The men who don't come home

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Paul Ross
  • 116th Air Control Wing
I went to visit my brother this weekend. He's a typical 18-year-old -- cocky and arrogant with plenty of spit and vinegar flowing through his veins.

As a recent graduate of Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Ga., he is now a crucial piece in the backbone of the United States military and one of the key factors in this country's War on Terror.

I have a great deal of pride in my brother. The youngest of four boys and second youngest of six kids, he was always finding himself in situations that required disciplinary action. This led teachers and faculty members to ultimately decide, like they do with most troublesome youths, that he wouldn't amount to much more than a convict or a vagabond. At some point my friends started a betting pool for at what age he would be when he ended up incarcerated. Much to his teachers' disbelief no one has won the money.

It's almost amusing to think that in a short time he will be aboard a plane, taking the 12-hour flight across the Atlantic with only one intention in mind: to protect the freedoms of every citizen of the United States of America, including the same folks who wrote him off as a waste of their time and efforts.

In all the conversations I've had with my brother I have never heard him speak with as much passion and enthusiasm as he does when he discusses the infantry. He could talk for hours about the various weapons he has been trained to fire or about the proper way to enter a building full of potential threats. I have my wife and daughter but his heart belongs to the Army.

As we were sitting in my hotel room the night of his graduation, he spoke of his excitement to get wherever the Army needs him and to get his hands dirty helping combat the War on Terror. I thought to myself, "It's a good thing there are men like my brother or we wouldn't have any freedoms to fight for."

At that moment I realized that he was now a man and not my little brother. He wasn't the same 10-year-old who I used to pick on and shun when my buddies came around. This man was going to protect my daughter's freedoms, my wife's liberties and my American way of life.

The world is filled with all sorts of men -- men who agree with war and those who disagree. There are men like my father, with more blue on his collar than in a clear day's sky, who find solace in the factory. There are men who grow up to heal the sick and men meant to lead countries. There are men, much like myself, who feel safer behind a pen and pad of paper than with an M-16 slung over their shoulders. And then there are men like my brother -- men who are willing to give their most valuable possession in order to keep our way of life intact.

There is no dishonor for those of us lacking the same vim and vigor to tramp though the streets of Baghdad and put our lives on the line. But next time you are enjoying a day with your family or relaxing on your living room couch, remember the men like my brother, the men who still so closely resemble boys, the men who grow up too quickly, the men who fight for freedom, the men who sometimes don't come home.