Today a soldier left for Syria. His name is Cesar Augusto Andino, but to his family he is simply Junior. He is not related to me by blood, but by heart. He is my granddaughters oldest brother. He is 20.

I met junior 15 years ago, he was 5.  There were three, Laura, Junior and Juan Carlos.  They came into my life in a flurry. They fought like brothers and sisters do. We spent time watching Too Fast Too Furious, and we spent more than a few nights together. We shared many funny things, like the day he asked me why I had chicken pox all over my face and arms. Chickenpox? He pointed to my freckles. He had never seen freckles. Then he pointed to a picture on my wall “Hope” and asked “Why are you wearing a mask in that picture?” I said “You think that is me in that photo?” he nodded yes.

These were the brief moments I can remember when Junior was an everyday part of our life. Then as life does, it changed, and he slipped out of our life only a snippet here and there when I would drop my granddaughter off to visit her Dad, sometimes I would catch a peek of Junior.  Growing up before my eyes and then he became an older version of a boy and finally a young man.

During the last few months those three have been there for my granddaughter. They reconnected and spent some good time together and like a good soldier, he has her back.  And she has his.

Today when he said his goodbyes, there were tears and pride, evident by the photos they shared. My granddaughter couldn’t be there and her heart was filled with emotion over that fact. It is a hard lesson to learn that you can’t always be everywhere for everyone.

What a precious gift they received to be brother and sister again after all this time. And how wonderful that a man now stood where a little boy once was.

As you move through this life adventure into harms way in an effort to protect those who can’t protect themselves, remember your sister’s heart is with you, everyday waiting for your safe return to the USA and the people you love.

The bravery and fortitude you have demonstrated by making this life changing decision is not unnoticed or unappreciated. you leave here a young man and will return a weary warrior glad for his homeland and family.

Thank you for your service.

Until Next Time,






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