The Best That He Can Be
I remember when Noah went to Airborne school. He was 18 years old. He’d been in the Army just five months. Dad, the Navy pilot, lovingly joked that only two things fell from the sky: bird poo and Army guys. Having seen the jump towers at Fort Benning, I had minor palpitations when Noah called to say that he had gone off the tower that day. I believe my heart skipped a beat when he called me minutes after his first jump from a plane and said excitedly, “I can not believe you didn’t want to jump out of airplanes!!” and then proceeded to describe the jump. It helped somewhat that he called me after the jump was complete and I knew he was OK… My instinctive immediate response was something like, “Good job, Son!!” However, as his Dad and I observed later, it was just six months prior that we had routinely discouraged him from driving from our suburban New York home to the neighboring community of Paramus, New Jersey because we thought the drive on Route 17 was too dangerous!! Everything is relative, I guess.
It was the same for me as Noah went through advanced weapons training. Some parents might actually be at a loss for words when their child called to tell them that they had qualified (hmmm, I forgot what the ranking was -- sorry Noah) on the grenade launcher… or the .50 caliber gun… Of course, you’re very proud and so you say, “Way to go!!” or “Excellent!” or some other encouraging and congratulatory words the same as when he got a hit in a Little League game. Later I would have these thoughts about how weird it was that I was congratulating my son on jumping from planes and shooting grenade launchers.
When he was at Airborne, my “mama‑reasoning” said it should take longer than six weeks to teach them to jump out of planes. I worried that when they went to Joint Readiness Training whether they were training enough and getting the right kind of training. Having now been through his first deployment, I worry that perhaps there is no level of training that can prepare them for the realities of war. I know with every part of me that there is no level of training that they can give soldiers that will satisfy their parents while their child is at war. Be that as it may, I've actually come to accept over the last few years that I want my son to be the best that he can be -- not because I believe that silly slogan, but because it means he is acquiring skills that will save his life.
Noah has recently taken some specialized training (which he doesn’t want me to blog about) and he is scheduled to go to some other highly specialized training in the next few weeks (which he has also asked that I not blog about.) (Note to son: I have a blog about being a soldier’s mom. Tell me something I CAN blog about… Sheesh!) I hate the nature of the training he’ll be doing: It’s dangerous stuff. He could get hurt just training. And I want him to do well -- to be the best -- but I also know that if he completes this training it will put him further up on the point of the spear… closer to danger the next deployment. That’s another one of those double-edged situations: on the one hand, we’re proud and pleased that he is ambitious and wants to get ahead and do bigger things and get better at his job. On the other hand, why couldn’t he just be satisfied to be “just one of the guys” and let someone else do it? [Sigh.] He tells me regularly, “I’m a soldier. I like my job. I’m good at it.” And he reminds me regularly, “Didn’t you and Dad always tell me to find a job I like doing and do it well?” Well, yes. [Sigh.] Why don’t children remind you of these things when they have decided to be, oh, an accountant or something?
I know you’re not starting this training for a little while yet, son, and I know we don’t have to tell you to do well. Ask questions. Learn everything. Be the best that you can be.
Copyright 2006 Some Soldier's Mom. All rights reserved.