My baby is coming home next week! Finally, after ten weeks at college, my son is returning for fall break. Some days, it seems like yesterday we left him in his dorm room. Other days, it seems like ten years since he was last at home.
I’ve seen him twice since he started school. Once for a quick lunch on Labor Day when we were passing through on our way home from the beach. He couldn’t get rid of us fast enough–after a shopping trip to Target, of course. The second time, we met him at a UGA football game. It was his first college road trip! I won’t discuss the logistics of his return trip to USC that weekend. Suffice it to say, I didn’t sleep until he arrived back in his dorm sometime in the wee hours Sunday morning.
What I’ve learned during these ten weeks is this: It is best not to know everything about your child’s life once they’ve left the nest. I sleep better.
There are exceptions, however. Like when he’s been rushed by ambulance to the ER in the middle of the night with pneumonia. Apparently, even though I pay the bills, the University feels I don’t really need to know this information. He’s 18 and there’s that whole HIPA thing and all. Yada, yada, I get it. He’s considered an adult, but seriously, not even a phone call? My son is on the mend—I hope—and things could have been a lot worse. At least he’s only three hours away. At least there’s decent medical care. At least his roommate is an Eagle Scout. (Bless you, James!)
But, all this got me thinking about my brother and sister-in-law. My worries are minor compared to theirs. You see, while my teenage son went off to college this summer, their teenage son went off to war. While I shopped for down comforters, shower caddies and a mini fridge, my brother and his wife were shopping for body armor and walkie-talkies. I know, the government is supposed to provide these, but we’ll table that rant for another day.
My nephew, Sean, is a Marine. A very proud Marine. A member of the 1/6 Bravo Company, 3rd Platoon, currently serving in Afghanistan. Sean has wanted to be in the military since he was a very young boy. He is bright, compassionate, and hard working, with a wonderfully supportive family; parents and siblings who love and support him. There were other options available to him after high school. Did we all try to encourage him to take a different path to his dream of serving in the military? Sure. But in the end, it was his dream to live and, once he was 18-years-old, he had the ability to make it a reality.
He wanted to “sleep in the dirt”. Yeah, he’s discovered it’s pretty dusty and dirty in the wilds of the Afghan hill country. He wanted to defend the United States from those who would do us harm. So far, according to his Facebook posts, he’s fighting kids and old men. Definitely a disappointment to an idealistic teenager. Some of us learn earlier than others that living one’s dream isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.
But I’m proud of my nephew. He knew what he wanted and went after it. Not many teenagers can say the same this early in their young lives.
No matter what you think of the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, remember those who serve in our military do so by choice. It’s their job. Whether they chose it out of a sense of duty, like Sean, or a need to provide for their families in these tough economic times, these men and women—and the families they leave behind—sacrifice a lot. For that, I say thank you.
We’re planning special meals and fun activities for my son’s fall break next week. But, we’ll save the big celebration for when Sean comes home. 🙂 Semper fi.