My brother joined our family when I was 13 years old.
As a much older sibling, I vividly remember watching him grow up. Finding toy cars or army men lined up along the kitchen counter. Watching his favorite Disney movies at least a thousand times. Cuddling him up, in his favorite Simba jammies.
But, of all the little details that I remember from his childhood, one stands out from the rest. A moment when he became upset that I wasn't wearing my seatbelt. How he told me that I was important to him and that wearing my seatbelt would keep me safe. How his big blue eyes - so earnest, so protective - fixed on me, as he made me promise that I'd always wear it. How half a year later, I was told that wearing a seatbelt had saved my life.
Which is, of course, ridiculous.
A seatbelt did not save me.
My six year old brother did.
And now, my little hero is all grown up.
He's joined the Marines and begins training in January.
He has committed to serve our country. To protect those that are vulnerable. And, if called upon, to give up that which is most dear.
No life is guaranteed.
I know this all too well.
And the randomness of it all is both comforting and terrifying.
So, what should we do?
Stay safe and snug by the fireside or burn a flaming streak across Life's darkest skies?
This is a choice we all must make.
You made a brave decision, baby brother.
And I am proud of you.
With a light that rivals the moon and outlasts all the stars.
I love you.
"Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."