by Elaine Jones
A Future Path
Parents have been known to encourage, guide, direct, and even threaten their children when making a career choice.
Suppose you knew for the next twenty years your child would be sleeping on the ground in either snow, rain, or extreme heat, possibly among poisonous, wild creatures or other humans longing to take away their life; can that make you want to encourage them to go for it?
If you knew your child would often be hungry, sleep deprived, sick, or hurt, physically exhausted, and near the point of collapse; would you guide them to make that a life calling?
Knowing it may be years before you see that precious child again or even knowing whether they were alive or not, would you remind them of the heroic deeds their grandfather, father, or other relative had done in choosing this career?
Would it please you to know that when it came to where they lived or the duties they would have to perform, it might be against their moral standards, or put them in extreme danger? That they would have no choice but to follow orders or be punished?
This was not the future I saw my child taking… but the military was in his genes.
Grandson playing soldier. (Image Credit: Author’s photo collection)
My Child Arrived
On the evening of February 25, 1964, my husband and I spent the evening listening to a boxing match between a young 22-year-old Cassius Clay, later known as Muhammad Ali, and heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. The excitement was intense as few people expected Clay to dethrone Liston.
As soon as the match was over, I had an urgency to visit the bathroom. When my feet touched the floor, water gushed forward like “Old Faithful.” I had an inkling my firstborn was ready to make his entrance into the military world.
Not having a phone, my husband hurried down the stairs to the manager’s apartment to call the doctor and was told to take me to the hospital. As he returned to our apartment, he was the classic “first-time father-to-be.” I did not know if he had invented a novel dance step or was practicing running a marathon, but he repeatedly told me to hurry because we had to get to the hospital. He was so comical; I could not stop laughing which irritated the already agitated father. I tried to reassure him that I was not having any labor pains and that the baby would not come that quickly. All he could say was “Hurry up.”
Arriving at the hospital, he rushes through the door leaving me walking slowly behind, giggling, and leaving a water trail. He saw no humor in my attitude and continued to tell me to hurry.
Finally on February 26, my beautiful, perfect baby arrived. From that moment on, everything that occurred in his life was important for Mama.
The day I took him to get his first checkup, he gave me a reason to giggle again and to learn how easily he could make me cry.
As the army nurse undressed him on the exam table, she was very efficient in her routine procedures and appeared the proper professional in her white, starched uniform. My little boy was so pleasant lying there and launched the perfect arched steam soaking the front of the nurse’s uniform. Suddenly she expelled an expletive even a newborn shouldn’t hear. “And I just put this uniform on clean this morning. I should have known with a boy this would happen!” I was secretly cheering, “Perfect aim son. That’s my boy.” But when the injections came, he cried, and I cried with him. His “tough” paratrooper father scolded me for crying and said I would make the baby a sissy. That was one word that never showed up in his scheme of life.
It is in the Genes
At the age of 2, his dad made his first tour to Vietnam. With a baby brother who is two months old, a dog, and few belongings, we three moved to Ft. Bragg to be closer to family. Trying to find a place we could afford was a challenge. My little trooper soon became so tired of getting in and out of the car and looking at houses, he would refuse to get back into the car.
At that time, there was a statue on Ft. Bragg named “Iron Mike.” I never understood my son’s fascination with “Iron Mike” but every time we drove past it, my son would give it a salute.
“Iron Mike” statue. (Image Credit: Flikr)
My son had two caps that were more important to him than any toy. I could always tell when he was ready for a nap because he had put on my husband’s Army “bus driver” hat, climb onto his spring horse and rock back and forth as the cap slid down over his eyes. He fought going to sleep with a vengeance.
Army Parachute Rigger Cap. (Image Credit: Flikr)
His other favorite cap was a red baseball cap. One day while at the hospital waiting to see a doctor, a young Army soldier walked by us with his distinctive red “Rigger” cap in his hand. Without a moment of hesitation, my son ran behind the man trying to take the cap from his hand as he cried loudly, “Give me my hat.” The man stopped and gave us a puzzled look as I tried to explain why my son thought that was his cap. The explanation may have satisfied the man, but my son continued to cry for his cap until we returned home, and he happily retrieved his cap.
When we moved to Kentucky, an army helmet was added to his favorite hats. As soon as he put it onto his head, he instantly became a Military Police “MP.” When his little brother tried to ride his tricycle up the walkway, he would be stopped by the MP demanding to see his identification card. Of course, a two-year-old had no idea what an ID card was so he sat patiently until the MP let him continue with his ride.
Through his young years, I would frequently find him on the floor setting up a battle with his little, green, plastic military men. He would be very absorbed in what he was doing until his crawling baby sister wiped out his strategy.
In grade school, when a school play had a military character, he was always given the role. He seemed to know instinctively how a military person should present themselves.
As he grew older, he participated in more military activities, JROTC, Drill Team, and ROTC, eventually joining the Army and serving for over 21 years.
Support their Choice
Against a mother’s wish, certain destinies are just decided by the genes. So, if your child should favor a life in the military, don’t try and discourage them, or dissuade them, even if your heart tells you to do so. Support that choice as you would any other career choice, for it may be a calling stronger than you can influence. Would I have chosen that as a career for him? Never in a million years.
Am I proud of him for being in the military? You can bet your best aim I am!
As the Voice of the Veteran Community, The Havok Journal seeks to publish a variety of perspectives on a number of sensitive subjects. Unless specifically noted otherwise, nothing we publish is an official point of view of The Havok Journal or any part of the U.S. government.