Brother’s distance alters sib relations

It was the Thursday of the first week of classes and Briggs was stifling hot.

Everyone wanted class to end so that they could get some fresh air, but I had another reason to be antsy.

Once the clock chimed and we were dismissed, I ran to my car, drove home and started throwing clothes into a bag.

After a surprisingly smooth security check and a four-hour layover, I was in Birmingham, AL, ready to start my Labor Day weekend.

Birmingham was not my final destination, though. An hour south of the city lies the sleepy town of Marion.

Seriously, this town could be the setting for a horror movie, but I didn’t care and neither did my family. We were there to see my brother, Cadet Patrick Jackson.

Rewind to this time last year and Patrick was figuring out where he wanted to go to college.

At the time he wanted to go to the University of Alabama for swimming, but he was also debating whether or not to apply to a military academy.

After a bunch of research, Alabama was out and Patrick started the long and strenuous process of applying to the Naval Academy and the Coast Guard Academy.

Besides the usual admissions requirements of standardized testing results, grades and a series of essays, there was also the task of receiving a nomination from a senator or congressman.

Each senator and representative has two nominations to give out and they are very hard to get, but Patrick received his from Rep. Gary Peters.

Everything was sent off to Annapolis and New London, so we just had to wait.

During that waiting period, Patrick did a lot of thinking on where he wanted to go.

The Naval Academy was very regimented and structured, as one can imagine.

He loved how at the Coast Guard Academy there was the structure that he wanted, but he also knew his mission.

It’s funny how things work out because the swim coach from the Coast Guard called him and asked him, if accepted, to be on the team. Soon after, he got his letter of acceptance.

We also found out that he was accepted into the Scholar’s Program, which meant that he would spend a year at a military prep school before going to New London for another four.

The summer flew by and soon it was time to send Patrick off to boot camp.

Anyone who knows the Jackson Family knows that Patrick and I have a typical brother-sister relationship. We love to annoy each other but deep, deep down we may sometimes actually care about each other.

The last week he was home, it started to sink in that there would no longer be fights about who gets to take the car, what movie we are going to watch or crazy conversation side-tangents. There were many tears shed the day he left and it is still an adjustment.

We did not hear from him for three weeks and got two letters.

When we finally did hear from him, he was in the airport waiting for his flight to Birmingham. He told us briefly about his experience and about the new friends that he made before he had to go.

About a week later, we traveled to Marion for the first time. We pulled into the Marion Military Institute and drove over to his dorm, anxiously awaiting the moment we could see him. In true Patrick fashion, he greeted us by telling my dad that he had not parked properly.

We only got to see him a few hours that trip, but it was worth it.

We learned that the moments that we have together may be few so we need to cherish them as much as we can.

The second time we went to see him, we picked him up and drove a few hours to Panama City. To have three days with him was a complete blessing and it was nice to be known as the Jackson Five again.

Like always, goodbye was the hardest part of the trip, especially for me.

My family is traveling back down to Marion in October for Parents Weekend, but I won’t get to see Patrick until Thanksgiving. We are trying to talk a few times a week and I write him once a week.

I know that this is a total cliché, but distance really does make the heart grow fonder.

As much as my family and I may want him home, Patrick is doing an amazing thing by serving our country and we are extremely proud.

These past few months have been hard, but seeing the young man my brother has become is amazing and I can’t wait to see where this new journey takes him.

Jackson is VN editor-in-chief