Sadly, I was reminded this week that defending this country comes at a price. The highest price of all. A friend from back home, who was a classmate of my younger brother, was killed while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan. He had already done 2 tours in Iraq.
Brandon was a great guy- funny, outgoing, the life of the party. I knew him from events my brother participated in while growing up, and he always made me laugh. He was over 6' tall, but more like a big teddy bear. Always so nice to others.
I remember well the summer I spent with him in England. When I was in college, my dad was flying in/out of London one summer, and we had friends from Kingwood (the Olsen's) that had moved to London as well. Brandon came over at the same time to visit Adam Olsen. So all of us spent time together touring London and having fun. I remember Brandon trying to "speak British" while on the subway. His fake accent was hilarious as he tried to say excuse me, which sounded more like "es-shoes-me" and "mind the gap" every time we pulled into a subway station. Walking across the famous London Bridge, he spit off the side into the river. The police saw us, and kicked us off the bridge, and we had to wander thru quite a large part of London before we could figure out how to get back home again, without recrossing that bridge! We all were mad at the time, but got quite a few laughs about it later. Thinking about it now brings a smile to my face.
It's hard to believe that that happy, funny, joking guy is really gone. He leaves behind his mom, dad and 2 brothers. He also leaves behind a beautiful wife and 2 little boys (ages 3 and 1). I think maybe that is what gets to me the most.
I try to imagine myself in her shoes- the ever-supportive, loving wife who goes about her life day to day while her husband is deployed, and she raises 2 small kids. That part I can do. In fact, I don't have to imagine it, I've done it. Brett has deployed 5 times. While it is scary to have them gone, it's part of the job and you know it.
Some say the hardest military job is that of the military wife. We do put up with and sacrifice a lot, but we all know that going into it, and we love our guys enough to know that just comes with the territory. You carry on with your life because it almost becomes routine to have them gone. You keep your cell phone close to make sure to get to talk to them when they can call. You enjoy the short phone calls/emails you do get, and count down the days until they return. You plan a homecoming party and make a "welcome back" banner, because you know they are going to come home again.
You know it is possible, but you don't think about them not coming home. I can't imagine it. Or having them return home, but in a casket. It's my nightmare, and my heart breaks into a million pieces for Brandon's wife, who is living that nightmare right now. A picture of his casket being delivered home on a C-17 was posted online, and his wife responded with "welcome home my love- I'll be there soon" (she was going to meet his remains in Delaware). I read that and just cried for her, for him, for their children, for our country to have lost one of its own & one of it's best.
I pray I never have to experience that pain and sorrow first hand. I pray for Brandon's family that they may have the peace of knowing Brandon is in a better place, and died doing what he loved- supporting our American way of life.
Thank a military member today. Be proud of our troops, no matter what your view on the current war is, and send up prayers for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Freedom isn't free, and I am so very proud to be in the 'military family'. Brandon, you are gone, but will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace. Thank you for your ultimate sacrifice. You will be remembered as a hero.