I've always considered myself a pretty patriotic American. I love apple pie, hot dogs, baseball, crazy 4th of july celebrations, labor day, memorial day, etc. But in the last few years my patriotism has changed. I think I had a very superficial outlook on these American holidays - I was patriotic because everyone was, of course you wear red, white and blue but I don't think I appreciated these holidays for what they really represent. All of that changed a few years ago when my brother decided to become a Marine. His decision was met with very mixed feelings from everyone who knew him, pride at his bravery and fear that if he ever got deployed he might not make it back.
Three months away at bootcamp with next to no communication besides an occasional hand written letter was incredibly hard on my tight knit family of 11. (Yes, it is possible to be a really close family with that many people.) When he graduated from bootcamp, my family made the trip out to San Diego to support him and experience what it meant to suddenly be a military family. I remember being struck by the magnitude of the decision that all of these young men made to serve our wonderful country. That weekend was filled with many tears, some at finally being able to see my brother, some from laughing so hard at some of his bootcamp stories but most importantly some at finally realizing what it truly means to be an American and the sacrifice that some men and women are called to give.