Updated: Feb 2, 2022
I had intended on my next blog post being about the salon, but I'm not quite ready for that yet. I'm still in the middle of a certification and some aspects are still evolving. Instead, since my son and his future is on my mind most of the time anyway, I'll go there next instead.
Not long after I added the last blog post about my son and his desire to apply to the military academy, the opportunity came up for us to attend Lake Carroll's new veteran's club that was just starting. The days before this gathering, the thoughts crossed my mind that perhaps it wouldn't be appropriate for him. Besides, he's a sophomore in high school. I've heard some of the stories of former service members and, as expected, some of them are hard to hear. BUT on the other hand, it's also my opinion that if you are going to make a big decision, learn everything you can about it; easy and hard.
We arrived at the meeting and began talking with retired members of different divisions of the military as well as family members of those who are currently serving. Immediately, my son was welcomed and folded in with even the mere thought of applying to the Air Force Academy. Everyone was so encouraging of him, willing to help him, and most of all, supportive of me. I was so proud of the way he presented himself. He spoke with confidence, with respect, and most of all was polite and shook the hands of many he met. I saw him a little differently that night. He's in fact growing up.
While he was loving the interaction with the members, it became increasingly harder and harder for me not to go into my worried mom shell as the night went on. The gentleman who is organizing the club shared stories of the deployment that changed his life. It's not my place to share the details of which he spoke about because they are his to share, not mine, but I will say that your heart would break right along with mine if you heard it. In fact, just even writing this breaks my heart for him all over again. It's not my first time hearing tough stories, but while I felt honored that someone would trust me with such details, the difference this time was the thought that it could be my son behind those stories. That changes everything. I cried the rest of the meeting and much of the remainder of the night, admittedly. I'm pretty sure I embarrassed myself, but I'll never apologize about caring about people that much.
I full on thought when J and I left the meeting that the details of the stories would cause him to take pause on this whole military idea. I even selfishly hoped it would, but it didn't. As soon as we walked out the door I said to him, "So what did you think?" to which he replied, "I'm definitely coming back." No pause. No "I need to think about this." Just this-is-what-I-want-to-be-a-part-of.
Time went by from there and the path never changed. We traveled to Ohio to visit the National Air Force Museum, and again, I continued to see him in a different light. I saw respect in his eyes when he came across an Air Force member, he studied every piece of the museum, and he listened and read intently to any and all information that was presented while there. It was cool as a mom to watch him, and the five hours that we spent there flew by.
There's been a lot of things I've asked of him through this journey, and one of those things is for him to get as much information as possible. He's researched colleges for a back up plan and he's also researched other academies within the military. He took some time to speak with the Coast Guard recruiter while he was at the school, and surprisingly, that academy became something he is interested in as well. There were several things that resonated with him during their conversation. The first was that 86% of cadets who finish the Coast Guard Academy stay with the Coast Guard through retirement. I was blown away by that number. The other was when the recruiter said to him, "We save more lives in the Coast Guard that we take." Still, thinking about that statement makes me stop in my steps. The Coast Guard Academy also became something that he wants to apply for, with the Air Force Academy still being first choice. They are night and day different.
Sighhhhhh. I'm still the mom. I'm still the mom who is scared out of her freaking mind. But I'm also the mom who needs to understand this stuff. Just like I've required of my son, I've decided to immerse myself into the details so that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to understand what his eyes see. I've since read three books about military life written by those who have served. One was completely vulgar, but it provided me a ton of insight, and I have to admit that it changed my outlook on how I should react to people who go through trauma. It's strange, but while I've thought that perhaps I can make someone feel better, it's possible that I can't. It's also possible that they don't want me to. Another was very detailed and infantry based. I had to force myself to listen to it, but I made myself work through it because if I can't listen to a complete stranger, how am I going to listen to my son? The last was a book written by a navy seal about his deployments and his canine Cairo. It's one that I highly recommend, and is called No Ordinary Dog by Will Chesney. I loved his determination and resolve to be a Navy Seal and it was so touching to me to hear the feel of "family" that the military provided for the author that I wish for my son.
At times I get after myself saying something like, "you're completely overthinking this thing" and I may actually be doing that. I am an overthinker, no doubt about it. Perhaps I'm overthinking it because I don't know how to do it. I don't know how to let my son go because whether we like it or not, these darn kids do that to us one way or another. So, overthinking or not, I'm going to continue to do things my way and keep trying to understand it. I'm seeing the benefits of that already because my son is coming to me first. He's giving me all of the details of what he's thinking. So if my overthinking and getting all the details I can is helping to build trust with him, then I'm still all in.
But, just the record, no matter what he does, you all are still going to have to pick me up off the floor. Just saying.