I’ve never been to any kind of military graduation before, so I had no idea what to expect when my brother-in-law asked me to attend his Marine Corps graduation ceremony in San Diego.

I arrived in sunny California ready to take in the experience. On the base, all the stone buildings were painted light yellow.

The grass was vibrant green and immaculately cut. It looked beautiful and felt steeped in history.

Families and friends milled around waiting for the ceremony, and the whole place was charged with emotion.

We hadn’t seen our Marine in more than three months, so the anticipation was great. The bleachers were packed, and people waved flags and held signs to support their platoons.

Our first glimpse at our Marines was from a distance. Hundreds of men stood lined up in perfect rows. It felt like an eternity before they finally walked across the parade ground in unison.

We heard the drill instructors shout orders at them. Just under 500 new Marines about-faced and turned toward us.

We picked out John, my brother-in-law, and could hardly believe it was the same young man who stood before us. Crisp, lean and full of Marine pride.

When the ceremony was over, we, along with all the other families, flooded the parade ground to greet and hug him and his brothers. I’ll never forget how tightly my husband held his little brother, pride radiating from his face.

John told us stories about his training. Stories full of sweat, tears and sacrifice. Before that moment, I had no idea what our military went through in order to be prepared to defend our country.

Now that he has is back home for a few days, I am relieved to know that — while he looks and dresses completely different — he is the same funny, goofy little brother that flew out a few months ago.

I was at the gym with him one day when he told me that he wanted to be a hero. My only thought was, “You already are.”

I am extremely thankful for all of those who serve in the Armed Forces. Their courage and bravery inspires me.