and those who are serving with you safe. I am confident that you are in good hands and capable leadership. I know that you will do whatever is necessary to get the job done and return home safely. Below is a prayer for travelers. Even if you don’t read it, I hope that you will keep it close to your heart and on your mind.
“ May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our ancestors, to guide us in peace, to sustain us in peace, to lead us to our desired destination in health and joy and peace, and to bring us home in peace. Save us from every enemy and disaster on the way, and from all calamities that threaten the world. Bless the work of your hands. May we find grace, love, and compassion in Your sight and in the sight of all who see us. Hear our supplication, for You listen to prayer and supplication. Praised are You, Lord who hears prayer.”
Love your brother,