Uncle Sam Wants You!

by Lisa Donovan

Today, my brother is off to become a certified card carrying member of the U.S. Army. I am sure you have an image of a young eighteen year old, fresh faced and right out of high school packing his bags and boarding a bus. Not so. My brother will be thirty two this year. He has had a life full of playing and touring in punk bands and traveling around living life to the absolute fullest. He is not your typical candidate: both arms covered in tattoos, piercings that are slowing closing up, a wardrobe that is indicative of his ten year residency as a San Diego twenty-something (those southern Californians are very image conscious, it’s true).

He decided about a year ago that all that time was wasted. He decided that it was time to make a change and follow a dream I had no idea lived within him. Now, it should be said that no one knows my brother better than I do - and vice versa. After my husband, he is my best friend and most intimate confidante. Even as Army brats, he and I always fell very left of our very conservative, Republican father. We talked a lot about the propaganda involved to sway youngsters (see MTV commercials) into war and other types of young idealist perspectives that are so comfortable to wear when you’re in your twenties. We were commrades in arms. You can only imagine my confusion and utter feeling of desperation when he told me he wanted to join the Army. I thought it was, at the most, an early mid-life crisis that I could talk him out of. Not so.

As time went on, I watched him struggle to make deals with recruiters and go through rejections from the higher ups - he was too old, had too many tattoos, not enough education. He’s a smart boy and he has been in the service before (a short stint in the Navy) - so he wasn’t about to go in as an enlisted runt for them to send overseas. He was going for officer training school and, eventually, helicopter piloting school. The pilot job was what he, ultimately, was going for. It took him a year and devout consistancy and determination to finally get accepted.

It was his response to the initial rejection that made me change my mind. Moreover, his reaction to those rejections. I saw something in him that I had never seen before - passion and brow-furrowing determination. He wasn’t going to quit until he became a pilot in the Army - nothing else would suffice. Once I saw this, I stopped sending him anti-war books like Slaughter-House Five. I stopped judging his intentions and placing my ideals on him - even if they were ideals that we had (or have) in common. I still am frightened by his decision but I am also standing in great awe of all that he is becoming - even though it is not what I would have planned for him.

It is taking me a great deal of strength to not feel worried or anxious about it - but I can tell you one thing I don’t feel anymore is disappointment or confusion about his decision. I am as excited for him as I would be had he continued on his road to being a musician or a writer. It is beautiful when we see someone we know so well turn such a sharp corner in their life. Sometimes we have to step out of our selves and that may be hard - and it is hard but it is also beautiful and inspiring.

So, I’ve already ordered my bumper sticker that says “My Brother is a Pilot in the Army”. I think I’ll use it as a book mark for SlaughterHouse Five.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 7th, 2006 at 10:38 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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