For My Jeff

I watched him come down the stairs, all 71 inches. When did my little brother become so tall? I chuckled to myself, until I saw the look on his face, a mixture of determination and pride and fear and sadness. My breath stopped and I could feel the hard lump in my throat as tears filled my eyes.
He looked at me with concern. It had been over 5 years since he had seen me cry, not since our father’s funeral.
He walked over to me and took me into his strong arms, enveloping me in a deep embrace. “It’s okay, sis. I’m going to be okay.” He whispered into my hair but it only made me cry harder.
My baby brother, now a grown man and in less than an hour he would be on a bus that would take him to an airport, where he would get on a plane that would take him to Afghanistan to fight in a war.
As I stood there hugging him in the dim light of the Christmas tree, I wished to God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Clause, anyone who would listen, to please protect him and keep him safe because he’s my only little brother and I love him.

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