Some of you may know that my brother Peter left for boot camp on Halloween to become a Marine and just a few short weeks ago my family was able to go out to San Diego, CA to see him graduate. Through his being away at boot camp, I watched my family connect on a different level. We are all very close, so his 3 months away was really hard on everyone, not just that he was away since at some point the oldest kids have been away for extended periods of time, be it college, vacations, study abroad programs, etc, but rather the fact that the only communication we could have would be letters. For a while we sent letters and letters without any response - it's very hard to keep up a one sided letter conversation. But I watched as my family readily jumped on board with Peter's request for letters, each of the older kids had a specific day of the week that a letter had to be put in the mailbox. Every Sunday Mom would hoard the computer from the kick-off of the Bears game down to the final play - giving Peter a play-by-play of the game... ultimately I think it really helped her fantasy football team this year! Eventually a letter would come and Mom would call the kids who no longer live at home and fill us in on the letter. She would re-read the letter numerous times - I'm convinced she memorized each of his letters! The few times I got a letter I would send a text message to the family, which was quickly followed by a phone call to my mom to either read the letter or fill her in on any added information.
He was gone for 3 months in which he missed, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, numerous birthdays and other family events. But in each of his letters he remained positive. Knowing that he wouldn't be around for Christmas, he wrote each person in our family a letter as his Christmas present to us. Because we all wanted to go out for his graduation, which is no small feat for a family of 9 kids, we cut back on the Christmas presents this year and made other sacrifices throughout the holidays. My mom was concerned that the younger kids wouldn't understand the cut backs but my 9 year old brother, Nick, who is clearly wise beyond his years truly understood. He asked for a real Christmas tree - something we have had for the last few years - for Christmas this year. My Mom said that we are trying to save money and that it would cost at least $50 whereas the artificial in the attic would be free. His immediate response was, lets put up the fake tree then to save money so we can see Peter, I can't wait to see him!
|First sighting of Peter!!!|
|The family, minus Katie, all together for Family Day!!!|
Friday was graduation day, so we arrived really early so that we could have seats for the color ceremony. It was an amazing ceremony that left me feeling extremely patriotic. The respect and reverence for the Flag and everything it stands for was truly incredible. Then we got to see Peter graduate and officially be recognized as a Marine - even though he had been a Marine since completing the Crucible.
We learned so much history of the Marines, really all branches of the Military as well as history of the United States. Peter got to have 10 days of boot leave to come home and hang out with his family and friends before the next stages of training and military life.
I was shocked and still am shocked at the changes I saw in my brother during those 10 days. He was physically in MUCH BETTER shape, he lost 30 lbs and gained some muscle mass. He stood straighter, took more care of his appearance and got rid of some horrible habits. But the most important changes I saw were, the fact that he was more disciplined, more patriotic, more faith-filled and extremely family oriented. These were all traits that my parents instilled in him as he grew-up but somehow they all seemed to have clicked into place in these last three months.
I truly could not be more proud of him!!! Now he is gone again for more training and I miss him so much. I often think of him and of all of the military men and women that sacrifice so much to protect us and to provide our freedom and I wish that there was something I could do to thank them. No words of thanks will ever seem to be enough but it's a start. So when you see a military man or woman thank them for their service, you have no idea the kind of sacrifices they have made or the sacrifices they may make in the future. They essentially give themselves completely to our wonderful country to help keep it a safe place for every citizen. Say a prayer for their safety and for their families.
I've been trying to think of a way to give back to our military families ever since going to San Diego maybe it's because I'm technically part of a military family now - I actually was before too since my cousin is also a Marine. Maybe it's the patriotism that I felt while being on base. Maybe it's the fact that every time I see a flag or hear the National Anthem I think of my brother and all the other service men and women. Whatever the reason is, I finally figured out a way to say "Thank You" and to hopefully impact their lives. I've decided to run the Chicago Marathon this year for Team Salute. Team Salute is a non-profit charity that helps military service members and their families by providing financial, physical and emotional needs. Their motto is "Honor the Service and Remember the Sacrifice." If you would like to donate to help me raise my goal, you may do so here: http://www.active.com/donate/2012TSCHMarathon/EmilyHinderer
Or if you can't donate at this time but know of a military member that you would like me to remember in a special way please let me know their name!
To all the military men and women - I THANK YOU for your service from the bottom of my heart!