This week my younger son left home to deploy on his first mission with the US Marine Corps. I’m proud beyond belief. I also miss him greatly.
Earlier today, my older son, who serves in the Army National Guard, headed off for an extended drill weekend. Due to storms last month they had to cancel their scheduled activities for safety reasons, so I assumed they would be making up those things this month. As my soldier headed to his car, I asked, “Will you be jumping out of planes or helicopters?” His reply made me smile. “If we do, I’ll remember to take a garbage bag, Mom.”
Back story: Somewhere between a hundred years ago and yesterday morning, my sons were young. And they were very typical boys. Because we homeschooled them, they had many hours each day to find things to do on our family farm. We never owned video games or had a lot of movie channels, so entertainment sometimes involved rocks, sticks, ropes, and imaginary characters. Games of cowboys and Indians were common. Their adventurous spirit led them up trees, to the woods, in the pond, and down the zip line into a tree. It is truly a miracle that they both made it through childhood with little more than a few stitches.
One time my future soldier decided he wanted to jump out of the barn loft with a parachute. Parachutes being difficult to find for the average 10 year old, he decided to use a plastic trash bag instead….more than once. Obviously it was completely ineffective, but he really didn’t care. For all I know, he listed it under “Experience” when asked by the Army if he had ever jumped from a high point. Today, he does have his jump wings, and loves every opportunity he gets to jump from perfectly good airplanes and helicopters. And today, he uses a real parachute instead of a garbage bag. Go, Army!
I knew from the time he was young that his mind was on the military. When he was only 12 years old, we went to a local Civil Air Patrol meeting. At the end of the evening, he looked at me awkwardly as he showed me the emblem that they had given him when he “joined.” I should have known. He loved every weekly meeting, wearing his uniform, doing the physical training, taking tests to advance in rank, and even saluting superior ranking students and leaders. He was made for the military.
My young Marine, however, never showed one minute of interest in Civil Air Patrol. He wasn’t interested in the military; he was interested in cows. Somehow I managed to get it in my mind that he would graduate from high school and work in the agricultural field, perhaps as a feed lot buyer, a 4-H agent, or artificially inseminating cows (he was trained to do this by the Agricultural Extension Agency in our state when he was only 16). He had become a Master Beef Producer when he was just 14. He was supposed to grow up, live nearby (if not at my home), raise cows on our property, and eventually get married and give me the granddaughters that I so richly deserve to spoil.
My uncle was a Marine veteran who had served in Vietnam, spending part of his time in a North Vietnamese prison camp as a POW. A brain tumor, possibly caused by Agent Orange, was what took his life when my son was 16. My sons grew up around veterans. Both of my parents served in the military. My husband served, his father served, and his brother served. Three of my uncles served. Even though he had never given any indication that he might be interested in the military, my younger son decided when he was a teen that every young man should serve his country. So he became a Marine.
Someday, all my dreams for my younger son may come true. I’m especially believing Jesus for that last part, since I think I possess great potential at being a grandmother. But for now, he is somewhere in the world on a ship for the US Marine Corps. Oorah!
Forgive the ramblings of a sentimental mother. I am really missing my sons tonight.