Letters from camp

August 2, 2011

Again I am reminded not only the impact of technology on the downgrading of handwriting as evidenced by my son’s letters from Fort Benning.  He is urging more letters, so writing him every 3 days has become the norm or if something worth writing (which is about anything) comes up.

While he goes into details about his training – rifles, Claymores, chow lines – not much about his fellow soldiers.  I will keep peppering him with questions.

I find that I do not get the rush of having to rip open the letter and devour the contents like his mother does each time.  I put it in my pocket and wait for a quiet moment and place.  Somewhere I can focus on reading and re-reading the letter.  Taking the content first then striving to read between the lines for how my son is feeling.

He is still charged up about his experience and from the letters appears to be thriving in the 112 degree heat of Georgia.  He has used the word lead, which was not something he had done before.  Not that I did not believe he had the capability, just not the desire.  However, like when he found welding, it was the not right time or place before.

Now.

At Fort Benning, it is.

Not that he was a follower.  He always went a slight different path, not following the exact tracts of another.  Not my tracks, surely.

But, lead – not something he did.

He is leading now.  Small bits, but that is what I drew out of the last letter.  Can you read the smile across my face?

Can you hear my heart beat a bit louder and stronger with pride?

I can.

Well, the letters keep coming from PFC Oliver down there in Fort Benning.  The boy is enjoying himself and being tested as he wanted to be.  I miss our summer golf matches.  Goofing around the course, scaring the squirrels out of the trees we would hit into and making the rare ESPN highlight style shot.

Gradation is set in October.  That will be the next chance to see him in person.  That is a long time from now.  He is one of the boys of Company B, from the old song.  Learning more in a week then he had learned in a year at high school.  Both physical and mental training.  Pushing himself farther and farther.

He is becoming a soldier.

I told him one of the surprising things was when I was asked about him and explained he had joined the Army.  The response from every person I have met has been to thank me for ‘letting’ him serve.  Thank you and thank him.  Thank me, I understand it I just don’t really accept that I have done anything to be thanked.

My letters back to him go out twice a week, telling him my boring tale of my life, but figure that getting a letter is an up part of his day.

Letter writing – another new thing that the Army has brought into my life.

 

I have been holding my cell phone since Friday night, carrying it from room to room.  Never having it away from me whether I was driving around, shopping, eating, looking at really bad art in an art festival.

So, Sunday night I figure well I guess he either did not get his phone privileges or he called his mom, girlfriend  or 1-800 x-games updates.

I run downstairs to grab the laundry and I hear the phone ring, by the time I get upstairs I missed his call.  Several swear words later I write this.

Missed the call, feel like crap and frankly miss him terribly.  Will it be another week until a call.  Crap.

I will strap this damn phone to my arm.

 

Hi mother received a short call on Saturday and I admit to being upset that she did not call me to tell me he called.  More upset than I should be as historically I have told my kids to always contact their mother first and I can wait, but not now.  Not with this.

I think of my kids daily, but I can call my daughter.  Text with her like I will later today while we watch the US vs France in the World Cup.

No doing with my son.  He is in Fort Benning, likely hot, sweaty (I can relate in Baltimore) and experiencing something both challenging and I am sure frightening in an intimidating manner.  He will be experiencing failure and immediate feedback on that failure.  Also, success and similar feedback on that success, but how will he respond?

Will he respond instead of reacting?

Hmmmm, this is the only stress I deal with in reality these days.

Work

Relationships

Writing

easy stuff…

Worrying about him, is similar to when he first came home from the hospital.  In place of asking myself ‘am I going to be a good father’ I am now asking myself ‘have I been a good enough father to get him through this’.

I give only one piece of advice to someone who asks me about being a parent.  Are you worried about being a good parent?  If the answer is yes, than you are doing okay.  It is those who do not worry about it and think they are doing great that need some personal help.

 

A brief ceremony where he takes the pledge and finalize his contract with the Army.  But, the thing that hit me was entering the room with him standing first at rest, then at attention.  Even in a t-shirt and jeans it was a different person.

He is in the army now.

He has a full-time adult job.

He has made and will keep a commitment at a level he has never had to before.

Fort Benning in July and August should be a very warm experience.

