[He's the goof on the left.]
Growing up, Jon always marched to a different drummer. He generally resisted the
harassment gentle suggestions of his older brother and sister, preferring instead to follow his pre-determined plan. The only time he wavered from this was when threatened with physical harm. And once he hit 6'4", that wasn't so much of an issue.
When my kids think of their Uncle Jon, this is who they think of:
Jon is the father of two gorgeous boys, with another due early next week. Jon is a fantastic dad - willing to take the time to study animal prints in the dirt, willing to hold a sad little boy until he falls asleep, willing to listen to his niece's long dramatic narratives with only a few snarky interjections. We joke that he is Uncle No - always telling the kids they have to follow the rules, listen to their parents, not swing upside down on the rope swing.
The part of my brother's life that I don't know much about is this:
This is my little brother, Major Jonathan L Schneider USMC. He is a helicopter pilot of a CH-53, and has served three deployments in Iraq. If you can't hear the pride d.r.i.p.p.i.n.g. from the previous statements, maybe I'll have to find a way to write it in bubble letters, with extra shading on the sides.
Funny. I've covered some rough territory in recent posts, but it isn't until tonight's post that I've found myself short for words.
When he signed up, I can't honestly say that I understood Jon's determination to become a Marine. I can't say that knew what a commitment the Marines would ask of him. I can't even say I understood what it is in a person that brings them to make that commitment of service to their country.
But I will tell you this. I have stood under a pole on the training grounds in Quantico knowing with great certainty that I would not have made it to the top. Ever. I have been inside a CH-53 helicopter, stared at the cockpit with its million switches levers and sticks and known with absolute clarity that I do not have it in me to pilot a giant steel bus through the sky. I have been on the phone with my brother as he prepared for deployments and agreed to care for his children should anything happen to he and his wife - because his endangerment was a real possibility. I have heard the story, told the story, of a father asked to listen to his wife deliver their first child whilst he sat at the end of a phone line in the deserts of Iraq. I have heard the story, told the story, of an 18-month old little boy weeping and yelling for his Daddy as his father boarded the carrier ship for another deployment. I have held the stuffed animals that have Daddy's recorded voice for the guys to hear when Daddy is away, and wept my own tears for the days weeks and months that that family didn't have together.
I am proud - so proud - to say that my brother is a veteran. I have not a seconds' hesitation in walking up to a Marine in the library to say Thank You for your service. Because finally - having seen the sacrifices that my brother has made, and his family along with him - I only begin to understand what it means to serve your country. I have my brother, and his fellow veterans, to thank for that example.
(Oh, and this is just an extra photo of gratuitous gorgeousness. Luckily for the world, these two have procreated.)