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Three years ago, I was at my sister's soccer game, the national anthem playing through the loudspeakers. But as we all stood there waiting for that high A, a few young men, about my age, whispered back and forth, snickering, throughout the whole song.
Now, I certainly thought they should stop; I even wanted them to stop.
But neither I nor anyone else did anything about it. I love my country and am thankful for all its opportunities, but isn't my own quiet and reverence enough? Such a thought, however, was before my younger brother joined the Navy.
When he wanted something as an infant, I would interpret his gibberish for others. In middle school, we coordinated our watches to sneak out and play video games. The night before I left for college, we each cried uncontrollably in our separate rooms.
To have my brother and best friend join the military was terrifying. Of course I was proud of him. I admired him. But I was nevertheless scared for him. ... When you have a father, a wife or a brother in the military, the hypothetical of their absence is one you imagine every day. Every day is just another chance for that knock at that door, that phone call beginning with a pause. When you really love someone, the last place you want them is in the military.
But because of their own volition, fate, God, that is exactly where they are. Where their job is not just their life, but the possible sacrifice of it. Where freedom isn't guaranteed, but where they do the guaranteeing. And with my brother in the military, I have to constantly remind myself of that. Of his duties. Of his service.
As hard as it is, I have to recognize that my brother's commitment not only protects this country, but, in turn, acts to protect me, too.
Today, I personally thank military men and women if I see them in passing. I donate to veterans programs when I can. I extol our servicemen to others, have a flag outside my house and pray for their safekeeping every night before bed. Having my brother join the Navy made it real — made the chance of loss real, made the cost of freedom not something I could hold in my arms, but someone, God forbid, that I couldn't.
Recently, I was at another of my sister's soccer games when a set of boys started talking behind me. This time, however, I turned to say something. "I know you don't understand this, but that national anthem represents all the soldiers who put forward their lives, the families who put forward their love, so you could have the freedom to be so disrespectful. However, if you don't shut your mouths, I'll be happy to show you what a totally different kind of freedom feels like."
I had never seen three boys so quickly become such proud Americans.