Holly's doing a little contest to give away her ARCs of Talyn. I remember reading the first chapter or so of this when she posted them special at Forward Motion sometime last year or perhaps even the year before (isn't the cover art beautiful?). I pre-ordered my copy of this book last night, alongwith Holly's Last Girl Dancing and the new Harry Potter. (I also ordered the last Tori Amos album I need to complete my collection; no one keeps Strange Little Girls in stock.)
Anyway, when Holly posted the contest, I knew I had to enter. Not because I had to have the ARCs, which would be cool, but because of the topic of the essay contest: rediscovering honor. I've known since Thanksgiving that I have to write at least a short story about my brother's experiences in Iraq. I've also known since then that I'm nowhere near the kind of writer I need to be to do that story justice. But I've also known that I can't just leave the story unwritten. So here's the essay I entered into the contest.
I haven't seen my brother since he came back from Iraq the second time. I'll have a chance to give him the fierce hug that's been building at our family reunion in July, but until then all I have is a picture of him receiving his Purple Heart.
He's one of only a few Marines in uniform. The rest are standing in formation, at attention in the grass behind him. There's an SUV, a couple of civilians, and a trashcan cluttering up the background. My brother has the medal pinned to his chest, and he's shaking someone's hand.
But it's his eyes that I see right away whenever I look at this picture. I see him watching an improvised explosive device fling two of his men from the truck and send shrapnel into the driver. I see him fighting to save the life of the young man who didn't make it. I see him hearing the news that the two other men in the truck were honorably discharged, one without a foot, one with severe damage to his arms. I see him waking up suddenly under the bridge his company protected, thinking it was a bad dream but the bandage on his own arm telling him differently.
I see honor. I see its price. And I know I will never look at a Purple Heart without the same mix of pride, despair, anger, and relief that I feel right now.
There are a couple of details I wasn't able to put in the essay due to the 250-word limit. But that's only part of the reason why this little essay is just a glimmer of a beginning for the story I want to write about my brother. Love ya, Baby Bro.