My Brother

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Many of you have already heard the news that my brother was being deployed to Iraq with his battalion for 15 months. He left his expecting wife, Kari, and daughter, Isabella (22 months), to serve our country. My brother, Captain Vincent Garcia, Battalion Chaplain has officially left the United States in route for Iraq. He is there to provide counsel, words of support and encouragement, and to spread God's word to the soliders arriving and currently in combat. His battalion was one of the largest deployments of Fort Huachuaca. The day prior to his deployment, 190 soliders left, approximately 240 soliders left with him and an additional 200 soliders will be deployed from his battalion in March of 2008.
It was amazing how things worked out in allowing me to spend time with Vince prior to his deployment and to attend his farewell ceremony. I was honored to photograph the last evening with his family and capture the moments during his farewell. Click here to see their last evening together.

It is very hard for me to put into words the emotions that are running through me. So let me start with...

This is a man that lived and breathed his GI Joe toys as a child and loved dressing in solider uniform. He is the son of a Marine, who fought in Vietnam. The son to grandfather's who fought in World Wars. A boy who grew up knowing the importance of serving his country. He grew up with a burning desire to join the military and do what he felt was his civic duty. At a young age, he knew one of his callings in life.

We all have defining times in our lives that force us to take a step back and look at how we are living, how we want to live and who we want to be. When I think back I can recall one large defining time in his life that began paving the road to his future. In his early twenties, Vince was carefree, living on the edge and always leaped feet first without looking until he broke his neck in a car accident. This accident occured 3 days before he was to leave for the Army. After this accident, Vince was placed in a halo brace and pretty much glued to a bed or couch. This was a humbling time for him. He spent countless, sleepless nights and days thinking of his life. It was then that my brother began his life working in the ministry. As the years past, he attended a seminary in Chicago and achieved a master's degree in Theology. He returned home and began working in the youth ministry. It was during this time that he met his wife, Kari. Shortly after his daughter Isabella arrived, Vince and Kari made the decision to begin a new life in the military as a Chaplain. This decision was not surprising as I knew Vince longed to serve his country.
A few weeks back, I had Vince's family over for dinner. During this time, I listened to him talk about the road ahead of him. I couldn't help but find myself thinking of my brother in his childhood and began crying. I was crying tears of pride. I was so proud of him ...to hear he was fullfilling a piece of his destiny. He was ready to do his job. He spoke with such confidence and assurance of his commitment to the Army.

His time to leave came sooner than I expected. I arrived on base with my parents, and my camera. My camera was my camo...helping me hide my feelings that could only be expressed with an explosion of projectile tears and mumbling nonsense of my feelings of love, pride and fear for what was ahead of him and who he has become. But I wasn't alone, my parents both stayed so strong in the times leading to the farewell. However, there wasn't a time that I didn't look at my parents and see the emotions of fear, sadness and pride in their eyes that they were fighting back for Vince and his family. Dad remained hyper as ever, literally leaping over topics within a second. Mom, well she remained calm, supportive, nurturing...basically resumed duty as a nurse. We all pretended as things were fine, ignoring the inevitable...it wasn't real until he was on the plane. Kari...she left me in awe of her strength...the strength of her support and love for her husband.

We arrived at the hanger to have more than plenty of time to visit with Vince. It was during this time, that something just triggered the explosion of emotions in me and I began the projectile tears. From this point on, it was a constant battle for all of us to not be crying nonstop. Vince was being so strong...I didn't see him shed a tear. While we had plenty of time with Vince, I could tell Dad was just waiting, waiting for the right moment to give his words of support and advice. It was this moment that made me realize the strength of their relationship. There are probably a small handful of times I've seen my father cry (probably 2) and this time was added to it. My father had tears rolling. I couldn't even imagine what my father was feeling... My father has been in combat, has seen the evils in this world and how difficult combat can be. And here he is...seeing his son off into combat. My words could never do justice for my father's feelings.

While my brother is a chaplain, there is no safety in that position. Actually, his position is considered high risk. He will be visiting the difficult areas of Iraq, counseling exhausted soliders, spending 2-3 days at a time at a location and then moving to the next. Since he is considered high risk, he will be transported by black hawk at night. And not to make matters worse, since he is a chaplain, he is not allowed to carry a weapon. However, he does have an "assistant", AKA bodyguard, whose duty is to protect him. Don't worry, I did ask his "assistant" if he was a good shooter!
Attending his farewell ceremony opened my eyes. I don't think we can ever imagine the sacrifices our soliders make for our country. I watched mothers, fathers and parent teams saying good bye to their children, parents, and family. As a mother, I couldn't help but breakdown emotionally watching our soliders part ways with their family. Am I strong enough to make that committment?

A few weeks back I was asked who inspired me...while I first thought of photographers...I've been thinking of the many people that inspire me in not just photography but life. Soliders inspire me! They inspire me in their committment, strength, devotion, and love. Here is an picture of a mother clutching her daughter in the moments before she left. I was so moved by the love and strength.
held within her family.
At this point I have prayer requests...
Please pray for strength for our soliders, that God may give my brother encouraging and wise words when speaking with the soliders, give strength to Vince's family, strength to my parents and to bring my brother home safely.
Please share any thoughts or words of encouragement for my brother in the comments section for him to read when checking this post. Here is his email address if you would like to write to him, vincent.m.garcia@us.army.mil .
And...to end this email in true Vincent fashion, I am including an email that he sent out when he announced his deployment and the requirements for guest. In such a sad time, Vince can find a way to lighten the seriousness.
Vince wrote:
"The ceremony will be on post at Libby Airfield, hanger 3. Below is alink to Google Maps with on-post directions to the hanger. Note: the directions have you entering the Post at the East Gate which you will cometo before the Main Gate (the gate you have used in the past). Have your ID,Vehicle Registration, and proof of auto insurance available. Also, you will need to come shirtless with the American Flag painted on your chest (I recommend a water based acrylic, its easier to wash off)tatoos of the same image are also approved. DO NOT paint your face, this is security precaution unless your ID has you pictured with the face paint. Approved face paint images are: Bald Eagle, Bald Serviceman, Bald Servicewoman, Ole'Glory, Waving Ole' Glory, Tatered Waving Ole' Glory, Tatered Non-waving Ole'Glory, Edvard Munch's "The Scream." (I know it's random)"
I love you Vince. My feelings for your committment, stength and devotion are indescribable.
You are entering a new defining time in your life. I'm excited to see where this takes you. Please stay safe and duck! You are in my thoughts and prayer constantly!
Tami

4 comments:

Mariah said...

I should have known you would be a beautiful writter since you are good at everything you do! My family is grateful for your brother's service- we will keep him in our thoughts and prayers.

Melissa Jill :) said...

Tami, Thanks for sharing all this. Since I don't have family over there, it's great to get a window into what it might feel like. You and Vince and your family are in my prayers.

On another note--SO awesome that you started a blog! You are going to be SO great at this!!

Kari said...

Tami, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog on Vince! I couldn't help but cry when I read your words of admiration and love toward him. You wrote so beautifully to express your thoughts and feelings. I know when he gets the chance to read this he will be so encouraged by what you wrote!

Bob & Marsha said...

Tami: Just wanted to let you I was really touched by your words, thoughts, and compassion towards Vince and other men & women in the photos that you added in the slide show. I do not normally sit down and read a letter this long, especially right after I get home from work; but when I opened up your blog and started to read it I couldn't stop. There were multiple times I could feel the tears coming on. We don't have any family members in the military. We will keep him along with other service men & women that we know in our prayers.