Home for the HolidaysWritten by Terry Biel | | email@example.com
I have two brothers, one of whom was home for the holidays from Basic Combat and Advanced Individual Training with the United States Army. About four months ago, he began serving a three-year active duty commitment, and after his training will be a member of the Military Police Corps. He is young, having just graduated from high school last spring.
Like most siblings, I don’t always get along with my brothers. It seems they share the common fault of not realizing that my ideas for everything are superior; I suppose they often feel the same about me. And since we all inherited the same smart aleck gene and Irish temper, any disagreement can move from comfortably rude to outright hostile in a hurry.
This December — when we met our brother at the airport for his holiday leave — was likely the happiest day of my life. He was unscathed, and he was home, and we were thrilled to have him back for however long the United States Army saw fit. The three brothers were together again, and though we may occasionally be at each others’ throats, we were happy just to again be by each others’ sides.
Seeing him walk out of that secured area crystallized for me all the varied reasons I normally want to talk politics.
Our servicemen and women execute their duties without hesitation because that is how the system must be arranged. The split-second decision-making and immediate action required for successful completion of missions does not allow for committee review in real-time.
Instead, our soldiers are asked to trust that the mission is part of a larger, cohesive strategy, and that the elected officials who have crafted the strategy are doing what’s in the best interest of the country.
That means it falls to U.S. civilians to make sure our elected officials are doing just that. Having clear objectives, a plan for mission completion and a sound exit strategy: these are literally the least we can do for men and women who are prepared every day to lay down their lives for ours. We must make sure our elected officials provide these things at an absolute minimum, or honor compels us to throw out the people who don’t and elect people who will.
But while holding officials accountable for the responsible planning and deployment of the military is essential, it’s not enough. Pursuing the good of the public above self-interest and cultivating a society that benefits all instead of just the elite, where everyone can pursue the American Dream: that is the true measure of gratitude for the blood, sacrifice, and courage of men and women in uniform.
My brother left to complete his training not long after New Year’s Day. But since I’m no better at talking about these sorts of tender issues with my loved ones than anybody else is, I never told my brother about the clarity he brought me home for Christmas.
So if you see me and ask how my holidays were, I’ll stammer something about how I got just enough of my family to last me until next year. I’ll have to say something like that — I couldn’t hold it together otherwise.
If I were to stop and truly consider the answer to that question, I would be overcome with emotion and tell you that a lifetime of Christmas gatherings isn’t nearly enough to spend with my brothers, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends.
I would tell you how important it is that you take a serious interest in the issues facing our city, state and country, and that you owe a debt that can only be repaid by being an informed, researched participant in the nation that my brother is risking his life to defend.
My brother is out there. Even if nobody in your family is serving with the military, chances are you know somebody with a brother or sister who is.
With the upcoming surge in Afghanistan, who can be sure it won’t be my brother or yours or your neighbor’s that gets deployed there next? Don’t forget about them. I can tell you from the look in my brother’s eye when we said goodbye at the airport that none of them have forgotten about us.
Terry Biel is campaign manager for Toledo City Councilman Joe McNamara’s exploratory senate committee.