We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I came upon this poem while stimulating my thoughts for today, Veterans Day. As a veteran who saw the looks on the faces of my family when I enlisted, and as a father with two young sons, this poem pretty much carries that look on a parent's face of pride, and astonishment, that their child has grown up straight and true.
An American Boy Grows Up
Our son was born so long ago, yet it seems like yesterday... that I stood in awe before his crib and heard that doctor say, "You've quite a boy there Mr. Jones." I could only answer with a nod, for in his very being there I saw the miracle of God.
Later in his high chair, in a manner I deplore, I saw that Miracle of God throw his oatmeal on the floor. Well, I fixed him something different, for I felt he must be fed, but when I turned around again, that bowl was on his head!
A few more years rolled along and he didn't spill things anymore. But his granddad sent a big bass drum, and once more I deplored The fact that my miracle of God, had a lusty taste for noise! When he'd boom! boom! boom! on that big bass drum, I questioned, boys must be boys?
I asked his whereabouts one day...his Mom said, "He's got a paper route," "said he'd help to earn his way as he became an eagle scout." When they pinned that medal on him, tears welled in my eyes, and then I gripped his mother's hand, our boy had earned his prize.
I won't forget that September day, when he entered senior high, he had an air of great excitement, but he left home with a sigh. He came back that afternoon, and gave us some puzzled looks, "Wow!", he said, "this school is tough, look at all these books!"
"The choice is yours," his mother said, "You can pick the easy way." "What you put into life, you'll get out of it. Each man pays his price one day." He looked up, and then he smiled, and I saw he'd lost his gloom, He said, "I'd better look at these," he headed for his room.
My son came home late one day. He seemed all worn out. I asked a little sharply what this was all about. He spoke proudly and threw his shoulders back, and in his eyes I caught a gleam. "I wanted to surprise you Dad, I'm on the football team!"
They won most of their games, lost a few, it was a thrill to watch him play. And when they didn't win we knew, he'd met the challenge anyway. He didn't know it at the time, but, it was a stepping stone, solid footing for the climb, to face life on his own.
How those three years flew past, when graduation came, we saw our boy grown up at last, our lives will never be the same. I guess we've known all along what his goal would be, from that time three years ago, when he chose responsibility. He stood in the doorway yesterday, put out a strong right hand. I held back tears at the uniform he wore to protect his land. I shook his hand, his mother cried, "Son, why couldn't you wait?" Embracing her, he softly said, "Mom, if we all did, it would be too late."
"I promise I'll go back to school, when I've met my obligation, to you, my friends, my girl, my school, and most of all this nation." "I'll do all I can out there, for I know you'll both be trying, to make everyone you know aware, we've got to keep Old Glory flying."
And then his mother straightened up, with a smile to hide a tear. She said, "we're both so proud of you, we'll feel lost without you here. Someday, you'll know what this moment means, when your boy shakes your hand, And you watch him as he walks away, the day he becomes a man."
My friend Tim Ziegler, former Marine, is blogging his son's coming of age in Marine Corps boot camp: "our hope is that Zach's friends and family will have a chance to experience Zach's transformation from average (or above-average, depending) teenager to a proud member of the USMC."
So, I guess the old Marine's phrases, "We still make 'em like we used to," "We never promised you a rose garden" are all still true. The reality is that it is hard for me to hear as a Dad. It's comforting for me to hear as a former Marine. Semper Fi Zach.
Tim emailed me this morning, "The difference in maturity and perspective in just a month has been simply amazing."
My son enlisted in the Army Guard while a junior in High School. Went to Basic at Ft Sill in the summer before his senior year.
Everyone commented on the change it made in him. He left a teenager and returned a young adult.
He also came to realize his dad was not the meanest authority figure in the world, his two little sisters were not the worst roommates in North America, and his Mom was a damn fine cook.
You and I and everybody else who has ever been through a military service boot camp knows that there is a point where you accept that you aren't in Kansas anymore, accept the discipline and knowledge being offered and you become what ever it is you have chosen to be - Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine. That's when you grow up realizing that you are not in over your head, the surroundings and rituals become familiar, more routine and you recognise that you are a part of something greater than yourself and the pride of wearing that uniform begins.
I salute all my fellow veterans and remember those who cannot be with us today.
I leave you with this:
1. To take charge of this post and all government property in view.
I don't know if I can do it by memory: these are the standing orders for Army guard posts. I was USAF but hung about a good deal with the Army.
2. To guard everything within the limits of my post and not quit my post until properly relieved.
3. To report any violations of my post or standing orders to the officer of the guard or to my relief.
Let's be careful of the "young man" identification of veterans or service candidates. My daughter is, in some ways, a better candidate for the armed forces than is my son. And my sweetheart served 7 years, three as an NCO.
I agree with you Geoff - we should be careful in identifying veterans as "young men". My Mom was a SPAR (WWII) and a CPO by the end working at the famous Cape Cod USCG radio station. My Aunts Barbara (WAC), Shirley (WAVE), Mary (WAC) and Rose (SPAR) all served during WWII and my Aunt Gerry was an Army MASH unit charge nurse during Korea having joined right after WWII. My Mom's Mother's youngest sister was a transport pilot and flew everything from Marine Corsairs to AAC B-17s (and was still flying right up until she passed on).
General orders are general orders and they have changed over the years (with the exception of the Marines and Navy), but there is one famous order that doesn't get much attention - and is kind of unwritten. It is called the 12th General Order in the Marines and all services have a verison of it. To wit:
"Walk my post from flank to flank and take no shit from any rank."
Three months at Parris Island returned a boy to me who had grown enormously. From aimless and blaming others to conscientious and accepting responsibility. The first few months of combat and MOS training pushed that further. A word of caution, though. Since that first year he hasn't grown up much more. Being forever stuck at Camp Lejeune doesn't seem to be as valuable an experience.
Assistant Village Idiot