My Son’s in the Military and May Soon be in Harm’s Way

Legend says that when faced with Santa Anna’s demand to surrender his command at the Alamo in late February of 1836, Lt. Col. William B. Travis’ reply was a singular blast from his 18 pound cannon – heavier, louder and more powerful than anything the dictator dragged along from Mexico. The massive blast was, for the most part, symbolic, the Texian garrison’s blustering echo of the “Come and Take It” from Gonzales the previous fall, daring Santa Anna to do just that. 

Last week, the President of the United States and the British Prime Minister jointly fired off the modern equivalent of Travis’ 18 pound cannon, ordering US and British planes and ships to strike multiple targets in Yemen. History will determine whether it was merely a symbolic blast or if it will, in fact, deter further terrorist attacks on international shipping and American and British warships acting as security. 

Seven tips for parents of teens enlisting in the armed forces
We are watching, waiting, praying and listening to news of the conflict in the Middle East. (Michal Bednarek/ Shutterstock)

I have a more vested interest in the current conflict

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, that Americans are forced to brush up on world geography because of our military response. In decades past, we’ve wondered where exactly is Vietnam, Beiruit, Honduras, and Afghanistan? We know, like Americans heading to Europe in 1917, it’s somewhere “over there,” but not exactly where “there” is. 

This time, though, I have a more vested interest in where the rockets, missiles, and drones are tearing apart the friendly skies. Our son is now a sailor in the United States Navy, one of over 300,000 men and women tasked with protecting our shores, our national interests abroad, and our international friends who rely on us.

We are watching, waiting, praying, and listening carefully about what’s going on over there.

For the first time in 60 years, a member of my family is wearing the uniform

We are not the first family to watch the news more closely than before our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, moms and dads enlisted, swearing to defend and protect the nation. We will not be the last, either, watching, listening, praying and waiting for a word. This is to say I am not unique in any way, shape or form.

But for my family, this is the first time in 60 years where a family member is wearing the uniform. And, like thousands of other service member families, last night I found Yemen on a map, easier than ever before thanks to Google. 

In other words, it is entirely possible our son may be sailing into harms way sooner than later. He has friends, buddies, from boot camp and tech school who might already be there, or on the way.

(Let the reader understand: like Sergeant Schultz, I know nothing and am not implying, revealing, or hinting at anything. A few days ago, I asked Junior a too-pointed question. After only a moment hesitation, he firmly answered, “I cannot answer that, Dad.” An immediate, “…and don’t ask again,” hung unspoken in the conversation. Mea culpa…)

Relative calm in the world lulled us into a false ease when our son joined the Navy

It was one thing a year ago when he decided to join the Navy. After all, “It’s not just a job…it’s an adventure,” the old ad said. “It’ll be good for him,” we reasoned, “he’ll gain some experience, see the world, learn something while getting paid”

Yeah, in the back of our minds was the knowledge that he was becoming a very small, low-ranking cog in the maritime machine, but the relative calm in the world lulled us into an false ease behind our pride. 

The last few months, particularly since the mess has blown up in the Middle East, that ease has become more uneasy. We’re still proud – prouder than proud, in fact – of his choice and his determination to enlist and serve, but the shine is now off the apple.

The drums of war are thumping again

War drums are thumping. The 18 pounder has been fired in responsive warning. Technically, legally it’s not yet a war. Technically, legally it’s not yet a war. With conflicts threatening in Asia, and with ongoing fighting in the Middle East and Western Europe, it’s the Cold War turning warm – and that was before the planes and ships started firing last week.

That sound you just heard was the “gulp” in my throat. 

So, following in the footsteps of my mother-in-law when her husband went to Vietnam, my mom’s family when two brothers went to that jungle wasteland, my aunts and uncles when cousins deployed to various danger zones in places that twenty years ago they, too, had to look up, we watch, wait, listen and pray for our son, the warrior, and every other sailor, airman, soldier and Marine. 

More Great Reading:

What Makes Military Moms the Very Best Kind of Moms

About the author:

G. W. Hunter III’s son is a relatively new sailor in the Navy. This essay is his perspective as a father on the new reality facing those serving and their families.

About Grown and Flown

Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan are the co-founders of Grown and Flown the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. They are writers (Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author), moms, wives and friends. They started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and are co-authors of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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