Sunday, February 23, 2014

Lessons Learned in Life and Death

This week has truly been one of the most exhausting mentally and emotionally that I've had in years.

I've gone to the same church my whole life, so I've grown up with my church family as a huge part of my life. This week we lost three members of our church and I attended all of the funerals.

This week inspired me to write a post about a lesson I learned during my brothers first deployment.

Life is a very short and delicate thing, it goes by fast and it ends suddenly. This is a story that not too many people really know about, but it has really shaped my life.

In 2004, my brother was deployed in Baqubah, Iraq. The very end of July his girlfriend at that time Amanda had gotten very sick and was in the hospital. While my brother was gone she was visiting her family (who were not very great) and she went to a water park (not good for a transplant patient) she got some kind of infection that caused her body to reject her new heart. about a week later Amanda was gone. We to call the Red Cross to let my brother know what had happened. He wasn't able to come home for the funeral.

[BACK STORY: My brother and Amanda dated for 4 years through all of high school, she had a heart condition and had to have a transplant, which finally came when she was 17. She was part of our family, we were at the hospital with her everyday and took her on vacations she was an everyday part of our life. ]

The day of the funeral my family left for our vacation, and by vacation I mean we all went to the beach and were depressed. Not only was it a first with out my brother but a first in 4 years with out Amanda. (fun fact, we've never went on another vacation during a deployment)

Almost 3 months to the day our Grandpa died, he was 82 a world war II Bomber, and a amazing man. We called the Red Cross again and this time my brother was sent home for 2 weeks. He landed in St. Louis 2 hours before the funeral. My grandfather is buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, a sacred piece of ground. When my grandpa died my brother was about to head into Fallujah to help the Marines who were having a pretty rough time. We always say my grandpas death saved my brothers life.

That year at just 11 I realized how precious life is, this week has definitely reminded me of that. I learned that as an Army family (however this is important for all families) you have to enjoy and take full advantage of all the time you have with family and friends. Tomorrow it could all be gone.

Love your family, really love them. Make sure they know how much you love them.
Take time to enjoy the little things.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Being one of the lucky ones

This week has been a little rough emotionally.

I found out my brother will not be attending my college graduation. As us siblings know (and trust me I know) the military comes first. Never make plans or have high hopes it usually gets messed up. That's the military for you. I've had a feeling that a deployment would be the reason my brother couldn't come to my graduation, this time its a mandatory class he has to take for with his until. Just so happens its the exact day and time of my graduation.

Over my brothers nearly 11 years in the military I couldn't tell you how many birthdays, parties, funerals, soccer games, dances, and holiday's he's missed. During the three years of middle school and my Freshman year of high school I saw my brother for a total of 30 days. So now that he's national guard and not deployed or on orders, I have been ecstatic about having him here for such a big event in my life. Sadly, that wont be happening.

I cried when I found out, and if you know me I'm really good at keeping things in, and I did this time until I was alone. I have not been this devastated in a very long time. But during these tears I realized somethings:
1. My brother would not be happy with me crying, this has been my life for 10 years, I should be used to it now.

2.In the book Service by Marcus Luttrell (I highly recommend, I'll due a post about it later) there is a Warrior Queen section about the wives at home. One wife talked about how there is always someone who has it worse. And that True.

3.I've always wanted a KIA bracelet to honor those who have lost their lives in combat. I found a website with a list of every combat loss for Iraq and Afghanistan, that was a very sobering experience. I went through every page of the Afghanistan section finding a Navy Corps Man my brother picked up on his last Medevac deployment. 45 pages of names. That's over 2,000 military personal that's just Afghanistan. There's another 85 pages for Iraq, that's over 4,000.

5. There is a Facebook page for Gold Star Siblings (siblings who lost someone in the war) That was just as humbling, sad and eye opening.

It took me sitting and feeling sorry for myself to realize how truly blessed an lucky I am. My brother has come home three times. He wasn't injured or had any permanent problems. He's alive and my family remains whole. Yes he wont be there for my graduation and that will hurt, but he is safe. What more can I ask for as a military sibling.

Feeling down, take time and find the positives in your life.

I truly am one of the lucky ones.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Basic Training is the easy part.

I've started following a couple military sibling Instagram accounts and try to see whats going on with some siblings on Tumblr and the post have 1 huge thing in common. Everyone was talking about how hard basic training is having their sibling away.

It's been a VERY long time since I had the Basic Training stage, but-I hate to say it-that's been one of the easiest things I've went through with the Army.

I know, you don't talk much if at all during Basic Training and when you go pick them up they seem really different. I remember being so upset and missing him the whole time he was at Basic. I quickly learned I would give anything to have that back.
I'm not saying this to scare anyone, but its a reality you will face at some point in your siblings military career. Deployments or an overseas station is almost a guarantee in today's military.

I was 10 when my brother was at basic training and at the time, I didn't understand the "future" that was coming.

The journey your sibling is taking right now is a difficult one and it only gets harder from Basic training. Its something that at times is going to turn your life up side down, there will be a lot of tears and fears but there are HAPPY homecomings and a bond that's unbreakable that will form.

I know basic training isn't easy or fun, but use this as your growing pain of becoming an official military sibling.

Keys to getting through basic training:
*Your sibling is SAFE! That's the best thing ever!
*He/she is going to do what they really want, be happy for them
*Finally, this is something to be SO PROUD of!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Post 1...My Army journey

My whole journey as a military sibling started in 2003 when my brother just walked in the door and announced "I joined the Army, I leave in October." There was no discussions no talking about it. He was going to the Army and our opinions didn't matter.

In October 2003 we dropped my brother off at his recruiters and he was gone. Looking back I honestly don't think we talked to him at all except the initial "I'm here and I'm okay phone call." I was 10 years old when he left and I was the first one to not have him around for their birthday, and I'm not going to lie to you it was HORRIBLE. We went and picked him up in December of 2003 and he was completely different, I don't know how to explain it in words but if you've gone through it you understand. We were lucky enough to have him home for 2 weeks for Christmas, then the "real" Army life started.

In January of 2003 he headed to AIT at Fort Sam in Texas, and about 6 weeks later he was off to Germany to join the 1sr infantry Division of "The Big Red One." On Mothers day of 2003 my brother boarded a plane from Germany to go to Baqubah, Iraq. He was there for a little over a year, he was a Combat Medic. This is his least talked about deployment and I've looked up things that happened while he was there and I understand why. I'll talk more about this deployment in later posts but let me say I will never go though a worse year than this one.

We were VERY lucky he came home in 2004. He was stationed in Germany until his unit was being moved to Kansas and he headed to Fort Hood. He went to Iraq a second time to Balad, Iraq working in a hospital. He went there in 2007 I think and came home in 2008 (not sure on the years, it's been a long time). I don't like to call any deployment easy but this one was a breeze compared to the first one.

My family was blessed to not have another deployment until 2012 when he went to Afghanistan. My brother had just joined a Medevac unit in Tennessee and was told he was deploying then found out his wife was pregnant. That was a pretty rough experience. My niece was 9 days old when he left and his wife was dealing with her very first deployment.

My brother returned home 3 days before Christmas in 2013, there was a lot of stress and drama leading up to that homecoming. Army likes to change its mind. At this moment my brother is actually on his way home from his monthly National Guard weekend with his new unit.

This is the short story of my experiences I'll be more detailed in future posts! After almost 11 years I really feel like I've been through a lot with the military. I would love to here from readers, if you have a topic you want to talk about, or if you have questions please share with me! I am happy to answer or write pretty much anything.

Thanks y'all