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The home front

In Inside on November 29, 2010 at 8:00 am

This essay will run in Inside’s Identity Issue (out tomorrow).

CAITLIN JOHNSTON (INSIDE)

During his tours, I pretend Blake’s in an office doing paperwork. Or playing basketball with his unit behind the blast wall. I picture him doing anything other than his job.

It’s harder to pretend when he brings home medals. They don’t give gold stars or commendations for valor to the guy behind the desk.

I didn’t know the explanations for why he received such honors until I visited him last summer. There, stashed away in the corner of the guest bedroom, was tangible proof of his duties. I sat down on the bed, poring over the certificates: he’d conducted 55 combat missions, amassing 12,000 miles and escorting 1,300 vehicles and 10,000 personnel. And then I read what happened on May 3, 2007:

When a vehicle was destroyed by an improvised explosive device, First Lieutenant Johnston established security, coordinated a ground casualty evacuation for the wounded Marines, and requested explosive ordinance disposal and vehicle recovery support.

As I tried to grasp the reality of my brother’s job, he opened the door.

“What are ya doin, Sweets?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” I said, now conscious of the tears streaming down my face.

He shrugged. “Come on, dinner’s done.”

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  1. Most powerful passage, i.m.h.o:

    “I know it’s morbid. Still, the scenes seep into my mind. It’s like my subconscious is trying to prepare me, as if the grief would be more manageable with a script to follow. ”

    I like that part because it’s honest and calls out the elephant in the room. And because it’s simply touching.

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