Ooh rah.

When you’re a child, you vacillate between being scared out of your mind about what *might* *possibly* hurt and/or kill you, and believing that you are immortal. When you become a parent, I think you realize with renewed clarity that the world is a Dangerous Place — if not for your children, but for you. (I’ve written before about my desire to live forever. No need to go into that here.) We do our best to give our children the tools for Survival, and we do our best to keep ourselves alive so that we’re around to continue to scare warn teach our children.

For someone like my brother, J, the world actually is a Dangerous Place. He’s a United States Marine Corps officer, currently stationed with his wife and two small daughters in Japan. (Oh, and his wife is pregnant with their third daughter.) I don’t know that he’d agree with me that the world is Dangerous; hopefully he’ll chime in down below at some point. However, it is undeniable that while my husband, and maybe you or yours, was messing around with a formula on an Excel spreadsheet early on in his career, my brother was being fit for a gas mask, learning how to disassemble a rifle in the dark/sand/mud, and taking 30 (60?) mile “walks” with a 30 (60?) pound pack. None of these things you’d do if you were convinced that there was Peace on Earth. (I will say this about that, however. Talking to my brother in this post- 9/11 world is reassuring to me. It seems like the Marines have things under control – or at least they are working hard on the problems and are getting a handle on things.)

But this isn’t a commentary on World Politics or the War on Terror or any of that. Instead, it’s a rumination on what it means to fulfill your life’s purpose and, for those of us raising children, a lesson on understanding who your child is and helping him/her fulfill their purpose.

Growing up, the only thing my brother ever, EVER, wanted to be was a Marine. We grew up in rural (very rural) NJ, and he would dress in camouflage as much as he could. We ran loose as children — run of the neighborhood and all that — and from the age of about 3 or 4, J would be running free like the rest of us….but he’d be dressed in khaki and olive, and wearing a blaze orange knit cap that my mother insisted he wear so he’d be seen in the woods. He rode a plastic motorcycle (you know, the kind you pushed with your feet) and slung a 2×4 across his back as a rifle.

He never outgrew his desire to be a Marine. (And let’s be clear, *only* a Marine. Other branches? Please.) As he got older and more stubborn certain, there were parameters set by my parents, “OK. Marines. But you’ve got to go to college, and you’ve got to go the Officer route.” From the outside looking in, I don’t know that J ever (as a kid) considered the difference — he just wanted to be a Marine. But he finished college, went to OCS and came out an Officer. (It’s something of a family joke that the kid that was a disorganized mess was now going to be in charge of making sure the enlisted had their beds made and their life in order. Ah, Irony, you must be a Marine.)

He’s had a wildly successful career in the Marine Corps. And although I’m sure he’d argue the point, he’s the happiest guy I know in terms of job satisfaction. (Turns out there are Stupid People in the military too, so he has the same frustrations a lot of us do. {But with access to weaponry.}) When I talk to him I am sure to thank him for the Blanket of Freedom that he’s knitting for us (yes, a corruption of A Few Good Men. Sorry Aaron.), and when he gets some kind of crazy-huge time off or weird vacation time I tell him, “You’re welcome,” since I of course pay his salary. (But then we digress briefly into how he could be shot at work so maybe he could get a few extra days off, if I didn’t mind. Hard to argue with that logic.)

I started thinking about J and his Marine Corps career because of a writing prompt about “worrying about the safety of a loved one.” And how, even though he’s got the most dangerous job of anyone in my Circle of Nearest and Dearest, he would be the one that I worry about the least. His safety is in the most competent hands I know — his own, and that of his colleagues — and we should all be so lucky.

Semper Fi.

This post was prompted by an idea from MamaKat. Check out all her prompts:

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14 Responses to “Ooh rah.”

  1. Missy @ Wonder, Friend Says:

    What a sweet tribute to your brother. Thank him for his service – I am so grateful.
    Missy @ Wonder, Friend recently posted..Wonder Why Wednesday- Family Picture Edition

    Alyson says:

    I will pass it along. I will also pass along any requests for the color of the Blanket o’ Freedom that he’s knitting. I’m not a huge fan of the r.w.b. color scheme (I know, unpatriotic) so I’ve requested earth tones….

