As many of you know I have an older brother who is in the military. He is four years older than me and while our relationship may have been strained when we were children, as we got older our relationship became far better and he become a great friend to me. I canít tell you who Iíd be if my brother had not been such an integral part of my life.

I decided to write this column about him because he is deploying to Iraq in a matter of weeks. He keeps telling me there is no action going on over there, but I know things can change and so I worry a little. I try to keep a strong face and a smile all the time when I think about him, but in the back of my mind there is an bit of a nagging feeling.

My brother will be deployed for a year, serving for his country and taking care of his fellow man. I am extremely proud of him and what he has accomplished so far with his life. I know that he will continue to go on to great things.

I have been thinking a lot about how I will be communicating with my brother while he is over seas. It amazes me how easy it is now to communicate with loved ones in war time now as compared to a few years ago. Now I have a number of options to choose from when communicating with my brother. I will be able to talk to him on the phone, write him letter, write emails and even use a computer messaging program that allows us to video chat. I have a variety of ways to stay in touch with him, which makes my coping process with him being gone for so long a little easier.

I have also been spending a lot of time deciding what Iím going to put into the care packages I am going to be sending him. I have talked to some of my friends who have already been overseas and getting ideas for amazing care packages. I never realized just how much the small stuff can mean to a soldier so far away from home. One of my friends told me even the most menial things can mean a lot. He said baby wipes can mean a chance to feel clean when there is no time for a shower, a newspaper sports section can mean everything in the world to a guy who is missing all of his favorite sports, even just the smallest dollar store toys can alleviate the boredom for just a little while for someone who is so far away.

It is amazing to me the things my friends have told me to include in care packages. They are things I never would have thought to include, but its nice to be able to send some of those small extra things we take for granted every day to someone who is far away from home and missing the little things in life.

So now before he leaves I will try to spend as much time as possible with him as well as talking to him as often as possible because he is such a big part of my life and to have him so far away will definitely take some getting used to, but I will get him back in a year. Heís a good brother to have I suppose.

(Stefanie Cope is a staff writer for the Cherokee County News-Advocate. She can be emailed at stefanie.cope@sekvoice.com)