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Brother, sister bond strengthens as he joins Marines

Nov. 9, 2004

By ASHLEY HOLT, reporter

My brother Ryan is two years and three days older than me. We were never very close when we were younger. Sure he held me when I was a baby and was always playing with me and being the typical big brother, but when junior high and high school rolled around, I couldn't stand him. I thought he was the biggest jerk who ever walked the earth. He was always mean to my friends and me. He was disrespectful to my mom, and he never helped out with the chores. I'd never known anyone so rude in my life. When he graduated high school, I couldn't wait for him to go to college. I was ecstatic thinking about spending my last two years of high school with no Ryan. He hated the first college he went to, so he came home every Thursday and wouldn't leave until Sunday. How fortunate for me to still have to spend every weekend with the brother I despised. It's funny how people change.

Now my brother is a U.S. Marine, and I couldn't ask for a better friend or brother. The day I came to Baylor is the same day my mom and I took Ryan to the airport to go to boot camp in California. My brother and I had never been so close. We wrote letters to each other for three months without being able to talk. I learned more about him in those three months than I had in the past 18 years. I learned what a great and caring person he is.

My brother surprised me in my dorm room after he graduated from boot camp in November 2001. He didn't even look like the same person. He was tall, dark and handsome and radiated a confidence I had never seen in him before. He was proud. I was proud. And then I was scared.

Only two months before, terrorists attacked our country. My brother was fresh out of boot camp, and there already was word of his platoon going to war.

I spent the entire spring semester of my sophomore year glued to the television. I wasn't that worried about the terrorists and the war before. I've always told myself not to worry about things I can't change. But now my brother was in Iraq and my perspective had completely changed. I couldn't help but watch the news waiting to hear anything about him or his platoon. My brother fought in Iraq for almost four months, which isn't long compared to some who have been there longer. But he still did his part, and he took the same risks others have.

Ryan is now in Fuji, Japan and won't be home until January. This will be the first Christmas my family and I will spend without him. I resent the fact he can't be with us. I understand many Americans in our country may not agree with our interaction in Iraq, but my brother has been there. And although he said he went to sleep every night not knowing if he would ever wake up, he still said he knew it was the right thing to do. He's told me how the Iraqi people were so grateful and how they dropped to their knees thanking the troops for being there. Although I'll spend this Christmas without Ryan, I'm proud of our troops and their decision to fight not only for our country but for other countries as well. I'll never truly know what my brother faced when he was fighting in Iraq, but I know he's a hero to Iraqi and American people. I'm proud of my brother and I can't wait until he comes home.