The streets were lined with flags, the sidewalks were swept and the town road was laid out like a red carpet awaiting its yearly duty. Summer was in the air, the sun was shining, white fluffy clouds were perfectly placed in the blue sky and the grass seemed to look greener than usual. Store front windows posted signs that read Closed for parade, while people began to line up on the curb and small kids took position on the men’s shoulders. The town parade was an exciting and fun affair everyone.
It came through like a train through a station, steady and loud; fire trucks, uniforms, salutes, flags, candy, horns, shiny twirling batons, clowns, marching, waving, and patriotism. The crowd cheered and waved as the parade passed through and children scampered the ground for lollipops and bubble gum. With miniature flags and candy in hand, the young kids watch the passing soldiers, police officers and firemen and women with admiration. The roar of excitement gradually faded and the marching moved down the road. The crowd dispersed and continued on with their day of summer fun and celebration.
One young eleven year old boy sat quietly alone on the curb looking down at his little flag his big brother gave him before he left. There was only one person he wanted to see marching in that parade, but he was not there. The boy stared into the red, white and blue colors of the cloth in his hand confused if he was feeling pride or anger. He didn’t understand why they said his brother was a hero. When he heard the word Hero, he thought of strong super men fighting evil. Heroes save the day. Heroes are so strong that no one can hurt them. Heroes always defeat the bad guys and win. Heroes make the world a better place. But, heroes aren’t supposed to leave their little brothers behind.
His brother was his hero first before everyone else started calling him that name. His hero taught him how to catch a ball, how to build model airplanes, how to build a fort and how to win his mother’s favor with a handful of flowers. His hero showed him that it was important to balance fun with discipline, how to study for tests, and how to fix his bicycle chain. His hero snuck him an extra cookie after dinner. This boy got caught when he tried it on his own. “When I get home,” his brother promised him, “I’ll start teaching you a thing or two about girls.” He didn’t think he cared too much about girls yet, but was curious why he had to learn about them. Whatever it was, he always looked forward to his brother teaching him new things.
So, while the rest of the town celebrated with their flags, this young boy looked solemnly at the stars and stripes twirling in his hand. He tried to see his brother’s image standing in the street, standing tall, strong and handsome in his uniform; his big brother smiling back at him as he placed his right hand straight and firm at his forehead. This image he recollected of his brother brought him both pride and sadness and his heart ached at how much he missed him, his hero. It would be some years before he realized what the sacrifice really meant and it would take even longer to forgive the world that it had to be his brother and not someone else.
Later that summer the July parade marched through town to cheers from the crowd. More patriotic festivities occurred and the boy missed his brother too much to enjoy the day. He thought about what they would be doing together if he were there. That evening the boy sat staring at the colorful bombs bursting in air and in one brief moment thought he sensed his brother standing behind him. But, he turned around and only saw a young girl with curly blond hair. He had never thought a girl’s hair looked pretty before, but something nudged him in the belly giving him the idea that this girl was kind of pretty. The feeling was new and awkward and he did not know what to do with it. “Hi.” The girl said. But, the boy remained frozen unable to mutter a word. “Can I sit by you?” She asked, but he was still speechless. Then, the girl giggled and said, “You have a lot to learn about girls, don’t you?” and she helped herself to a seat right next to him. The boy looked just past the girl and saw his brother standing there once again in his uniform. His brother winked at him, smiled and walked away.
“You want to hold my flag?” The boy finally found the courage to speak to the girl. The girl smiled and took the flag. “My brother gave it to me. He was a soldier,” and the boy began to tell her about his hero. But, while he spoke his thoughts surprisingly became distracted by her beautiful face and he could hear his brother whisper, “I told you so.”