Over the course of their match, Nate has been an amazing Big Brother for Edgar— helping him apply for jobs, teaching him how to drive, getting him out of a jam with the police when he drove with just his permit (oops!), helping him make sure he had the credits he needed to graduate—and so much more. Edgar’s mom, a Mexican immigrant, does not speak English very well and Nate has helped Edgar navigate the school system, the DMV, and other situations where Edgar needed an adult advocate.
And last month to officially conclude their match (but not their relationship!) Nate accompanied Edgar to his swearing-in to the U.S. Marine Corps in Charlotte.
“I couldn’t believe how young Edgar looked at his swearing-in,” reflects Nate, “But when I looked at all the other recruits, I thought, ‘Wow—they’re all that young.’ True: Edgar graduated a semester early and got his mom’s permission to enlist at 17 instead of 18. But really, they were all just kids! I had gotten used to thinking of Edgar as an adult. He drives; he has a job; he helps his mom run the household. Moreover, he’s always been very mature. So I wasn’t prepared for just how young he suddenly looked at that ceremony.”
Edgar graduated a semester early and enlisted in the Marine Corps. He plans to go to mechanic school after basic training and infantry training and hopes to complete his service and then become a civilian mechanic when he is discharged. (Or he may make a career of the military – he hasn’t decided definitely yet).
When Nate first met Edgar six years ago, joining the Marines was already the young man’s dream and goal—and had been for awhile, says Nate. “I have a great deal of faith in anybody who has as much dedication to a goal as Edgar has” Nate says, noting that most kids—and adults—change their minds a thousand times about what they want to do and how they want to apply themselves. Not so for Edgar: he stayed true to this goal and he’s fulfilling it.
Even with Edgar now gone, Nate is writing him letters and receiving letter from Edgar (the only permitted form of communication during basic training).
“[Writing letters] is a completely new experience for Edgar, who is part of a generation for whom even e-mail is somewhat of an outdated mode of communication,” says Nate, “My wife said to me, ‘I bet you and Edgar will become even closer during this time, even though he’s away.’ She was right…Letters are different and somehow more intimate than the other ways we all communicate.”
“My sense of belonging and togetherness with the rest of Edgar’s family has never been stronger. We’re all concerned about him; we all miss him. Edgar’s mom and I text each other whenever we’ve gotten letters from him and we compare notes. And a couple of weeks ago, she and Edgar’s step-dad invited me over to celebrate my birthday with some regional favorites from the Durango region of Mexico, where his stepdad is from and where his mom has spent quite a bit of time. I don’t think I’ve felt that much like the VIP on my birthday since I was a kid!”
“In a nutshell,” reflects Nate, “everything is completely different now that Edgar is away and our match is technically ended. But at the same time: nothing has changed at all! I’ve said for years now that I feel like I have a family relationship as opposed to a mentor or volunteer relationship. That feeling is totally confirmed at this point. In this day and age, many of us live far away from our family members—that’s just how it is. I don’t feel like anything is ended or finished. Edgar is still going to need his big brother once in a while!”