Most people who meet my brother have little knowledge of where he has been or what he has seen. The fact that he was in the Air Force is probably an after thought to those know how great of a friend that he is to them. He doesn't look like one of those crusty Veterans that you may encounter on the street with their service careers summed up on a mesh baseball cap and stories worn on their sleeves. He goes about his day quietly without anyone ever knowing the Warrior that is within.
My brother is a Veteran of Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. In those wars he spent holidays, birthdays and anniversaries away from his family and loved ones. When I was at basketball practice in elementary school learning the mechanics of a lay-up my brother was busy controlling the skies while coordinating an assault on Saddam. Years later, while safely studying in my dorm room, I'd get an email from him halfway around the world and the one thing he wanted to know was, "How are the Red Sox doing?"
For the people who walk past my brother on a daily basis, they may never know that he had 5,716 flying hours aboard the E-3 AWACS or that 1,000 of those were in Combat. Even if they did, they probably wouldn't know what that meant.
What that meant is that my brother was the "eye in the sky," that ensured air superiority for two decades. It meant that while we were celebrating New Year's or eating our Turkey dinner and watching football, he was watching over us (literally). As an Airman, I know exactly what my brother has done and what it meant to our National security. As someone who lives and works in the Air Force and has seen the mediocre more so than the extraordinary, I feel more than comfortable calling my brother a hero. If you understood the things that he has done, he'd be your hero too.
If you spoke with my brother he probably wouldn't tell you about all of his time in the sandbox. He wouldn't mention that he is qualified on the .50 cal or that he did a ground deployment with the Army looking for IEDs. He would even skip the stories of when his aircraft was painted by a MIG-25 while patrolling the skies. Furthermore, he won't tell you about the lives he saved or the medals he was awarded for his actions in combat. Instead, he'd probably ask how your day was going and carry on about his.
On 29 October 2009, MSgt Michael Carroll retired from active duty to a life away from the deployments and time away from home. To a Warrior, a Hero and most importantly my Brother, I salute him and thank him for everything that he has sacrificed.
This Veteran's Day we will walk past many homes with American flags displayed prominently in front yards. Some communities may hold parades w/ Veterans marching proudly down the street. In the crowd will be Veterans like my brother who won't be wearing a uniform and may appear to be just another face in the crowd. If you get the chance and recognize someone smiling a little more than those around them or standing a bit taller during the National Anthem, reach out and say "thanks," our lives wouldn't be the same without them.