When your little brother deploys for the first time

My little brother enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 2014, and he recently left on his first deployment.

While we are ten years apart and did not hang out a lot together during our younger years, I still feel a special connection to him. Perhaps it’s the orneriness. Perhaps it’s being close astrologically. (My birthday is February 27th, and his is March 12th.) Perhaps it’s being the bookends to our middle sister whom you would love to hate if she wasn’t so cute and nice all of the time.

I am often a stereotypical Pisces and show my emotions on my sleeve — until I see that others are falling apart. Then I miraculously keep it together to the point where others have often questioned whether or not I feel anything. When he left for boot camp, I saw him at graduation, we hung out for a brief hour and a half in the airport during his first leave (I was on my way to India!), and even when he came home during his second leave, I mostly held it together. And when I did break down a little bit, only my bestie, the puggle, or the tabby cat witnessed it.

Fast forward to last week when my brother deployed overseas. I was a wreck for two days straight. I broke down to two co-workers and once again, my bestie. I found it a double edged sword to see his carrier on TV and on Facebook. It was nice to have the images, and then it also made things more real and disturbing. I know he is safe, and I for one would not want to mess with that crew of amazing sailors. But he is far away during the holidays. And the deployment coincidentally came a few days after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

My brother has always been one to do things 100%, so why would deploying be any different? He is defending freedom during a time of heightened awareness, and he is doing that during such an important time during the calendar year.

During the midst of all of this, I have come to realize that I had no clue what military families go through prior to my brother enlisting. Sure, I said thanks to our vets, told families they should be proud of their loved ones, and thought I knew what I was saying.

Service to one’s country is a noble endeavor, but the reality of it all is not very glamorous. While I am enjoying the snow, eggnog, and loved ones, my brother is on a metal ship making his own Christmas tree out of cardboard and other clever things.

I am incredibly proud of my little brother Mitch. And I am proud of every service member and their friends and families who support them and stay strong through the ups and downs of military service.

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