My little brother hasn’t always been my best friend. There have been times when he made me angrier than I thought anybody in the entire world ever could. I can remember a day when we got into a rather dramatic argument when I was 15 and he was 12 that ended up with me tackling him onto our parent's bed. He ended up shoving me off of him, mainly because I was too afraid to do anything that might actually hurt him. Even more recently, I swung my fist at him and he grabbed me before I could do anything. I have no idea what that argument was about, either. I’ve raised my fist to punch him in the nose on several occasions, but I’ve never followed through with it and probably never would seeing as how he is the baby of the family. Although, he will swear up and down that I pushed him off the couch in our living room when he broke his arm in the second grade. In reality, he was attempting a jump from the “top rope of the wrestling ring” and I merely put my hands up to block him from hitting me. After the countless fights and all the sporting events and the numerous hilarious jokes we made at our mother’s expense, it’s so hard to believe his high school graduation is quickly approaching.

At his award ceremony this past week, I couldn’t help but tear up as my baby brother walked up to the front of the gym to accept an ROTC scholarship. As I tried to blink the tears away, I could see him as he once was: a little boy in a homemade ghillie suit playing “pow pows” in our backyard. It’s crazy to think that he knew at such a young age what he wanted to do with his life. He is far more of an inspiration for our generation than he realizes.

My brother was eight years old when our uncles and maternal grandfather went on their first tour of Iraq. Being so young, you would think he wouldn’t understand much about war and about what our family members were doing while they were away, but he understood perfectly. He would fall asleep on the couch next to our maternal grandmother as she watched the nightly news. One day, we visited our father's mother and she began asking him about the war and if he missed our grandfather and uncles, and he said, “I’m gonna get a gun. I’m a-gonna go over there and I’m gonna shoot Osama Bin Laden.” She talks about that often when we reminisce. I think she even knew at that point in time that this kid was destined to do something great.

If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought my annoying little brother was going to do something important for this world, I would have laughed. How could he be great? He’s the same kid that leaned over the side of the couch and threw up on me while I was in the floor sleeping when he was four. He’s the same little boy that got me in trouble that time we had a “spit fight” (as gross as it sounds, we actually spit at each other) on our parent's bed. And he’s the same child that I clung to the first time we ever rode Expedition Everest at Disney World, frightened that he would fly out because he was so tiny.

This past year has been an emotional roller coaster for my family. My brother had his last football game and ended the season with a torn meniscus. He was able to have surgery and come back to play baseball where their team made school history and got all the way to the semi-finals. One more win and they would get to go to the state championship. The last person up to bat in the final inning of the game was my brother. The score was 0–1 and there was a runner on base. There were already two outs and he was no stranger to home-runs. There was a strike thrown and then a ball. Then a pretty pitch came hurling down the middle and he sent it soaring into right field. He dropped the bat and ran. The other runner was already rounding third base. The crowd gasped. It was like a scene in a movie. It felt like it took the ball forever to reach the fence, but just before it could cross over, there was a thud. The right fielder hit the fence, jumped, and caught the ball, ending the game. My brother ran all the way to first base and sank to his knees, and for the first time since he was a small child, I watched him cry.

I was utterly heartbroken for him and his teammates. After all the baseball tournaments and football jamborees, it was all over. They were so close to that state championship they could almost touch it. The baseball coach ran to my brother, who was still on his knees at first base, and hugged him. The whole team was teary eyed when I finally reached the field. They each gave each other hugs. They had played ball together since they were six and seven years old, a few of them even younger. Moms and dads hugged their children and everyone talked about how “if the wind wasn’t blowing, it would have went over the fence.” Maybe they were right, but for whatever reason, it wasn’t meant to be. Even though my brother’s heart was shattered over the loss, he told me later that he wouldn’t give up that moment for anything. He said, “It was like something a kid dreams of when they are out in their yard playing. Like, a runner on first and second, two outs, the score is 1–0, last inning of the game and you’re up to bat. You throw the ball up in the air and hit it into the bushes saying, ‘Yeah, walk off home run! That’s the game!’”

After 17 years, everything is changing. It's so hard to imagine that someone who you've spent almost everyday with for 17 years will be moving on and creating a new life. I will miss every last second of hanging out with him. I will miss all our jokes and hearing about his dreams to travel the world. I’ll miss making fun of his hipster music. Most importantly, I’ll miss the way our family used to be. Even though I’ve been in college for a few years now, I’ve never strayed far from home long. But, he’s not like me. He has dreams that I could never imagine, dreams that I would be too scared to pursue. Once this is all over, he will be gone for good. I know he will come back and visit, but it will never be the same. Honestly, that might just be for the best. If he stayed home, and didn’t pursue his dreams, he would never be able to change the world like I know he can.

I wish there were more people out there like my brother. No matter how annoying he's been throughout my entire life, I have cherished every single second we have had together. Over the years I've realized, I’m not strong—not like he is anyway. I could never even pretend to be. He works hard at everything he does, and I believe that is something that is seriously lacking in young adults today. He doesn’t want handouts. He doesn’t whine when something offends him. He wants to fight to protect the freedoms of our country like every other serviceman. I only hope that others will see the example that he has made of himself and that they will follow in his courageous footsteps.

I guess the most important message readers should gain from this is not to take time for granted. Every quick trip to Walmart or McDonald's when we would just talk or sing NSYNC, I'll never forget. I wish the time hadn't flown by so fast. As we grow up and move on to build our own families, we shouldn't forget where we came from. We shouldn't forget those who saw us at our absolute worst. We fought so much, it'd probably surprise my parents that I am actually proud of him at all. If you were a fly on the wall, you'd think we hated each other most of the time. But without a brother, I probably never would have been able to get through some of the toughest points of my life. I don't know if he feels the same way, he's not usually one to express emotion like that, and that's OK. In the end, I know that he will always be there for me and me for him.