My little brother and I together at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan.
BY NOLAN PETERSON
It was time to say good-bye. We both got out of the truck and circled around back to give each other a hug. It was hard to see his face in the dark black of night — they keep most of the base blacked out after the sun goes down as a defense against Taliban rocket and mortar attacks. But I could see his silhouette, and I could hear his voice.
We embraced. The hug was a little tighter, and it lasted a little longer than usual.
He pulled back and placed both hands on my shoulders like he was holding me in place, making sure his words found their mark. He told me to be careful, reminding me to not be a hero.
He started to say something else, but then he stopped, and that’s when I noticed that he was crying.
“I’ve seen a lot of people get really hurt out there,” he told me, talking through the tears, not letting them affect his words. “Just be careful.”
“I will,” I said. “It was special seeing you today, you know. I’ll always remember it.”
“It’s crazy, isn’t it?” he said, working now to push his words through the tears. “When you realize you’re living in a moment that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.”
He hugged me again.
I told him I would, feeling a wave of guilt wash over me for some reason. And then I hugged my little brother one last time before we parted ways.
The next day I loaded onto a CH-47 Chinook helicopter for a flight out of Bagram Air Base to a forward operating base in Khost Province, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. For the next two weeks I would circulate among various U.S. forward operating bases (known as FOBs) as an embedded journalist with U.S. and Afghan military units, writing about the war on an assignment as a war correspondent for United Press International.