As some of you already know, my middle son, whom we'll hypothetically call "Jon", finished Navy Boot Camp at Great Lakes, Illinois Mid-March, 2011.
This is that boy...
He then traveled from the frozen wasteland of Illinois to San Antonio, Texas (can I have a "Yee-Haw"!?) for Navy "A-School" training.
He's been enjoying the freedom associated with being OUT of Boot Camp and has been doing 'really well' in A-School. Surprisingly, it turns out that he likes being able to use a phone, fish, watch TV, eat real food, and view DVD's in on-base-housing. Each of these things was un-thinkable prior to his commencement from Boot Camp. Life for the past five weeks has been pretty good for him.
He called last week to tell us what was 'up next' on his list of things to do.
"I'll be getting my orders on Wednesday of this week." he said.
"Where do you think you'll go kiddo?" I asked.
"I don't know, but the last group had some guys go to Hawaii, Virginia, and Kings Bay, Georgia." he answered.
"Sounds like some nice places to spend a couple of years..."
"I'll let you know," he said.
We said our goodbyes and the phone went silently back into its charging base.
The next da my cell phone rang as I was driving back to the office. My boy had gotten his orders.
I learned that you 'pick your orders' based upon your academic standing in your class. As referenced above, Jon's done pretty well, and was the third sailor to pull his order's 'choice' out of the hat.
Two choices were offered last week:
Choice One: Bahrain
Choice Two: Japan
He told me this as I was driving. In response, I pulled the car off onto the shoulder of the road as my mind got 'stupid'. It stopped working.
I sat in my car gawking at nothing as traffic sped past my immobilized Chrysler on the shoulder of I-81. My brain sputtered, and then it 'seized'.
"Are you there?" he asked.
"No. I don't think I am." I said (at least I think I did).
The rest of the call remains a blur. One word did stick, however: "Japan".
My boy is going to Japan for four years.
No road trips to visit him in Georgia, Virginia, or flights to Hawaii - his next stop: The Land of the Rising Sun, Tsunamis, devastation, and nuclear reactor melt-downs.
My head began processing again as I spoke to him on the phone later that evening. As it turns out that he was okay with his decision. He was even joking with his Mom and I as we spoke with him.
He asked us to set up a SKYPE session on the laptop. He said that he had some photos to send to show us what he'd be doing in Japan.
"Dad, know what my job is?"
"No, my head froze after you told me you were going to Japan." I answered.
"Harbor patrol." he said.
"I'll send you a photo of one of the ships I'll be on" he said.
This is that photo...
Yes, this is the photo my son sent me. My wife and I looked at each other, shook our heads, and then we got very quiet.
Then he laughed.
"No Dad, that's a joke. I'll be on one of these..." he said as the following arrived on my desktop:
"Well, that's a little better. At least it has weapons on it. Do they have a larger one? Something with helicopters, jets, really big guns, or cruise missiles?" I asked.
"Dad, I'll be in a 'Harbor Patrol' ship, not an Aircraft Carrier." He said. It sounded like he was laughing as he said it.
"Okay, so what will you be doing?" I asked.
"I'll either be piloting the ship, or manning the gun." He said.
Then he sent the following photo:
"Do you guys always have to look so serious?" I asked.
"Dad, it's part of the gig," he said.
And with that, it was done. My son had made me 'better'. With the last comment, I knew he would be okay.
"It's part of the gig," he said.
Yeah, I guess it is.
Like it or not, another of my three boys has become a man. While I wish I could keep each of my boys safe for the rest of their lives, the reality is that at some point you feel yourself moving from being an active participant, to an assistant, to the ultimate destination, a spectator.
I'm really happy that each of these guys call me Dad. Whether they're calling local, long distance, or internationally, it doesn't matter - wherever they land I'll still be their biggest fan.
p.s.: When I asked him why he chose Japan over Bahrain, he sent the following image in response:
He always did have an 'economy' for the language...
Have a nice day folks.