Dear Danny,

Hey dude! Guess what? I started a new job at TOMI Sushi and Ramen in Kennewick. It is where Dickey’s BBQ used to be. I think it’s cool that I work in the same building where you had your first job!

I heard that you are both platoon leader and prayer leader! That’s amazing, man! I find it a bit funny how you took that big leap. A couple of years ago, I tried so hard for days to convince you to get on the Aftershock at Silverwood Theme Park, but you never even got near the line. Earlier this year, you enlisted yourself as a United States Marine!

Who knew that my little brother could be so brave.

You’ve got to teach me your ways, man. I can’t even go to that coffee shop anymore without giving myself a 10-minute pep talk in my car, looking at all of my flaws and imperfections, as if each was a valid reason to not go in and talk to her. But hey, that’s a poem for another day.

I remember as kids we shared a room; we had a bunk bed. I was in 9th grade. I checked out my favorite book at the time: Pendragon: Merchant of Death. I wanted to share this story with you so bad. From my mattress in the sky, I passed the book down to you, a 4th grader, who moved schools a lot due to being bullied. I asked you to read out loud as I also wanted to experience the adventure. You didn’t get to the second page before I told you: “Dude, you sound like a robot! Read it with more emotion.”

You closed the book and passed it back to me.

I don’t think that you’ve read to me since. Twelve years later, I don’t think I ever apologized.

I am sorry for criticizing the way you read, especially since you were fairly new to reading. I am sorry for selling your giant Nemo plushie for dirt cheap at the yard sale. I am sorry for holding grudges whenever you’d take my stuff without asking first. I am sorry if I ever made you feel less than awesome. I am sorry for the door incident at Cemetery Road.

Whenever we’d act up like that, Mom made sure we’d reconcile in the most memorable ways.

I’d keep you out of our room by using my body weight to prop the door closed. I’d feel your frustrations on my back as you’d try to punch the door open. I guess this time, you reached your breaking point and kicked a hole in the door. I opened it for you. Come on in.

Mom didn’t think that hitting us would make us learn our lesson; she had her own unique forms of punishment. That summer, she made us take our shirts off in the kitchen. We stood there, in horror, as we watched her mix up the most vile ingredients into a small bowl: olive oil, Nesquik chocolate milk powder, iodine salt. Then she rubbed her poison paste all over our sweaty backs. I will never forget the day she made us lick our backs clean.

wtf, mom.

She told us, “Pa’ la otra que están de peleoneros, nomas recuerden lo que soy capaz de hacer” (Next time we fight, just remember what she’s capable of.) That was the last time I showed aggression towards you.

I guess I’ve had your back when we were younger (ba-dum-tss), and I will continue to have your back every day of my life!

To avoid sounding like every person that finds out you’re a marine or veteran, I’ll only say this phrase to you a few times in my life, so let’s get this out of the way: Thank you for your service. Instead of repeating it, I’ll create a new tradition with the following words that for some reason have never left my lips, yet remain in my thoughts: Thank you for being my brother.

Happy 21st birthday, Danny.

I love you.

-Samuel Alcantar

An image of a united states marine holding their hat out to the camera.
Photo by Karsten Winegeart on Unsplash