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Sometime in the summer of 1990, my little brother (who is just two years younger than me) and I were sharing a small one-bedroom apartment across from the bowling alley in Conroe, TX. We’d planned to get up and go surfing that day, but when we woke up to heavy rains that morning, we needed a Plan B.
I asked Marty what he was going to do, and after a moment he nonchalantly said that he was going to go talk to an Army recruiter. Uh…what?
We’d never talked about joining the military before, even though we come from a family where most of the men (and many of the women) do serve.
Marty was working at the Black Eyed Pea restaurant, and I was tending bar at a local join after deciding not to go back to school at Baylor University. We both knew that we needed a new direction to our currently directionless lives. The US had just entered the Persian Gulf War, and we felt that enlisting during a time of war was the right thing to do, as our country needed us more than the local entertainment and dining industry did.
The Army sounded like a damned fine plan, so I told him to wait up and I’d go with him.
A few hours later, we were signed-on-the-dotted line US Army recruits.
I shipped off for Basic Training in Ft. Knox the following January. A month later, Marty headed out to Ft. Leonard Wood.
My military career was cut short by a training accident, but my little brother went on to finish his first tour and then decided that a career in the US Army was his calling, so he re-enlisted. And then re-enlisted again. And then again.
He turned down a promotion to E-8 last year, as it would have required at least another 3 year commitment, and he had already promised his wife and kids that he’d retire after 20 years (he was extended another year, since his wife used his post-9/11 GI Bill benefits to get her degree).
Today, after more than 21 years on active duty in the US Army, my little brother — just a misguided, knuckle-headed kid when he raised his hand and took the Oath of Enlistment — is heading to Houston to sign out of his battalion and onto Terminal Leave, pending his honorable retirement from service in August.
To say I’m proud of the man he has become is an understatement. I am humbled by the sacrifices he and his family have made throughout his 21 years of service to our nation. Congrats to the almost-retired milestone, little bro! Enjoy the next few months off while you transition to the civilian world, where I know you’ll be every bit as successful as you were as a Solider.
The US Army: Turning boys into men since 1775