When my little brother, Jeremy, was seven years old, he decided to open a donut shop in the back yard. He found scraps of wood and assembled something that looked like a two foot wide woodworking fail on Pinterest. For several years, he insisted that he was going to finish his donut shop project and to this day, he will still maintain that he built it, but just hasn’t produced or sold any donuts. Yet.
When he was eighteen, Jeremy decided that he was going to join the military and I went with him to recruiters office to get more information. Unfortunately, he (like many of us in our family) probably enjoyed donuts a little too much and the recruiter told him he would need to lose about 40 pounds to “make weight” and qualify for enlistment.
Now, fast-forward sixteen years. Jeremy is 33, happily married with one son and another child planned for the future. He owns his own home, has a steady job at FedEx, and a wonderful family who supports him…including a know-it-all older sister. In 2014, my brother brings up the fact that he’s always wanted to join the military. What’s more, when my grandfather was under hospice care the previous year, Jeremy had bonded with one of the male RNs and slowly began kicking around the idea of pursuing a career in the medical field.
We didn’t make much of his talk because we all remembered the donut shop dream and, well, the guy was now 33 (the cutoff age for enlisting is 35) and almost 100 pounds overweight. But then he started working out and watching what he ate. He began hiking with friends on the weekends and took up running after work. His wife also adopted his healthier lifestyle and became pregnant with their second child. Surely, now with two young children at home he wasn’t still considering this military idea. Yet, apparently, we’d all underestimated his determination because on my 40th birthday trip, he announced to my entire family that he’d enlisted in the Army as a combat medic and was leaving for basic training the following month.
Last week, I attended his graduation at Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Just three months shy of his 35th birthday, Jeremy was older than any other soldier in his class and most of his drill sergeants. They’d nicknamed him Grandpa, but he was showing up these eighteen and nineteen year old kids like a champ. He’d lost over one hundred pounds and ranked 6th place overall in his platoon for all the PT requirements. I was amazed and impressed and, quite frankly, honored to call him my brother.
And after all he went through, I had a special treat waiting for him in the car after graduation ….