Dear Private First Class Vincent H. Williams:
I remember your first fight like it was yesterday. A mean blond kid hit you for no reason. You were small for your age. You just stood there, looking shocked. In that moment, I realized that because there was no man in our lives to teach you how to fight, as your big sister, I had to do it. So I grabbed that kid and I said, "Hit him back."
I was only slightly bigger than him thanks to an early growth spurt, and you stood there looking uncertain while the kid squirmed in my grasp. I said, "Ball up your fist and hit him. Now!" After you hit him I let him go, and I told you, "Don't let nobody mess with you. Fight back. I won't always be there to protect you."
Now you are a grown man, a soldier in the Army, deploying to Afghanistan on Tuesday. And I wish I could be there to protect you.
I know we always support each other no matter what. You are a big advocate of my music career and even danced in my first video. Yet it has been so hard to support your decision to join the Army—and not because of my views on war or because I disagree with the politics behind it. I am uncomfortable with you going because I can't stand the idea of possibly losing the one man alive who loves me unconditionally.
Is that selfish?
We have been through so much together, from being homeless and sharing a bunk bed in the shelter with Mom and our older sister to living in a big house in the suburbs with our own rooms. When I think about the fact that you are going to a place where someone will want to shoot at you, it makes me weak.
When you are a soldier, the "enemy" doesn't see you as a guy who is funny, a great dancer and a beloved uncle to our sister's three little boys. They just see a soldier on the opposite side, an environment where you are unable to use your kindheartedness and compassion. That part of you has no place in the Army.
You chose to join the Army because you felt it could help you achieve your goals in life—to get out of Chicago, gain some discipline and earn tuition toward college. That is respectable. What is even more respectable is the fact that you really do take pride in fighting for your country. I've even heard you say, "Freedom isn't free." Vince, I do not know if that is true or just a cliche, but I respect that you believe it.
You are a soldier now, and I cannot protect you from the people who want to hurt you. When I wrote the song "Make It Back Home" for you, I was totally against you being in the military. Now, a year later, I finally get it.
You do not need me to protect you anymore; you just need me to support you. So now I am telling you, for the record, you have my support.
NIKKI LYNETTE, A CHICAGO NATIVE, IS AN INDIE RECORDING ARTIST WHOSE MUSIC APPEARS ON MTV, VH1, SHOWTIME AND MORE. CHICAGONOW.COM/NIKKILYNETTE