Go Army!

He is heading to his enlistment center today.  Mom made him 5 eggs, pork roll and sausages with apple juice.  His buddy who was enlisting to, busted his hand last night so that is not happening.

The tension is thick in the air, accept for the wise cracking father I am.  Nervous myself, yes I am.

 

One day to boot camp

July 5, 2011

It is one day until he leaves for boot camp.  The reality is seeping in.  He is excited and absentminded as usual about the things he needs to do before he leaves.

Partying pretty hard.  Not sleeping due to his anxiousness.

The emotions are coming to the surface in the house.

It will be strained the next 72 hours.

He is continuing a legacy that his great grandfather started in 1917 in the Army.  His grandfather in the 1940’s too.  A soldier.  My son the soldier.  Not yet, but I know he will succeed.  He will be demoralized at times, saddened and fearful of the failures he encounters.

But, he will be successful.  He has a quiet strength that is more from his grandmother than anyone.  He will endure and persist.

Tick tock.

Time is fleeting that my child stops being a child and becomes a soldier.

Date gets moved

June 28, 2011

Well my first experience with Army life is the flexibility the Army requires family members to have for most things.  My son was to report on July 5th, and now it is July 7th.  This is the second time they have moved the date a day here or there.

It is frustrating me, but not because I am damn it make up your mind, but more that I had put in place in my mind what I needed to go through to be there for him.  Be strong, be calm while his mother freaks and so on.  This minor, ever so minor, reset is causing me more vexation then it should.

It is what it is and we will deal with it as it comes.

This brave, bright young man will join this historic effort to defend this country.  My country.  I wish I could go in his place, but this is his choice, not a draft.

Will he be scared?

Injured or worse I do not think about.  But, my son being terrified.  I will not be ashamed if he is, I will feel that I let him down by letting my child be terrified.  Be that afraid that it could scar him.  This is what keeps me awake and enters my mind very frequently these days.

My job as a father has been to protect him.  Over the years I have done a good job of this and this is one of the things I felt I would continue to do going forward.  That and giving him cash when he needs it.

Gone are the days of telling him what and how to do things.  That is the Army’s job soon.

Gone are the days of me teaching him values.  He has learned those and the Army will refine that for him.

Gone are the days of keeping him warm when he was sick and making him do his homework.  He is on his own for that.

But, making sure he is not scared.  That is still a dads job.  You never give that one up.

How do I do that now.  How do I assure him things will be okay, when I have no clue whether it will be in the situations he will be in.

The date got moved.  Two days, no big deal.  But, it messed with my schedule to deal with my emotions.

 

Memorial Day

June 1, 2011

his past weekend was Memorial Day.  I spent it planning my packing method as I am moving.  As such, most of the days were spent inside, boxing some things, throwing out others and selling on Craigslist some furniture.

With being inside, I watched TV.  One channel, forget which, was having a war movie marathon (Patton, Battle of Midway, Tora Tora Tora and so forth).  In between, Tom Brokaw was interviewing young veterans about their time in boot camp, deployment and now that they have completed their service.

I was drawn to the interviews and for the first time Memorial Day had a significant impact on my feelings.

My father was in the Navy during WWII and later in the Army Corp of Engineers.

My grandfather was in the Army in WWI as part of the last horse based calvary.

My son now will be in the Army in a few months.

As with anyone who is or has served or has a member of family who is or has served, I believe the experience of Memorial Day takes on a new meaning upon that service.

My son relayed a discussion with his mother about the ‘promise’ my son’s recruitment sergeant had made to her to keep in touch about the process of his inducement.  He stated that his mother said that the sergeant was acting like a ‘pussy’ because he had not been in touch.  I laughed and he got quiet.  Then stated he was a bit shocked by her use of the word and the force of her tone.

I explained to him that his mother may be normally on the quiet side, but that when her babies are in harm’s way, she gets very fierce very quick.  She views the sergeant as someone who has convinced him to be in harm’s way.

If I were his training sergeant, his platoon sergeant, officer or whomever he will be up against in his deployment – I would heed this warning.  You hurt this boy, and she will put a hurting on you.  She will be relentless.  She will never forget, nor forgive.