Our dad was in the Army just before the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, prior to my birth. Then my younger brother joined the Marines when he was barely out of high school in the 90’s. It must have been in his veins, as they say. We watched a lot of old movies that pretty much glamorized war and built icons in his mind.
Is there something special that makes a young person want to sign up for military service? Maybe some sort of misplaced paternal loyalty? Sam is supposed to be America’s Uncle, not someone’s father.
People probably commit to service for myriad reasons, most being very personal. It’s a huge life commitment, even more so than college. Signing a class withdrawal form is much easier to submit than finagling a way out of basic training. Students drop out of school all the time, but the DOD’s loopholes are surely harder to negotiate.
A young woman I know thought she wanted to become an Airman. Quite an oxymoron in my opinion. She later changed her mind, even after the “swearing in” part. She’s now an undergraduate student who is still unsure of her life’s calling. At last she isn’t peeling potatoes in Texas. I’d say it’s better to speak up when you’re unsure of such a giant step than to end up where you know you don’t want to to be. Crafty little bugger, wasn’t she?
Another young man, on the other hand, signed into the Army about the same time his aforementioned cousin was re-warming her cold feet. His mind, on the other hand, had been made up since he was a teenager. Hearing issues kept him from the Navy, his aspirations at being a SEAL were dashed. No amount of swim training inched him any closer when he couldn’t pass the standards. His heart nonetheless remained with the military. So it was the Army — just like his dad.
And a ticket to freedom from home came with his commitment to honor and serve. He’d see some of the world otherwise not readily available to him, just like his father, and no longer be under his mom’s thumb. She’d lost control of them both through their capitulation to Uncle Sam. Better than giving in to her. Their unspoken battle remained silenced, and probably for the better.
The young man’s arms could have lengthened from being pulled in different directions on the issue — a latter-day Stretch Armstrong. “Go to college,” “don’t go in the Army,” “it’s so dangerous,” versus “you’ll learn responsibility” and “it’ll make a man out of you.” The winning tug was probably along the lines of, “you’ll get away from home.” The deal maker.
Seeing the world has only included the United States so far, but that’s better than a distant country currently embroiled in war. His independence and growth seem the best part so far, regardless of an even raunchier sense of humor spawned along the way. It’s a different environment with its own sociological norms and acceptable (expected?) behavior.
Lucky for him, though, his love of music was advanced as well. He was drawn away from home by those distant drums but instead played his guitar around the barracks. It got the word out of his musical proclivity, which then brought an offer of learning the bagpipes for his unit. For real … the bagpipes. Funny, like Bon Scott.
Yet those musical aspirations were ultimately thwarted. The bagpipe gig will last only as long as his current, alas temporary, location. He and his father may both experience coincidental concurrent stints in Korea over the next year with no say in that random placement. Only command carries that control now.
It’s 2013, and tradition continues.
This post was prompted from a suggestion at Studio 30 Plus, generating creativity every day.