Last night we had dinner at my sister's house for her birthday. My 21 year old nephew Garrett was there. I want to tell you a bit about Garrett because he is one of the many young men and women now serving in our military. As his aunt this scares me and worries the hell out of me in this day and age, but I am also so very proud of him that every time I see him these days I about burst!
I was seventeen when Garrett was born. He was the most beautiful baby with enormous blue eyes and a cap full of white blonde hair. He was always even tempered and sweet. I never remember him throwing fits, and I adored him. I did quite a bit of babysitting for the first few years of his life when I would come home for the summer from school. I loved taking care of this kid. He was and still is a joy to be around.
Garrett grew as all kids do. My sister wound up moving over an hour away, had her little girl who I also adore and I didn't get to see the kids all that much at that point. I also had my own kids by then. My sister divorced and the three of them moved back closer to home. Sadly my sister had a substance abuse problem and Garrett became a bit of a parent at a young age of his mom. He was extremely protective of her and it was heartbreaking when she lost custody of her kids and they went to live with their dad and step-mom. My sister went through rehab and is a completely healthy, vibrant beautiful being (she always was, but a part of her soul was lying underneath the darkness waiting to be saved--she finally saved herself).
I would see Garrett and my niece Gillian on occasional weekends and holidays. They stayed with us quite a bit during winter and spring breaks when my sister had to work, which my kids loved. Garrett is four years older than my oldest but because of some of the emotional trauma he went through as a kid, I think it took him a bit longer to mature than other kids. Or maybe this is a guy thing, which I am now discovering on my own with my own sons. Garrett and my sons would and could play for hours on the The Nintendo or the Gameboy. When the mid teen years hit with Garrett, I honestly didn't recognize him. He grew a mustache that my dad after a finally made him shave off, he wore all black with the hanging chain thing and he barely spoke a word. We all thought, "Oh no. What has happened to our fair haired boy? Have we lost him for good?"
He loved to sketch during those years and was great at it. I'll have to ask him if he still does it.
We were all shocked to learn that when he turned eighteen he enlisted in the Air Force (for not just 4 years, but 6). I think the entire family was afraid and bewildered. Garrett had always been a very naive kid and sensitive. How would he survive the military? Not only did he simply enlist but for his career path, he chose to become a paratrooper. Those are the guys who jump out of the helicopter, get on the ground with the wounded, treat them as an EMT would and get them safely up into the helicopter. This is the kid who I changed his diapers! I played cars with him! I wiped sweet potatoes off his face! Now he wants to jump out of helicopters and go into combat zones!
The first six months of training were brutal for Garrett. He called home a lot and was very unhappy. He felt he'd made a mistake by enlisting. But as we all know the military won't let you go home just because you're unhappy. So, because he had no other choice he stuck it out. He's now been through basic training, dive school, training where he parachutes out of the planes, and is heading to Savannah soon to be trained as an EMT. During this he's had a set back during dive school where he hurt his knee and had to have knee surgery. Once healed he went back to dive school where most of these guys fail. But not Garrett. He has accomplished this and so much more.
No longer is he a skinny kid who never speaks and hangs his head. He has impeccable manners. Holds his head high. He is responsible and sweet and funny. He is built like a rock and is so gorgeous that I know girls must go crazy for him. I know I sound like a bragging aunt, but come on, this is a young man who is serving our country.
I wanted to tell you about Garrett because he is like every young woman and man serving our country. Each one dead or alive had/has a story. They have families and friends who love them and who they love. They were once little children wo we never thought would grow up because we wanted so badly to hold them in their time of innocence where they were safe. But now they are the ones out there working to keep us safe and protect our freedoms.
I don't agree with the war we're in and I don't like the fact that my nephew is one of the kids (and that is what many of them are--kids) will likely be sent overseas to fight this war, but I am so very proud of him and every one of our military personnel from those who protected us in the past to those who do it today. Today is a day to salute you and remember all that you do for our country!
Thank You and God Bless!