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Thursday, March 11, 2010


Sorry, but I can't not talk about this.

My son Johnny enlisted in the Army yesterday, signing a three year contract for the infantry. (Last year the Army met 150% of its recruiting target, so evidently two year contracts are no longer available.) We'd been expecting this, but it is still a shock.

He got 93 on his ASVAB test (you need 31 to pass). The score would have allowed him his choice of jobs, but he wanted the infantry. He passed his physical, though nerves had sent his blood pressure so high on the first reading that he had to calm down before it was taken again.

Johnny immediately felt simpatico with his fellow enlistees in a way he never did with the kids on his swim team. He chatted with an eighteen year old who was already married. Some of the men, in their early twenties, already had kids. Some had tattoos. There was a 6' 4" black guy who was jokingly coming on to some of the women there, telling them things like "Man, I'd like to get all up in that." Johnny, who hasn't known people like this before, found this behavior highly entertaining.

Johnny was given a ride back home by a sergeant, also 6'4" and black, who gave Johnny and another recruit a long lecture about not blowing their money on strippers. Evidently a lot of the soldiers who've just finished basic training haven't even seen a woman for a couple months. They also have a couple thousand dollars in their pockets, more money than they've ever had before. So they will then visit the strip clubs which abound near large bases, where the strippers are all too happy to relieve them of their money. Johnny was completely flattered that this recruiter would mistake him, a sheltered upper middle class high school boy, for the kind of guy who spent his spare time hanging out at strip clubs.

I've never seen Johnny as happy as he was last night. I couldn't be prouder of him. I just wish he wasn't putting himself in harm's way. I couldn't help but think, some day will we look back on this evening with great sadness?

Millions of parents have seen their children join the armed forces. Do they all worry as much as I do? They must. I think about how he could be killed. I think about how he could be grievously injured. I think about what his life will be like if he's blinded, or crippled. I think about these things frequently. I've actually been mourning him for the last year, as silly as that sounds.

Johnny hopes to become a paratrooper once he's at Ft. Benning. In two or three years, he wants to try out for the Special Forces. Being a badass holds great appeal to him. (I understand the appeal as well, though I never had the courage to actually be one.)

My son is a better man than me. I just hope he lives to be as old.

Addendum, next day: Johnny took a look at this post and said, disgustedly, "Dad, can't you even fart without putting it on your blog?"

(Evidently not.)

One thing I've never really liked about Johnny is that he has a mind of his own.


Sandy said...

I'm not surprised by Johnny's reaction to enlisting. Some kids just find Wilton so oppressive, and most of them are dying to get away (usually via college, true) by the end of their senior year. And it's totally understandable. Many kids find no way to really test themselves or gain independence while still at home in their sheltered community. My son decided to go to Ghanna for a semester because he was so sick of the middle class kids and the college realtionship drama at UCLA. He certainly found another world there. Anyway, good luck to Johnny. And I found your thoughts, as a dad of a son who has enlisted, very moving. (Typical guy... your son dealt with the emotion by lightening the mood with humor.)

John Craig said...

Sandy --
Thank you so much. You're absolutely right about Johnny, he couldn't wait to get away and test himself.

I had no idea your son had gone to Ghana, good for him. That was certainly an adventurous move.