A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.
~ Proverbs 17:17 ~
My brother Luis was in the army in the mid to late 60s, during the Vietnam War. He was, I believe, stationed somewhere in New Jersey. I was about 8 years old when he enlisted. My seven siblings ranged in age from about two to twelve. We desperately missed Luis and didn’t quite understand why he was gone. We needed him with us.
You see, Luis has a personality imbued with character attributes that are rare among men. My brother Luis is a virtuous, brave, helpful, supportive, understanding, generous, patient, kind, loyal, thoughtful, quiet, trustworthy, loving, truthful, wise, humble, strong, faithful, intelligent, insightful, humorous, courteous, and noble man.
The tears well up in my eyes every time I recall this memory, it rings with the nobility of his heart. Luis was a teenager, he was on his hands and knees scrubbing the dining room wooden floor. The chairs were on top of the table and he was underneath it. Tears mingled with the soapy water he was using to scrub the floor; when he looked up at us, they cascaded down his cheeks. I remember looking at him and mom, knowing that something was terribly wrong between them; what it was I never found out.
I’m not sure why Luis joined the Army after he graduated from high school. But, when he rejoined us, we were living in California and more aware of the war in Vietnam. He had a green box when he returned, along with all his clothing and other things. In his box were books, albums, photos, and things, but only one photo of him in uniform. He was standing in a snowy field with a building in the far distance, wearing a green jacket and a helmet with a wire thingamajig hanging from it.
Luis didn’t talk about his days in the army; he didn’t even mention the rank he attained. I don’t know why he chose to be so private about those days, but we all respected him and kept our questions to ourselves. What I do know is that for whatever reason, the Lord somehow kept him from engaging in that war—Luis never went to Vietnam (that was my understanding).
So, on this Veterans Day, in 2016, I wanted to thank my brother for doing what he did for us, at a great personal expense. He didn’t have to enlist, he wasn’t a US citizen, but a permanent resident, with a love for this country.
Luis, I’m not sure you’ll read this, you’re much too humble to accept the things I’ve written about you, but these are the things we all saw in you and tried to emulate. You’ve been both a friend who’s loved us at all times, and a true brother to us in our days of adversity. You’ve never asked us to explain ourselves, but kept quiet. You’ve always been supportive and encouraging. Who else would teach his sister to starch and iron his work shirts or type up his graduate school papers and then pay her! I’ve not met a man who compares with you, Luis. And at my darkest point on a Christmas Eve almost 20 years ago, while you and I were washing dishes, you loved and comforted me with an insightful word of wisdom. To this day, though we’re separated by distance and don’t talk often, you gladly spent time talking with me.
Everyone who has met you has benefitted from knowing you. Your wife, children, their spouses, and grandchildren are blessed.
So, I salute you, dear brother, in the way I know best. Thank you for serving us by dedicating your youth to the service of this country. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Veterans Day. Love you, Luis!
Dear Father, I know I’m not to praise any man, and I hope I haven’t done this here. All along as I marvel on who You are, I’m continually reminded of Your hand of grace on and love for our family. You placed in me a family where I could find comfort in a very unique, caring, and loving older brother. You protected him during his army days from seeing the horrors of Vietnam and returned him to us. All along, You made a difference in our lives because of Luis. I’m—we’re so blessed to know and be related to him.
Bless him, Father, he has a heart after Yours. Luis was the only one in the family who helped me to pursue a relationship with You; afterward he and I would share favorite psalms and other passages from the Bible. He understood my love for You and encouraged me to seek after You.
Thank You, Father, for Luis and the untold numbers who’ve been or are currently active in our nation’s defense (whether at home or abroad), by giving of the best years of their lives in service to this nation. I thankfully pray in Jesus’ name, amen.