Friday, January 21, 2011

A Day We Will Always Remember

I was ten years old when my 3rd youngest sibling: Charles Oliver Bonilla was born. Having a baby around at that time was loads of fun. However, life with an additional sibling younger than myself, meant more responsibility. As his 10 year old sister, Oliver became my living, breathing, crying, peeing, poopy baby doll. His vulnerability resulted in him being my guinea pig when it came to my mother's training in child rearing. I owe a grand amount of gratitude for his birth because by the end of his 2nd year I was fully capable of caring for a baby/toddler. I didn't need to be babysitter certified by classes offered at the local annex when I had all the schooling that I needed from Mom University at home.

That baby doll grew up pretty darn fast.

When Oliver told us that he wanted to join the army 4 years ago I fought with every bone in my body to derail his plan. "I support the US Army Oliver, I just don't want to lose any of MY family to war". "Have you lost your God lovin mind boy, you're not going to survive", "The Army isn't your ticket to college, the army is for people who are willing to die for their country". Yes, I was guilty of saying every phrase I could find to talk him out of it. I thought I had succeeded when the talk of joining the army lessened but then I got the news: "I've enlisted". My heart hit the floor, a lump in my throat. "Ok, you got to do what you think is best for you, I guess", I mounted up as much support as I could, because after all, what could I do, this was HIS life "after all" I thought "he won't make it past boot camp".

When he shipped out for boot camp I cried that night thinking of how he'd be miserable, dreading and regretting his choice, probably laying in his bed in the fetal position crying himself to sleep. Then I started praying as hard as I could. I prayed every time I thought about him but I just couldn't get that image out of my mind that he was lonely, sad, hurting, regretting.

Little did I know that my brother was becoming a man. While I was faithless in his ability to cope, he was mustering up all his strength to do what he had to do. He was digging deep within himself to bring out the man that was hidden within. When I received the news that he was loving boot camp, a great relief and disbelief came upon me "How can this be?", "There's no way!", "Couch potato loves boot camp????".

After 4 years of not seeing my little brother, I saw him yesterday thru new eyes. A boy has become a man and everything about him exudes confidence, pride, happiness, drive, determination, hope for the future, strength. He's everything I always dreamed he'd be but didn't have enough faith to know that he'd become.

There's light in eyes that were blank with hopelessness, there's joy in a heart and soul that was broken. His smile is infectious, when he's not taking himself too seriously in his new found "manhood".

Today is a day that I will always remember because it's another day in my life that I was overwhelmed with pride. You’d think I’d birthed another child. It's the pride that comes in seeing that my brother is proud of himself and that he's happy in the man that he has become in these last 12 weeks. My pride comes from his passion to participate in something that he believes in and to go for it with all of his heart and "not give up, never give up" (as he said repeatedly during our conversations).

His initial intention to join the army may have been for school but today I know that he serves this country because he's grateful for what he has, he values his freedom and is willing to fight and even die for the freedom of not just his family and friends but for every person who lives within these borders.

I know the time is coming when he will be deployed, it's as he's said "It's not about IF I will be deployed' it's about WHEN. When that time comes, I'm ready to do what I need to do because I love my country and I love my family and friends: I'll put my life in the line of fire when it's time to protect our freedom".

The thought of my brother being deployed makes me cringe. I could drive myself insane with worry just thinking about it but I find comfort in knowing that when that time comes he'll be doing what he's trained to do because he WANTS to do it not because he's riding the gravy train to a better education and that in itself is a relief. He believes in what he represents and who he’s representing and he’s standing taller than I’ve ever seen him stand before. He’s a soldier.

"We're one of THOSE families now" I told my mom tonight. "What do you mean?" she asked. We're an ARMY family.

Here’s to my brother: Charles Oliver Bonilla aka. Oliver, Uncle Charlie, Chuckles, graduate of Echo 2/60th 3rd Platoon Death Dealers: we love you, we believe in you and we know without a shadow of a doubt that you can and will accomplish ANYTHING that you put your mind and heart into.  HOOAH!

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