My son is a Marine.
I am hopeful this story, our story, might help those of you who dreamed of putting your own kids through college and whose lives aren’t working out exactly as planned.
Mine sure didn’t.
My husband and I opened a 529 for our firstborn on his first birthday. Fast forward to his the Fall of 2017, he’s a senior in high school with 3.9 grade point average and is graduating with an associates degree. He’s in his fourth year of Varsity football and has 5 scholarship offers on the table. None of this is fiction, it is all true.
“One day our son returns home from practice and announces, “I WANT TO JOIN THE MARINE CORPS.” Those words hit me like a ton of bricks. “What the hell?!… why?! … you’re smart!” I said… “What about OUR college plans? “Don’t waste your brains.” I said. “You could DIE!”
I threw up.
I drank wine.
I prayed SO hard.
I thought, “This is a phase, it will pass.”
Only it didn’t pass. We took him to the Coast Guard Academy to steer him toward a compromise. I invited recruiters from the Air Force and Marines to talk him into earning his degree first, then enlisting as an officer. It didn’t work. This kiddo, my gentle giant, the guy who has the world at his fingertips wants to voluntarily go to literal hell?!
“What did we do wrong? Where did we fail? “WHY?!” I asked.
His reply, “I feel called to serve.”
He was doing this with our support or without it. So, we supported his decision.
We “trained” together as a family as he took his ASVAB and he scored the highest the recruiters had seen in 7 years. My heart sank even more. “He doesn’t HAVE to do this.”
In my ignorance I thought people joined the military to either run away from a bad homelife or because they had no other option. I did not see this as an “opportunity.” I saw this as 10 steps backwards and a possible death sentence. I saw this as a four year pause in all our lives with a bad outcome. I was wrong. I AM wrong.
We signed our 17 year-old son’s life over to the United States government on November 27th, 2017. He trained with Marines for the remainder of his senior year and shipped off to three months of bootcamp on November 26th, 2018. We could not call, text, Skype… no contact other than delayed snail mail.
It’s was a clean, fast and hard break. We prayed, wrote 125 letters in his 89 days on Parris Island and cried ourselves to sleep many nights. I don’t remember exactly when it happened but my soul did a 180. Maybe it was the honorary phone call we got when he became a shooting expert. Maybe it was the first “proof of life” photo another parent captured of our son in his cammies. I don’t remember. But it happened.
Our son not only completed bootcamp and the God awful “Crucible” but he excelled. He earned meritorious promotion, expert rifleman, scored first class in all physical and academic coursework and was three points shy of earning Honor graduate for his entire platoon.
The day my son stood in front of me at 6’3”, 27 pounds lighter, bald, clean shaven, in that prestigious uniform, with the deepest look of pride and accomplishment on his beautiful face… well, that was the proudest moment of my life as a parent.
So that’s our story.
Our kids don’t always do what we plan, hope, pray and dream for them to do and sometimes the disappointment can take your breath away; especially as you watch others on signing day or dorm shopping day. It stings. I won’t lie.
You wonder if other parents in your shoes are wondering same things you once wondered…
“Where did they go wrong?”
“I thought he was a smart kid.”
“Guess he’s just not cut out for college.”
But then, pride takes over with ferocity. Oh, the pride!! Oh, the Honor! Oh, the nobility in our son’s sacrifice! The feeling is astonishing. We had the duty and the privilege of raising a great man. A man of faith, character, wisdom, strength, a humble servant and a leader. We are doing well…really, really well.
“Ooh-Rah” looks good on us!
Whatever your child’s calling, just know that it will look really good on them and on you too. Hang on for the ride.
Take it from me.
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