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Her Story: Being the Sister of a United States Marine

I remember the night my brother told my parents and I that he decided that he was going to join the Marine Corps. Determined and already dedicated, he said he did his research and realized this would be advantageous for him to become a police officer someday. For me, everything spiraled out of control. He was graduating high school and I had just edited his college essay for him a few weeks prior. I had helped him in his college search and with scheduling tours, having already gone through the process. He had a successful high school football career and was always the more athletic sibling. I had imagined making the trips to watch him star in his college division team, wherever he chose to attend school. I hadn’t realized that he would choose a path other than the one I had taken myself. The college path was familiar; I could help him through his transition into college and give advice on coursework. This was not familiar and I didn’t know what my role in this stage of his life would be.

I remember hysterically crying and trying to convince him to change his mind. I remember not being able to look at my parents’ reactions for too long, otherwise I would crumble again. I remember realizing how serious he was and how hard it was for him to tell us this news. I remember panicking about leaving home to study abroad, because that meant additional time I would lose from spending time with him before everything would change. I remember the disbelief, the tears, the denial, and most of all, the fear of not knowing what this all entailed. For me, this was my initiation to becoming the sister of a United States Marine.

Not coming from a heavily-saturated military background, we did our research, trying to grasp an understanding of what was to come. My brother knew what job he wanted to pursue while in the service to best qualify for a police officer job after the fact. He became close friends with other boys he met at the recruiter’s office. The days flew by and it was time to attend his high school graduation. There was a hiccup in the process when the new principal announced that he wanted to end the graduation tradition of announcing each graduate’s future plans as they received their diplomas. This was the first time I felt the fierce rage that came with my new sisterly title. During this monumental moment of my brother’s life, I wanted everyone to know what his future plans were. I wanted him to receive the credit and admiration he deserved. The obstacle was resolved, and students were permitted to choose if they wanted their plans announced or not. When it came time for my brother to graduate, the combination of the heavy applause and those words–“joining the Marine Corps”–was both deafening and surreal. I didn’t think I could be more proud than I was in that moment, but each step of the way, I become more and more proud.

The summer came and went, and too soon it was time for him to head to boot camp. We had an early Thanksgiving dinner that he could partake in, and promised that a belated Christmas would be waiting for him. I was in shambles as the days dwindled down and found every excuse to make it home each weekend to spend time with him before I wouldn’t see him for thirteen long weeks. It was my little brother leaving; I couldn’t help but feel my defensive instincts kick in, and the tears and anxiety ate away at me upon his departure.

                                                                                                         Celebrating a belated Christmas during his 10 day leave

I found solace in writing letters to him and updating him on simple things, like my internship search and when I actually landed my top internship of choice. I checked my school mailbox more than I ever have in my total time as an undergrad, and was over the moon when I received a letter in return from him. I joined Marine family support groups on Facebook to learn more about the Marines and how families handled this life changing experience. Pictures of the platoons and recruits were posted by families visiting Parris Island and I pored over them, searching for my brother and becoming elated when I found even someone who could have resembled him. Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years passed. None of them held the same holiday relevance as they once did, and it was an effort to try to enjoy them. Once he and his platoon finished the final 54 hour test, called The Crucible, he was able to enjoy some free time and could purchase a phone to make calls. I was scheduled to work the day he would have access to a phone, and I asked my parents to relay my phone number to him in the hopes of getting to hear his voice. I remember that call with extreme clarity; I jumped up from the desk and tried to hold back tears when I heard his voice for the first time in thirteen weeks. The call lasted all of 6 minutes but it was enough to make my entire week that much better.

A few days later and we were able to fly to South Carolina to see him officially graduate from boot camp and earn the title of United States Marine. I easily sacrificed Syllabus Week and emailed my professors with my valid reason for not being present for the initial days of class. On our first day on the island, we weren’t permitted to speak to our Marines, but we were able to watch them rehearsing for the upcoming Family Day ceremony. My brother saw us and the smile he flashed in recognition was priceless. The following day, on Family Day, we rose at 5:00 AM to line up to cheer on the new Marines during their Motivational Run around the island. We were then able to spend a few hours with him and tour around Parris Island, seeing where he had spent his duration of boot camp. I was relieved when it became clear that although he just went through taxing training, he was still my little brother and hadn’t changed as much as I feared he would. He is certainly different, but simultaneously still himself.

The next day was his graduation, and this time I felt even more proud than I had at his high school graduation. He accomplished a great feat that few people can claim. He earned the title that is never simply given out. While in Parris Island, I purchased shirts and bracelets and had a customized sweatshirt made, and it became easier to recognize the extended community we were now a part of. Before my brother joined the Marines, I didn’t fully understand the emotional toll that it entailed or the community that revolves around this commonality. Now, I am the sappy, proud sister that wears the USMC regalia and will take any chance to brag about her brother. I now know how valuable a phone call can be, and the true meaning of “family first”. While this is just the very beginning of our journey and he still has years of service to complete, I have learned, and will continue to learn, so much. I will constantly worry, say random little prayers for him, and tear up at just the thought of missing him. Most of all, though, I am extremely proud. So far, this has been my experience as the sister of a United States Marine.

I would like to thank my peers, family, and friends–on and off the Emmanuel campus–for all of the kind words and support. It never goes unnoticed or unappreciated when you ask how my brother is doing; thank you.

                                                                                                                         Statue of Iwo Jima at Parris Island

Lauren is a Junior at Emmanuel College, and is the chapter's co-managing editor. After exploring different areas of study, she declared her major as English-Communications, and is double minoring in Management and Gender Studies. Her interests include getting lost in a good book, adventuring around the beautiful city of Boston, laughing, and admiring beauty gurus on Instagram and Youtube. If she isn't contemplating her next purchase at Sephora, you'll most likely find Lauren with either tea or coffee in hand, striving to be like Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, or making her boyfriend call her cell phone just so she can listen to her The-Office-theme-song ringtone. 
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