I am lucky enough to be the older sister to two great "little" brothers. Younger would be a better word to describe them since they are both 6' 4". One of my brothers, Tracy, is serving in Iraq right now. This is his third tour. He's has given 3 years of his life to serve our country and help another one. The last time he was gone his wife gave birth to their first child. This time he had to leave his wife, son and baby daughter. Can you imagine? If that wouldn't rip your heart out, I don't know what would.
My husband and I have had so much fun leading the Cub Scout Pack at our boys' school for the past 2 years. At one of our pack meetings last fall we talked about what it meant to be a hero. We talked about what it took to be a hero and how heroes were really just people like you and me who, in extraordinary circumstances, stand up for what is right or put themselves in harms way to protect others or something they believe in. We gave each boy a home-made medal that night as we read notes from their parents that told a reason why they were heroes. And I got to tell the boys that I have a real-life hero in my family. My real life hero is my brother, Staff Sergeant Tracy Friend. It's hard for me to hear the stories from his time in Iraq- hard for me to hear what he endured and what he had to do. Hard for me to imagine living through such things and maintaining a sense of reality and a sense of self. But he has done it and indeed, is doing it right now. He has saved lives- more than one, and more than once. And the soldiers who serve under him consider him a permanent part of their family. I was proud to tell the boys about such a man.
At their next Den Meetings the boys all wrote letters to my brother and his friend who he has served with all along, SSG Strube. The letters were precious and adorable and over and over just said, "Thank You." They made me cry. (Just like I'm crying now.) We sent those letters to my brother, and just recently we got a letter from him to read to the scouts and a photo to show to them. I wish I had a better scanner because I would love to show you my awesome brother in full gear out in the desert with tanks and hummers throwing up sand and dust on the dunes behind him. It. Is. Awesome. But... scanner is lame. But I can share his letter with you.
Dear Pack 318,
Thank you for all your cards and letters. SSG Strube and I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to write to us.
This is our third deployment to Iraq and a lot has changed for the better compared to the first two deployments. We were here at the beginning of the war. Now we are here to see the end of the war in Iraq. It's good to see that all the hard work and sacrifice that has been put into Iraq is finally paying off.
Staff Sergeant Friend
I'm proud of my brother. I just want the world to know that.