color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: He is a soldier

Saturday, December 11, 2004

He is a soldier

We always thought he would grow out of it. The wanting to be a soldier. It was going to be just a fad he went through. Like most boys.

When he was 10, he had to complete this assignment for his English class. It was a typical assignment in his school -- one older brother had done it, too, years before. They called it "The Ego Book". Tell about your family, places you'd lived, pets, and things you'd like to be when you grew up. I recently came across those books while we moved. Fully a third of his list was related to the military -- Navy pilot, soldier, Marine, Navy officer, Army officer... And we noticed, too, not long ago, that the photos of his Halloweens were dominated by Army, Marine and Navy uniforms (and an occasional ninja... once a vampire.)

When the youngest of our children started high school, he began to talk about how he couldn't wait to be old enough to join the Army. Like most parents of 13 year olds, we nodded and said "uh-huh". The military has always been an honest and honorable avocation in our family, but we certainly never pushed any of our children to join the military -- it was simply always a viable option.

In his sophomore year, the United States was attacked and it seemed to strengthen his resolve to enlist. We still thought it would pass.

By his junior year in high school, as he and his friends and classmates began to prepare for the SATs and everyone started looking at colleges, he began to visit the local recruiting station. Although his two older brothers were in the Navy (one after high school and one during college), we actively discouraged this son from enlisting. It wasn't that his Dad and I objected to the military, but we wanted him to consider all his options. At his insistence, enlisting remained a part of every conversation we had with our son about his future.

By his senior year, we were certain that he could be distracted from enlistment as his and his friends' attention turned to colleges and graduation. By November, we had become so tired of his insistence that we sign the consent for the Army's delayed entry program (DEP), that we forbade any mention of it until after the first of the New Year. He honored our wishes. Until New Year's Day. Then the floodgates opened. And every day after that, multiple times each day, he implored us, begged us, pleaded with us, argued with us to meet with the Army recruiters. We refused. After all, he was still about 90 days from his 18th birthday. No amount of cajoling or urging on our part could convince him to apply to colleges. With the talk of war escalated, he never wavered. His friends talked to him, but even they will tell you that he wanted to serve, that his highly developed love of his country and his patriotism drove him.

Three weeks before his 18th birthday, accepting that it was unlikely that he would change his mind, we agreed to meet with the Army recruiter. But we made no promises other than to hear them out. After Sgt. C's presentation, we grilled that recruiter with every degree of cynicism we possessed. We reviewed the ASVAB scores and the positions available to our son. He wanted infantry. He wanted Airborne. Straight. Square. Bold. Certain. He looked us firmly in the eyes and said, "Yes, Dad. Yes, Mom. This is really what I want." We signed. My son enlisted not because we might go to war, but in spite of it.

What was gratifying to us was that we felt that the recruiter was straight forward. Truthful. And when we told our son that we would sign the papers to join after graduation, applause erupted in the outer room. There, despite the lateness of the hour, most of the other Army recruiters, and a few of the Marine and Air Force recruiters whom our son had befriended over the previous two years had stayed to see if he would be one of them!

1 Comments:

At 7/15/2005 8:35 AM , Anonymous Bucky's mom said...

My daughter in law just found this site and sent it to me. She married my youngest son in March and he has since been activated from Army Reserves and is training for his assignment in Iraq.
We have been sharing our thoughts and feelings and I know your blog will benefit me immeasurably. Thank you for your time and effort in writing your story and feelings. I can sympathize -yes, but more. Sharing and knowing another on this common journey tends to stabalize, validate, and strengthen me.
My son didn't identify early with the military except in usual boyhood fantasies, but my upbringing was mostly a military environment (Chaplain's daughter). He actually made his committment partly for college support and partly from a dissatisfaction with how slowly his life was unfolding during his late teens and early twenties. I was AMAZED at what a metamorphosis took place in boot camp. He LOVED it! He wouldn't put it in those words but he came alive! It was THE ritualistic start of manhood every culture recognizes (except ours!). Misplaced qualities of loyalty, excellence and dedication all found their niche and he began to flourish. Knowing and seeing that somehow makes the future more bearable.

 

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