To quote the famous sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, “the game is afoot.” I am being precociously predictive by simply saying that things in my immediate family are about to change and some of our lives are taking divergent paths into the realm of the unknown, an unabashed certainty of adventure, and certainly an experience of epic proportion.
I was recently in Northwest Florida attending my grandson’s high school graduation. While I was there, my grandson decided to join the military, the Naval Reserve. I was delighted and had encouraged him to do so and serve his country. Not only will he be serving his country and doing his duty but will be using his GI benefits to fund his college. Things have changed a lot since I served. back in the Vietnam War Era.
He will be able to draw on his G I Benefits while he is attending college. He will be attending college in Boca Raton, Florida at Florida Atlantic University. He will have to drill one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer for eight years. After graduating college, there will be an officer’s commission waiting on him and he will appropriately serve as an officer for his next four years and I hope stay in the Naval Reserves for a good twenty more.
I only wish I had been as organized and had planned my future as my grandson has. To boot, he will be fully insured by Uncle Sam for a small stipend from his drill pay. Hopefully he will graduate college debt free being he has $180,000.00 of G I tuition assistance. He chose to become, “Air Crew/ Air Rescue, being he is already a Pensacola Beach life guard. He begins boot camp in the Great Lakes in July and then on to his “A” schools and I believe there are several: Air Crew, EMT and Rescue Swimmer.
My daughter, his mom, and I were discussing the ramifications of his enlistment and his career path. I know it is hard on a mother to let loose of the one so dearly loved. But it is natural thing for a young man to leave the nest and exercise his wings. That first great flight, soaring upon the wind with nothing but a horizon in front of you. Exhilarating! An Adventure!
I was being my usual self and opining on the ramifications of military life. I tried to assure her about the military, being she had never served. I think all young men and women should serve at least two years of military service. The service is unique in that it tears you down and then builds you back up into a better person. You are taught discipline, you are taught to follow orders and be a part of a team. When you screw up they don’t punish you but punish your whole company and thus you learn to fall in line, least you encourage the wrath of your peers. The service teaches you to accomplish the little things which enables you to do the big things. Cleanliness, promptness, courtesy, making a bed even and organization, respect and love of country, duty and honor.
So much is learned that you can’t put it all into script. It is a thing, an attitude. Later in life when they ask the veterans to stand, you will and proudly and you will look about you and see those looking at you and feel that pride in self and country. Yea! I served!
I was reading a poem a while back by Ella Wheeler Wilcox named “The Things That Count.” Now her poem speaks in the first person and each stanza begins with “Dear” but I am going to substitute my grandson’s name for “Dear” hoping he will one day read it and know it was from me to him and his mother. Of particular note in the poem is “walking with your feet, faith-shod. This is my time derived opinion. I am not a religious man but a spiritual one. I do not like church doctrine or dogma but I feel you must lead your life in acknowledgement of God.
The Things That Count, by Ella Wilcox Wheeler
Now, Ben, it isn’t the bold things,
Great deeds of valor and might,
That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.
But it is the doing of old things,
Small acts that are just and right,
And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;
In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when you want to play-
Ben, those are the things that count.
And Ben, it isn’t the new ways
Where the wonder-seekers crowd
That lead us unto the land of content, or help us to find our own.
But it is keeping to true ways
Though the music is not so loud,
And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along alone;
In flinging prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a groan—
Ben, these are the things that count.
Oh! Ben! It isn’t the loud part
Of creeds that are pleasing to God,
Not the chant of prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or song,
But it is the beautiful proud part
Of walking with feet, faith-shod;
And in loving, loving through all, no matter how things go wrong;
In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when the way seems long---
Ben, these are the things that count.
Gad! I get so misty eyed and tender as I write and read my own work. An old man trying to pass on something of note to the ones he so dearly loves. A lifetime of reflection haphazardly composed into a few lines of script to be hesitantly diffused amongst my readers who probably smile and smirk at my sentimentality.
This post is long enough so I will close. My daughter is also opting for adventure, she is her father’s daughter and will be making a drastic change. Becoming an empty nester has prompted her to seek a new job in another country. So! For the rest of the story, you will have to read my next post. Enjoy!