Sunday, November 12, 2006
A Tribute to My Brother
My brother is truly one of the most amazing people that I know. He's the type of guy that never ceases to amaze. He's been my best friend basically since he was born. Our family moved around a lot when we were little so Zach and I always did pretty much everything together. We were seriously inseperable, and usually still are. We had our fights like any siblings, but usually it was just me being an idiot. I have so many great memories of he and I sitting up late together, eating chips and drinking Dr. Pepper, watching a funny movie or playing NBA street on playstation. When we were kids we had all these projects that we did to make ourselves feel important. One of these projects was nailing 2x4's in random places on the inside of a bunkhouse because we thought that's what construction was. Good times.
Zach is now a United States Marine. He's currently stationed in Iraq and doing well. I get occasional letters and e-mails from him, as well as phone calls in which there's a ten second pause that always makes the conversations interesting. Zach being in the Marine Corps has been tough for me in a lot of ways. When we were little, I was always the big brother who protected him. I remember one time we were on the playground at our school and some kid started calling my brother names. I ran up and punched the kid in the face and told him to leave my brother alone. I was so mad at that kid because my brother didn't do anything to him, and I remember clearly the feeling I had that I needed to protect my brother. I got in pretty big trouble for that, but I never regretted it. That kid should never have picked on Zach.
We're not on the school playground anymore. My brother is not getting called names by bullies, he's getting shot at with real bullets by real people who want to kill him. And I can't protect him. Thinking about it brings back the exact same feelings that I had when that kid was picking on him on the playground, but there's no bully that I can punch in the face. I'm helpless.
Zach being in the Marines has also forced me to think through a lot of issues regarding the war, etc. I've talked with him lots about the politics surrounding the war and what he thinks about it. I think the thing that I appreciate most about my brother is that he doesn't look at things in black and white. He knows that the people he's fighting are human beings with families and a cause that they believe in, and he doesn't feel the need to dehumanize them in order to deal with it. He's told me that if he pays attention to politics, he'll just get frustrated. He looks at what he's doing as a job, and his responsibility is to protect his fellow Marines who are in harm's way. I think it's less about fighting for a specific cause and more about looking out for his buddies beside him. He also said that he gets motivated by the kids. He was in Afghanistan for 8 months last year, and he fell in love with the children over there. He told me that he saw what he was doing as creating opportunities for kids that they wouldn't otherwise have. He said they were removing the terrorists who were brainwashing kids from a young age and giving the kids an opportunity to get an education. He said that being able to watch kids learn to read and write was the motivation he needed to get through his 8 months over there. He said that regardless of whether or not the war was a good thing, there were at least some positive consequences. He said that if he allows himself to think about all of the political bullshit within the leadership of the Marine Corps and our country, he just gets frustrated. I certainly have my questions about the war and I wonder what would happen if we spent more money on development and less on war. What I love about my brother is that I can talk about these questions with him openly, and he gives me a different perspective that challenges my assumptions and makes me think. These are not black and white issues. While I would love to just see war disappear, the world is not that simple.
The other thing I love about my brother is that when we traveled on a plane together this last summer and he was wearing his dress blues, he wanted me to wear my tie dye shirt so that he could be the Marine traveling with the hippie just to challenge people's perceptions. He got offered a free seat in first class on that trip but wouldn't take it unless I could go with him. He is an incredible and honorable man.
The hardest thing about my brother being in Iraq right now is knowing that he would sacrifice his life without hesitation if that's what it took to save one of his fellow Marines. He told me the last time he was home that he knows what his future holds and he wants to do everything he can to make sure that his buddies have as much time as possible to make their peace with God. That is incredible love. That is the love that Christ showed and called us to, called me to. The love that causes someone to sacrifice their life for the sake of another. The love that causes someone to pray for their enemies and grieve the pain that comes with war. This is the type of love with which my brother lives, and I hope one day to live with it as well.
Here's to you Zach.