An East Valley Veteran Family
By Tony Aguilar
As a sibling of two brothers in the military, I wish people would treat Veterans Day as a day to honor and remember those who have died to protect the basic freedoms that we enjoy every day and not just an excuse for not going to school or work. I grew up in a military family—two of my uncles were in the United States Air Force, one of my brothers was also in the Air Force while the other joined the United States Army. When I see people take advantage of Veterans Day and treat it as a perfect excuse to party and not work, I cannot help but get ticked off.
My two brothers and I were raised in the small, unincorporated community of Thermal, Calif. in Riverside County. My oldest brother, Andres Aguilar, who is five years older than me decided to join the United States Air Force straight out of high school. To date, Andres has served three tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Every time he leaves oversees, the burden it takes on my mother and the rest of our family is at times far too much to bear. The couple of months that my brother serves oversees are filled with sleepless nights waiting for a phone call or Skype alert. We worry constantly but we also knew that the fact he was in the Air Force would keep him out of harms way for the most part, compared to servicemen in other branches of the military.
But things changed when my older bother Adrian decided to join the United States Army. Adrian Aguilar is a scout for the U.S Army. This January will mark his one-year anniversary of service but most importantly it will be the first time that he will not be home for the holidays. Unlike Andres, Adrian’s job in the military has him on the front lines every day, in harms way.
This past year both of my brothers were in the Middle East—Andres in Iraq and Adrian in Afghanistan. Every day of my brothers’ deployment had my mother on the edge of her seat, I would often call her name but she would just stand there deep in thought. I knew she had my brothers’ safety on her mind.
Whenever my mothers cell phone would ring she would drop everything she was doing and run to find it in hopes that it was one of my brothers. They say that when a serviceman returns from service oversees they are not the same person. Living with my mother while my brothers were oversees had me thinking that my mother had just returned from her own tour in Iraq.
One March morning my mother received a phone call from a high-ranking officer notifying her that Adrian had been involved in an ambush attack by the Taliban, and just like in the movies, the phone fell from my mothers hand and her face turned pale and white as snow. Several days passed before we heard of Adrian’s conditions. He was okay. Both my mother and I breathed a sigh of relief and carried on with the countdown to his return.
Veterans Day in our household is more than a perfect excuse to BBQ and watch TV marathons. Veterans Day in our household is a celebration and a thanks for still having my brothers’ alive even if they are a world away.
* Tony Aguilar is a youth reporter for Coachella Unincorporated, COD Student, and sibling of two Veterans who have served overseas.