Friday, February 18, 2011

Dear Jon (January 28, 2011)

Dear Jon,

I received your first letter last night when I got home from work.  I was going to write you then but found that I was at a loss for words.  I can write a 1,200+ word blog for people I don’t know, but when it came to writing a letter back to my son in Boot Camp, I came up ‘Empty’.  I knew that I would be able to write to your this morning after calling in my secret weapon.  (No, it wasn’t ‘Magical’ Sandy, she did her best to keep me up all night moving around on the the bed.)

When I was a kid my Nana told me that if you wanted an answer to a pesky question, wanted to know which direction to go on some ‘hard’ question, or even to a task that you want to do (but don’t know how to get started) that you “Give it over to God”.  I didn’t know what she meant so I asked her. 

This is what she told me: “If you have a problem you can’t solve, or a thing that you need to figure out but can’t; let God help you.  When you’re going to bed say a prayer and ask God to show you the way.  As long as what you’re asking is ‘for the good’, he’ll provide you with the answer you’re looking for.  Every time.”  Nana wasn’t right about a few things while I knew her, but she nailed this one.

So before I went to sleep last night I asked for help in responding to your letter.  The following is what was in my head when I woke up this morning (once I let the dogs out, fed them, and started another load of laundry).

“Boot Camp is Boot Camp” you wrote.  Yes, it is.  It’s several hundred years of tradition for the US Navy rolled up into one uncomfortable seven-week stay at a ‘Nautical Motel Hell’.  But here’s the thing:  Tens of THOUSANDS of other sailors have gone through the magic you are currently living through and a HUGE majority of them come up ‘relatively’ un-scathed and happy to have done so (although I believe in the 1700’s that they WERE allowed to flog, keel-haul, and put you in ‘irons’ if you didn’t pay attention, or you sank an ‘actual’ ship (either by accident, or on purpose)). 

I’m not going to minimize the fact that ‘it’s hard’ now.  I didn’t do it myself, but I’ve spoken to other people who did and they tell me that it’s not ‘Sunshine and Lollipops’ (this was confirmed to me in your letter of last night).     

But here’s what I know for sure:  The United States Navy, the Instructors at the facility, and yes, even the President of the United States all WANT you to successfully complete the Boot Camp Training (No pressure, huh?). 

WHY?  Because, we NEED good people serving their country, manning the ships, and patrolling the seas around the World to keep our Nation safe.  What you’re doing is important.  It’s hard, but hard work is typically the work which matters most.  It’s why very few people choose to do it.  It’s what makes you, and your shipmates, the ‘Best of US’. 

Here’s something else you may have forgotten (but I think you knew before you left): 

The objective of Boot Camp is to tear you down and build you back up ‘Navy’ style.  I didn’t expect that you’d be getting many actual, or virtual ‘High Fives’ during the first four weeks of training.  At some point the tide will change and you’ll begin feeling like you’re actually in THE NAVY.  Right now the screws are being applied to see if you have what it takes to survive IN the Navy.  The US Navy is doing to you and your shipmates what I hate to do in the garden in the back yard – weeding.  They want to make sure that you are able to ‘Fit the mold of a successful sailor’.   

What the Navy doesn’t know (that I do) is that you’ve worked very hard to qualify to earn the right to get into Boot Camp.  If you don’t think that they believe that you, for the lack of a better phrase, “Have the right stuff”, please understand that you do.  I’ve seen it.  I know you.  You’ve worked, you’ve worked out, you’ve studied, and you’ve done all the things that they’ve asked you to do thus far.  You will make a fine sailor.  They most likely already know it, but they can’t tell you so… Yet.  They will tell you on March 11th, 2011, but they can’t tell you yet.  It’s too soon.  The ‘molding’ is not completed.

I have faith in you Jon.  Keep faith in yourself.  If you need help doing this, refer back to the lesson my Grandmother taught me – ask God for help.  It’s worked every time I’ve tried it.  It will give you a clarity of thought into those things which otherwise might confuse and frustrate you.  Do what you can and let the ‘Big Guy’ help with the rest. 
While I’m not physically ‘there’, as I type this, I’m with you in spirit.  I wake up about three times a night and every time I do I say a prayer for you.  I pray a lot lately.  Maybe I’m making up for missed opportunities for prayers earlier in life?  Could be, I guess, but maybe it’s just that I have more to pray about these days than I used to.  I probably get it from your Nana – she prays all the time.  And if she’s NOT praying, she’s sending money off to some mission to…  You guessed it, say prayers for her family (which, by extension, includes YOU).  You’ve got a lot of folks pulling for you Kidd-O, more than you can imagine. 

When you were a kid I used to give you a hug and a kiss every night before you went to bed.  When you were little I asked you once “Will I always be able to give you a hug and a kiss before you go to bed?” 

You looked up at me and said, “Sure Dad.  Always.”

It’s been a while since you got a hug and kiss from me before you went to sleep.  Not because I didn’t WANT to, but because when you grow up, things change.  Everyone wants to grow up in a hurry.  I did then, you, now. 

Even though I’m not there physically to give you a hug, please know that these letters are my ‘virtual hug’ to you.  They may not be nightly, but they carry a bit of me to you hoping that they re-affirm the fact that you are not now, nor will you ever be, alone while someone loves and cares about you. 

You are not alone.  You are very much loved.  You are my son.  You will make a fine sailor and an excellent man.  I respect the heck out of you Jon.  It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. 

Here’s the news from home:

a.      I’m working on the logistics to getting us from HERE to THERE for your graduation.  I’m thinking that we’ll take a Train (courtesy of Thomas the Tank Engine and the Island of Sodor Railway Company (a.k.a.:  Amtrak) between Buffalo and Chicago.  It’s an over-night excursion through several states (which, of course, we’ll never SEE since the train leaves Buffalo at MIDNIGHT and we arrive in Chicago at 10:30 (Chicago time) the following morning.)  We plan on staying through Sunday.  Let us know when you re-deploy to San Antonio and we’ll take it from there.  Things are evolving regarding planning, but for sure, we’ll be there.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  
b.     New York City got 19 Inches of snow yesterday.  We didn’t even get enough to ‘sweep’ off the driveway.
c.      Sandy keeps looking for you.  I pulled your blanket off your bed and put it on Mom’s side while she’s in Syracuse.  (Not sure where Mom will sleep this weekend (starting tonight) as Sandy is VERY happy with this arrangement.)
d.     You still have two fish.  Tim still has his / yours, whatever.  All fish alive and reported for…  Sir.
e.      The ugly purple car runs and drives fine.  I’m assuming the Mazda does to, but since I don’t get to drive it EVER, I can only imagine that it’s okay.
I have faith in you.  Keep faith in yourself, your family, and the guys you’re in Boot Camp with.  They’re part of your extended family now. 

I miss you more than words can express Kidd-o.  Take care of yourself, take care of your ship mates, and I’ll take care of stuff around here.  I’ve got your back (wherever your back happens to be).


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