My older brother, Jason, had a very rebellious streak when he was in high school. He is extremely intelligent; however, he chose to miss school multiple times to party and get himself into trouble. My parents would often worry about him because he would not return home for a day or two without calling. I remember my mother crying at the front window one morning because she was afraid he wasn’t going to come home at all. To my parents’ surprise, he joined the Marine Corps Reserves after high school; which may have been a form of rebellion in itself. Ever since my brother joined the Marines, I have watched my parents deal with each deployment differently. Their reactions to his deployments and while he is away differ depending on where he is; basic training, MOS training, and Iraq.
When Jason joined the Marines, he was scheduled to leave for basic training the day after graduation from high school; I was very weary how my parents would handle this. I watched silently as my brother got his small bag of personal items together to leave for basic training which is 13 weeks long. Despite the fact that he had disappointed my parents countless times throughout the previous two years, they were both upset. I remember being irritated as my brother continued to act disrespectful to my parents as they attempted to bid to his every want. When he was finally ready to leave, he almost didn’t give my parents a hug. My mother started to cry and my father got slightly choked up. This was shocking behavior for my parents. I had only seen my mother cry a few times, and my father had never gotten choked up around me.
In the 13 weeks of Jason’s absence, my parents changed. They no longer were stressed over my brother’s bad behavior. However, he was causing them even more stress in a different way. While he was at basic, my parents struggled with U of M. Jason had received a letter stating he would be unaccepted if he failed to respond with an explanation for his poor grades his senior year of high school. My father visibly aged over those 13 weeks. He stressed himself out beyond belief for my brother; he jumped through hoops and got recommendation letters to send to U of M. They didn’t alert Jason of the letter from U of M so that he wouldn’t have added stress at basic training. In spite of the added stress brought on by my brother, my parents were extremely proud. They stopped complaining about his poor behavior and lack of respect, and beamed about how proud they were.
When basic training finally ended, my parents and I went to Parris Island, SC for his graduation. My parents took off work and let me miss my first day of classes. My parents were so excited; it was as if the previous two years didn’t happen. When we saw him for the first time on family day, my mother started to cry. I watched as my parents followed him around base listening intently to him talk about basic training. His graduation ceremony was the next day. I have never seen my parents so proud of my brother. They both stated to tear up when he received his Eagle Globe and Anchor pin. When it was time to leave, my parents and I drove him three hours out of the way of our airport so that he could fly home. The entire flight home my parents boasted about Jason and how respectful he had become. Their view of him seemed to have done a complete 360.
After observing my parents change while Jason was at basic training, I was sure it would continue while he was at MOS training. When he got home from basic training, he went to U of M for one semester. He was then informed that he would be deploying for Iraq in February. However, they didn’t end up leaving then; their deployment date changed to May. Jason was able to complete his MOS training so he would be prepared when he left for Iraq. My parents didn’t cry or react in an extreme fashion when he left for MOS. They knew he was only going for two months, and were excited for the three weeks leave he was promised before deployment to Iraq. While he was at his MOS training, my parents’ stress levels declined a little bit. They were happy he was still in the US and were able to talk to him on the phone a few times.
The two months of MOS training flew by, but Jason’s promised three weeks leave was cut short to six hours. When my parents were informed that they could only be with their son for six hours before he deployed to Iraq for a year, their content behaviors disappeared. They didn’t get upset at first. My mother helped my brother get all of his gear together and my father rushed to the store multiple times to get any last minute items. Our final three hours with him were spent in the car. My parents and I drove him to Battle Creek to see him off. We only had a few minutes to say our goodbyes because he was running late. At first, my parents were holding themselves together. But my mother finally broke down and cried when she hugged my brother goodbye. My father cried; this was the first time I had seen my father cry actual tears. My parents insisted we watch my brother until we couldn’t see him anymore.
I knew when we got in the car to drive home that my parents weren’t going to handle the next year very well; neither was I. My parents didn’t talk much on our way home. After a few weeks, my brother called home for the first time. My parents couldn’t stop smiling or talking about the 5 minute phone call after it happened. Despite the occasional phone call, we only got a few letters. My mother became practically obsessed with buying things to send my brother in care packages. It appeared to comfort her. I remember every time my father would watch the news; my mother would leave the room. She said that it made her upset and she didn’t need the added worry or panic.
As the year my brother was deployed in Iraq dragged on, my parents began to visibly age. It was obvious they didn’t sleep very much and that the stress was killing them. My parents behaved differently for holidays. Even though we never go crazy visiting family, it was as if they didn’t want to even bother to celebrate the holidays until he returned home safe. My mother bought a few things to send Jason for Christmas and his birthday; however, it was obvious it was eating away at her that she couldn’t call him. Finally, we received a call from him that he would be returning home in a month.
My parents were ecstatic when Jason was coming home. They got the house ready for him and stocked the fridge with his favorite beer. The day he returned to Battle Creek, we drove up to pick him up. My parents are rarely loud or hold up signs at sporting events, but they went all out for his home coming. My mother made a few signs for our house and took a sign with her for when his unit arrived. My parents appeared more alive; they were more alive than they had been in a year. When the bus pulled up, both my mother and father screamed and cheered along with the other families. As the stepped off the bus, I saw the worry and panic melt off of my parents’ faces. They had changed so much while he was away, but that all disappeared when he was finally home safe.