Just Breathe!

I first heard about it when I pulled into the driveway tonight. I’d been at a class that I take each week. We’d had fun and learned quite a bit. As I pulled into the driveway and heard the initial reports, that the United States had launched a military airstrike on Syria, I stopped my car. After several seconds, I realized I had stopped breathing.

I’m still a relatively new MoM. My Marine only deployed last month. I wouldn’t expect anything less from this son– he had the mindset of a Marine years before he became one. He loves this country, and has a servant’s heart. And I knew this day would come eventually. You know, eventually – that day that is never actually supposed to get here. Well, it arrived. It blindsided me, and I’ve forgotten how to breathe.

I’ve been taught all the Marine Mom stuff. We’re the mothers of Devil Dogs! We’re proud and brave. We’re stronger than our sons – after all, we raised them! Semper Gumby is our motto – Always flexible. We know that nothing is a fact until it is released by the US Marine Corp and Department of Defense. We know that by the time we hear the news reports, the information is already hours, even days, old. We have been told that no news is good news. We’ve also been taught that if you hear it on the news, not to worry about it. The media excels at blowing a story out of proportion. Instead, we worry about what we don’t hear.  And there’s a lot of stuff we will never hear.

I forgot how much we should respect the family members of military men and women, probably because I grew up in a family of military men and women. I was quite young when my father was in Southeast Asia and am thankful that I’ve forgotten so much. It’s difficult to imagine all the details, and to consider how hard things are on your family when nothing seems out of the normal realm of family life for you. Until I was in high school, I never knew of a time when my dad wasn’t gone, just returning, or preparing to be gone again soon. This was our version of normal. I forgot about the days when we had trouble just remembering to breathe.

As I watch the various news channels tonight, I’m noticing how the discussion is on the geopolitical ramifications of the attack. Many comments have been made regarding President Trump’s first military strike. Social media outlets are already thick and deep with negative comments regarding the President’s prior comments (as in three years ago) regarding US response to Syria’s misbehavior. After watching reports for over three hours, I can now recite all the pertinent details regarding the strike. I know from where the missiles were launched, what they hit, casualties, potential follow up strike suggestions, the opinions of a few retired military leaders, and even which floor of the Pentagon still has people working tonight.

I know all of this, but somehow, I’ve forgotten how to breathe.

Three hours later, I’m still watching the news, trying to remember that until I hear from, or news about, my Marine, I don’t need to worry. I keep looking at the world map I have across the room, trying desperately to remember that the Middle East is much bigger than my living room wall – my Marine is surely far away from any danger. I’m trying to remember that he is just as safe wherever he is as he would be upstairs in his own bed. Where ever he is, God has him in the palm of his hand.

And I’m trying to remember how to breathe.

 

~Temerity Dowell

The Title Earned

“An Illinois high school has come under fire after officials refused to let a graduate, who is also a U.S. Marine, walk across the stage Thursday in her [dress blue uniform].

“Marine Corps Pvt. Megan Howerton technically finished up her studies at McHenry West High School early in order to start her career as a Marine, WLS-TV reported. But when she returned to the school to join her classmates at graduation, she wasn’t allowed to walk with her class.” (See a link to the full article below)

Readers who have read other blogs I’ve posted probably know how deep my respect is for our US servicemen and women. As the child of two veterans, and the wife of a veteran, I was not surprised when my sons both joined the military. Those who would choose to serve our nation in this capacity deserve our highest honor and respect. After all, how many other 18 year olds have to write their last will and testament?

When I read the story about Pvt. Megan Howerton, my respect for our military manifested itself in anger. Pvt. Howerton finished the requirements to graduate from high school earlier than most students do so that she could go to boot camp in Parris Island, SC, the first critical step toward becoming a US Marine.

For thirteen grueling weeks, drill sergeants train young men and women to become the best fighting force the world has ever known. These recruits, with very little sleep, do more calisthenics before 7 AM on Monday than the average American does in a month, and they do it every day. They must display a level of discipline that few other men or women will ever exhibit. They learn how to use a rifle, develop their marksmanship, are taught basic martial arts, and practice water survival skills. At each level, they must meet a high level of expectation and pass tests to prove they are qualified to be a US Marine.

So, not only did Pvt. Megan Howerton complete high school early, she also finished boot camp before her high school peers had graduated. Megan was most likely given a special leave from the Marine Corps in order to attend her high school graduation, to walk one more time with her fellow classmates. It was not to be.

I understand why high schools have dress code requirements. If they didn’t, it is highly probable that parents and grandparents attending the ceremony would be forced to witness saggy jeans and underwear crossing the stage.

I draw the line though when the stated purpose of the event is to lump all of the students in one big group. “Our graduates are celebrated as a whole and in similar attire,” stated a school official. Has it occurred to anyone else that this is the bigger problem?

While, traditionally, each student’s name is called as they receive their diploma, each of those students has had different accomplishments. They’ve taken their choice of classes (often based on future goals), they’ve completed their own assignments (in theory), they’ve passed their own tests, and they’ve developed their own skill set. Why would we desire to celebrate them as a whole?

Pvt. Howerton understood that in order to reach her goal of becoming a US Marine, she would first have to complete the requirements of her high school. So she did. Interestingly, she is not angry about not getting to cross the stage as a high school graduate. Marines are made of sterner stuff. She states in the article that she understood the dress code and still made the choice to wear her uniform, without the gown.

I understand that. My Marine would never dream of altering his uniform in any manner, even with a gown marking graduation. A Marine works way too hard to earn that uniform to hide it.

 

Dear Pvt. Howerton,

Congratulations on graduating as part of the Class of 2016. Completing the requirements of high school earlier than what was expected is a clear indicator of your willingness to do more than the typical student. Your achievements are commendable!

Congratulations on completing boot camp and becoming a US Marine! While a crossing a stage for high school graduation was taken away from you, your role as a US Marine can never be stripped away. You will always be a Marine. OOORAH!

While I will never know what it is like to be a Marine, I have some idea as to what an individual must accomplish in order to earn the title. In the eyes of this MoM*, you are aces! Thank you for your service to our country.

Sincerely,

~Temerity Dowell

 

 

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/05/22/illinois-high-school-refuses-to-let-marine-walk-for-graduation-over-dress-code.html?intcmp=hpbt3

*Mother of a Marine