After nearly three months, my brother has graduated from boot camp and is now a full-fledged Marine. Most of my family had the opportunity to go out to San Diego to see him graduate. I got the next best thing – a lot of FaceTime and Skype time with him. (Here’s the post I wrote when he left for boot camp.)

The amazing thing to me is to see all the changes he has undergone. There are physical changes. He lost more than 30 pounds while there and packed on the muscle. He is leaner in the waist and perhaps broader in the shoulders. Before leaving it was difficult to convince him to run a mile with me; on his last physical fitness test while there he ran three miles in 18 minutes and thought he could have done better. His face is more defined, his head closely shaved. He stands taller. (The picture below was taken as he finished the final test – known as the Crucible. My brother is the one closest to the camera.)

And then there are little things that you would only recognize if you knew him well; like the way he speaks, or how he looks people directly in the eye when he answers a question.

But the most significant changes to me are the ones that aren’t noticeable with the human eye. He left for boot camp a boy and returned a man. I’m not sure how they do it, I probably don’t want to know the details. But he is different internally. He values the family more; he’s excited to spend time just talking and sitting around with everyone. He admires my father, and his old-school values, in a way that he was completely oblivious to before. He wrote my mother lines and lines about how much he was looking forward to her cooking (and I don’t think he meant it just in the craving food sort of way.) He already offered to help with the chores around the house, assuring my mom that he was really good at cleaning and making beds; he’s become pretty handy with a needle too.

As you can imagine, my entire family is brimming with pride for what he has accomplished and what the years ahead will hold for him. He gets to be home for two weeks, which overlaps with his 20th birthday, and then he reports back to base. I’m looking forward to what the years ahead will bring for him and how his decision to become a Marine will change the dynamic of my family for the better.

Katie Hinderer

Katie Hinderer is a freelance writer and social media enthusiast. She holds a degree in Journalism from Marquette University. Over the years she has transitioned from traditional publishing...