Raising a Hero


One Parent's Perspective on Graduation Day.

Most people may never meet their heroes.  I am bless to say that I have raised one of mine.  I am emotional and giddy that this weekend, I will get to see my hero cross a major milestone.  I will be able to hug him and maybe even get a picture of the two of us.  He has inspired me to be a better person.   His vision, strength and determination are my beacons for living my best life.  He is as big to me as any famous person.

I carry a small anchor that reminds me of all of his life teachings. It’s tattered- bent around the edges and starting to fade - but it is one of my prized possessions.  Tucked into my wallet where most people will never see it, is my eldest son’s military picture. Taken while he was in boot camp, there’s an American flag in the background on the dark blue background.  My son is in his dress uniform.  He looks pale, tired and very thin.  In fact so thin it doesn’t really look like him.  His face is exceptionally long and of course he has very little hair.  Still, I see strength in his eyes and pride in his stern, determined face.  This is his dream. 

Since he was 10 he has wanted to make the military his career.  We convinced him to get his college education before entering the service just in case it didn’t work out.  In the back of our minds we had thoughts that he would find a girlfriend, be enticed by a good paying job, or just decide he wanted to have freedom of choice.  At his college graduation, he did have a 4-year girlfriend, good paying job offers and the opportunity to live a great post-college life.  Still, he chose to pursue that military dream.  He broke up with his girlfriend and began serious training while taking the necessary steps to get a military contract. 

His next year was filled with disappointment after roadblock after disappointment.  Most people including me would have given up and moved on to plan B. We love our son and if I am really honest, I was already thinking of his next non-military steps.  It was so painful to watch and feel the disappointment.   Our son? He never ever gave up.  He worked every angle to get past the roadblocks - even moving out of state to have a better recruiting opportunity.  To get the contract he wanted, he needed to be in the Top 3 of the national pool of applicants.  Several cycles, he missed the cut by mere seconds.  When he did make the Top 3, the military had run out of contracts for the year.  He would need to wait for their new fiscal year while continuing to improve his physical test scores.  Days seemed like weeks and weeks seemed like months.  Finally, after the first of the Fiscal New Year, our son received his contract.  Now he was on his way, however, he would not begin the active enlistment for another 6 months.  Another 6 months of continued physical training and patience.

For me, the picture represents so much.  It inspires me to never ever give up on my dreams no matter how improbable they may seem.  It reminds me that it is never easy to be the best but it is worth the effort.  I have a new found appreciation for the struggles and fears of all the other families who have someone in the military.  I never really understood how difficult it is on the entire family.  Patriotism is mixed with fear and uncertainty.  Daily life is a rollercoaster of highs from calls homes to lows when setbacks occur. 

I’m sad to say that sometimes the picture triggers my anger.   It’s difficult to tolerate people who take our freedom for granted and disrespect all it stands for.  Freedom is not cheap.  It takes dads, moms, sons and daughters away from their families temporarily or sometimes forever.  We are able to go about our daily ups and downs - complain about anything and everything because of the dedication of our military. 

But best of all, it’s that photo that reminds me how proud I am to be his mom.  He has chosen to dedicate his life to serving his nation, protecting the freedoms that we enjoy.  That boy I once tucked into bed and read Goodnight Moon, has chosen to put his life on the line so that other Mom’s can do the same for their sons.

The picture in my wallet is bent and tattered but like our American flag, it still is strong and resolute….and represents what I want to be.   It is my prized possession and my pride.  It is a picture of one of my heroes.