When my baby sister called to tell me that she had enlisted in the military, my heart jumped into my throat.
Well, it might’ve if I wasn’t vocalizing my objections so adamantly. It was a speech of conflicting sentiments as I tried to validate her right to make her own decision while voicing my displeasure in the one she had made. I was trying to stand on both sides of the street and it wasn’t working.
She passed the phone to my father who I ribbed for not preventing her enlistment. My parents are both Veterans of the ARMY and so neither of them sympathized with my plight.
Please understand, I do not have anything against military service. I appreciate the sacrifices our servicemen make to protect our country. I recognize the opportunities for advancement that the military can offer for our young men and women.
I also know that right now, a woman is more likely to be sexually assaulted in the military than she is as a civilian. In my current occupation, that knowledge haunts me.
Marlee is 14 years younger than me. She is the darling of our sibling circle. My brothers and I all share equal partnership in spoiling and being overly protective of her. We adore her. She is ours.
I told her that I’d rather her go offer humanitarian aid in a third world country or something. She scoffed that my idea is probably no safer. Of course, she is probably right. I was grasping at straws to find an alternative.
After some deep contemplation, I shared my fears with some of my closest friends. They helped to talk me off the overbearing sister ledge. A couple of them offered me a few sexual assault advocacy resources that they thought would help me prepare my sister and keep her safe.
One of my friends reminded me that I am fearless. Why would I expect any less from the young girl who has lived with me as her example for her entire life?
Touché. At the end of a very thoughtful week, I sent her this very simple message, “Never adopt someone else’s fears as your own.”
I love my sister enough to allow her to be brave too. She doesn’t deserve to carry my trepidation with her wherever she goes. I want her to have every adventure she desires. I want her to have those adventures knowing that she has the full weight of her fearless sister behind her.
I love my sister and so I let her go.