That’s what my son said at his swearing in ceremony earlier this week when asked why he’d chosen to serve in the Coast Guard.
And I -- who came of age to Bob Dylan’s raging Masters of War, violent protests in the streets and on college campuses, and a deep suspicion of government in the wake of Kent State and Watergate – felt humbled by my son’s conviction of purpose.
On the day he shipped out, we got up before dawn so I could deliver him to the Military Entrance Processing Station by 05:45. I don’t think he got more than an hour or two of sleep and I could see by the set of his jaw and the pallor of his face that he was tired and nervous.
I came back later in the morning and met my son’s traveling companion, the only other Coastie shipping out that day, as well as a newly commissioned Seaman who had graduated a week earlier. He was on hand to answer any questions about what the new recruits could expect over the next eight weeks. Both found this helpful (along with the reminder, “It’s only 8 weeks”).
I also met his recruiter, who fleshed out a few details about the graduation date and advised me to book a room soon; mid-July is high tourist season in trendy Cape May, New Jersey.
Not a waking hour goes by that I don’t wonder what my son is doing – how he’s managing, whether he’s sleeping OK, how he’s feeling. Previous separations always included the comfort of email, text messages, phone calls and chat to keep us in touch. For the next eight weeks, it will only be letters quaintly sent by US mail.
The times that shaped my son are different than those that shaped me. He’s made a choice I cannot imagine having made for myself, nor would necessarily have chosen for him. And yet I’m proud of his determination to succeed and the sacrifices he’s making to pursue this career he aspires to.
My thoughts stray often to him, warmly enveloping him in love and well wishes. And I’m looking forward to reuniting with the young Seaman who will greet me on the other side of these eight long weeks.