  2. Jocelyn Says:

    What a great post Alyson. J read it this morning when he returned from his trip. He was very touched. As the wife of said Marine, I must say that the hardest thing for me is describing his frequent trips to the girls. They’re not yet at an age where they can understand the “dangers” of this world, nor do I want them to fully understand them yet. But for us, these are daily or at least monthly conversations, “why are there guards at the gate? why does daddy have to go away? why do they wear uniforms? why do they carry guns?”. I don’t so much as worry about J each time he goes away, though I say a few extra prayers for his safe journey and safe return, but I do think twice about how I explain all of “this” to the girls so they understand, so they’re not scared and so they’re prepared for the future. Its a balancing act. Sometimes I do ok, sometimes I need a do over. Or as J says, “They’ll be discussing this in therapy years from now!”

    Alyson says:

    You raise a great point — how *do* you talk to your small children about all of this? I remember being able to use really simple expressions about “good” and “bad” and “danger,” but Dad went off to work in an office building, not into (or out of) war zones! And our “neighborhood” doesn’t have armed guards…

  3. J Says:

    As usual, your posts are full of superlatives and exaggerations.

    I am not the best guy out here….but some of them are out here, I know them, and some of them are the most impressive men(and women) in the world.

    Thank you for the very nice post, your blanket is almost done, and should be ready by 16 Dec.…

    Funny you bring up the motorcycle I rode as a child…do you remember the saddle shoes M made me wear/?!…even then I was fashion rock star…I must still be drawn to the motorcycles, but Management denied the application for the Harley….
    I still have the orange hat and the 2×4 rifle…both are in storage in MO.

    And yes, the world is dangerous… and some people want to do violence against us…and some of them only understand violence…..9/11 was a watershed…not only for the Country, but for me as well. Lost college acquaintances, 2 very large landmarks in my life, and had a girlfriend in the sky(yes, same girl I married)…it drove my decision to stay in the Marine Corps…which effectively changed the entire course of my life. In these last 9 years I have seen the absolute best and worse man has to offer…experiences that will always define my life……I have been humbled by having the honor to lead Marines and extremely proud of what all Marines have done(same for the Doggies, Squids, and “air people”) over the last nine years…

    Not to mention the uniforms…Have you seen the Marine uniforms?

    Hugs + kisses to all….off to knit..

    Love-

    Your baby brother

    Alyson says:

    Yes, you’re a giant hunk. Nice uniform.

    And sorry, did I say you were the “best”? I mean, you’re quite good and all, but….j/k. 😉

    Take good care. Please wear your Kevlar when they tell you to…stay away from motorcycles. Those things will kill you.

    xoxo

  4. Sherri Says:

    Awesome tribute to you brother, and I love that he read it. I have the highest admiration for the people who are driven to serve and do it well. You are obviously very proud!
    Sherri recently posted..Soccer- Its Whats for Breakfast

    Alyson says:

    Thanks for the compliment…and yes, he’s a blog follower, but this is the first time he’s come out in public. Usually I hear his feedback from different sources. I was happy I was able to draw him out…

  5. Mandi Says:

    This was such an awesome post about your brother. I am so thankful that he and his family enable my family to safely and freely sleep in their beds tonight.

    Visiting from Mama Kat’s!
    Mandi recently posted..Starring Dora and Angelina

    Alyson says:

    Thanks for stopping in….I love the MamaKat prompts, don’t you?

  6. Shannon Says:

    Basically reitterating what others have said, but great post and a wonderful love note to your brother! Stopping by from Mama Kat’s.

  7. Peg Says:

    Awesome tribute to your brother and awesome that he read and responded. Sounds like not only a great guy but a humble man as well. Please pass on my thanks to him and his for looking out for the rest of us.

    Stopping by from Mama Kat’s.
    Peg recently posted..Malfunction Junction

  8. Grace Says:

    Please thank your brother for me.
    Grace recently posted..A Penny or a 100 Grand Bar For Your Thoughts

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