Salt Lake City, UT –
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I remember when my brother left for the Air Force Academy. I hugged him, and cried, and told him I would write while he stood strong and almost emotionless, already adopting that stoic military stance so unfamiliar to me and the rest of my family. Everything about military life was a new experience for us. My mom and dad were unsure of whether to hug Adam or just shake his hand; my sister and I were unsure of whether to joke with him or just remain silent. We were all unsure of what his reasons were for going (although I am sure he knew), and we were even more unsure of our own opinions concerning the military and the commitment involved. Later when my sister and I added it up, we figured Adam would not be coming home for more than a short visit for the next twelve years.
I remained in constant communication with my brother over the next year. I often felt guilty telling him about my journeys to Mexico or across the country, knowing it would be a long time before he would have the freedom to travel again. But somewhere in the midst of all those emails, without telling me directly, I realized why he chose to serve. Why he decided to pay the heavy price of discipline and possibly even the ultimate price in order to defend a principle - an ideal. Adam is the idealist; the optimist; the eternal dreamer. He knows the freedoms his country provide him, but he also knows that political freedom is the most fragile, and wondrous, of human accomplishments and so enlisted his idealism in this highest of causes.
I recently learned that a few restaurants in Colorado Springs, which is home to the Air Force Academy, will not serve anyone in uniform in protest of the war. On news programs I saw Americans burning their own flag. When I asked my brother what he thought of all this, he only replied that it is their right. That their freedom, and the freedom of people around the world, is what our troops are fighting for. I agree with him, but from my emotions I know I am no longer unsure of my feelings concerning our military. I am no longer unsure of my role as a citizen of the United States. I now know our flag stands for everything good about our country, and everything good about my life. I know this because the people sacrificing their lives for it, like my brother, are our idealists and our dreamers. They are our heroes. I watch the flag burnings and read about the restaurant segregations and I wonder if these protestors are certain of the messages they are portraying. Are they certain that, through these acts, they are helping to make our nation and this world a better place as is our obligation as Americans - for ourselves and for our children? I know my brother is making this world a better place for himself and his loved ones by serving his country, and I know I can do my part by supporting him.