When I was 12 years old, my brother Jon went to Vietnam. The experience was formative for me in many ways. Other men in my family had served in the military. But, this was the first time that someone so close to me, someone I loved so deeply, was facing such danger on a daily basis during my lifetime.
Of course, I could have no sense of the suffering Jon experienced, or of the impact that time would have on his life after returning home. I did know the daily anxiety, exacerbated by nightly news broadcasts of the carnage in Southeast Asia. I felt the pang of separation with every letter I wrote. And I felt elation the night he walked in the door, safe at home once more.
Jon brought me a copper bracelet given to him by the Montagnard natives where he was stationed. He told me that it was a friendship bracelet, that once given should not be removed. I wore that bracelet for many years, partly because it was the one tangible way I could share my brother’s experience of war. That bracelet helped me imagine that there were real people over there that he had helped.
On Memorial Day, I join others honoring the enormous sacrifices of our veterans. I especially hold my brother Jon in my mind, because I know that he paid – and continues to pay – a great price for his service to his country. I owe him and those thousands of other vets a debt of gratitude for their sacrifice.
I also honor the sacrifices of the families and friends of veterans – the parents, brothers and sisters, spouses, children, and others – who waited, sent packages, prayed, and kept the dream of home alive. And, while I hope for the day when we never need to take up arms again, let us always keep strong our will to support those who sacrifice for the good of others and never forget their dedication to preserving our freedoms.