One of the highlights of this summer was getting the news that my youngest brother, Joel, would become a Marine. He left in the spring and sent letters about his progress at Parris Island, but we hadn't received any phone calls. We kept track of the calendar and knew that if he passed the Crucible, he would graduate. I was shooting a wedding on a river boat in Cincinnati when I got the a text from my mom with the very first picture and link of a video of them marching in! It blows my mind that there are photographers at boot camp and Facebook pages for relatives, but seeing him march in was a beautiful sight.
The night I received that good news I was surrounded by flags and the skyline of a city I love, and it was one of those nights that will always bring me joy to remember it.
I had to stay home when he graduated because I had two finals that day (Organic Chemistry I and Biochemistry, back to back). But having Joel home on leave was such a treat. I have so much admiration for him and the way he tackled this challenge. Being able to hear his stories and see the transformation in him was an incredible honor.
Even (my nephew) Strider allowed us to dress him with a bow for Joel's homecoming.
I was a military spouse for over a decade, and it brought some of the biggest challenges of my life. Having my brother join has been part of a healing process for me to understand some of the dynamics I couldn't see at play 13 years ago because I was just blindly living from one set of orders to the next. Now I can see that deployments taught me how to let go of ideals about the way holidays should be celebrated or the way that family life should look in general. It prepared me for being a single mom, leading my family, being flexible about expectations, and that sacrifices can be made for something that I believe in. I have gratitude for that, even if the process was painful.