I have put writing this post off for as long as I could so without further adue here it is. Four years ago, our oldest son, Martin, made a decision that I would have thought and did think at the time, that he was not ready to make. He was entering high school, and was faced with the decision of choosing a small school in which his studies would be more focused on what he wanted to do when he finished high school. I was under the impression he wanted to be a detective or part of the FBI. What he decided to do was join the Marines.
I figured I had time to talk him out of it. I figured it was just a temporary idea. I figured he would lose interest in the four years we had left. I figured wrong. At the end of his freshman year, he had met with the recruiting officers and began training that summer once a week. His sophomore year, he kicked it up and took training more seriously, going to PT twice a week. His junior year we met with his recruiting officer and signed Martin over for the early enlistment program. This is where everything got serious. As soon as he turned seventeen, he left for Columbus to swear-in as a poolee. I remember being devastated because I could not go (not because I wasn't allowed, but because it is such a long, dull, drawn out adventure). I received a phone call from his recruiting officer saying he could not swear in because they found a heart murmur during his physical. WHAT?! That was news to me. We had never known. Now a new series of worries enters the picture. How did we miss that in seventeen years? Is he okay? How is he taking the news? The simple fact that I wasn't there when he heard the news killed me. This was his dream, this is what he wanted to do, but he was sent back home until he could go back for an EKG.
A couple of weeks later, he went back to Columbus to see the heart doctor. I was terrified because once again, he was by himself. Finally, we got the good news that he was cleared to swear-in, the murmur was so minute that it was barely noticeable. He was thrilled, until he had to come home yet again without swearing-in. He had to wait until the doctor's paperwork was sent through, clearing him to enter the military.
About two weeks later, he went back to Columbus to swear-in. His paperwork was not in yet, so they sent him back home. We all began to think it wasn't going to happen. I even thought maybe it was a sign that he shouldn't enlist. Finally, a few days later, he went back and I received pictures of him swearing-in on my phone. I was so proud. After worrying for so long and being so afraid of him enlisting in the first place, I was proud. At such a young age my son made the decision that I would never have had the courage to make. He had become so patriotic, so passionate about joining that I was forced to do the same.
This past year has been nothing but a countdown. A ticking clock passing the precious time we have with Martin until he leaves for bootcamp. My fears have taken a front seat in my thoughts, as well as the simple fact that I am going to miss him so much. I made it through his eighteenth birthday and his graduation from high school. In six short days, he leaves for thirteen weeks. As soon as he arrives at Parris Island, he checks in, and we get one of the strangest phone calls we will ever get. If he/we is lucky, we will get a phone call saying he is doing well. Unfortunately, that is a rarity. Our only communication will be via letters. Then in September, we will go see him graduate and his transformation from child to man/Marine will be complete.
I cannot put into words how proud I am of my son. It makes seeing him go so much harder. I know he is strong and he will do so well. I know he will make a lifelong career as a Marine. Once a Marine, always a Marine. Once a mommy's baby boy, always a mommy's baby boy.
I have seen such a change in Martin in the past few years. I will never forget that at his kindergarten graduation he said he was going to be the Crocodile Hunter when he grows up. I thought for sure he would become a zoologist or something to do with animals. His idol was Steve Irwin. I loved that. I loved that he could tell me anything about any animal that is on the planet. I loved that he could catch a snake, lizard, or bird without flinching or getting hurt. I didn't like that he would catch spiders, but they fascinated him too. Over the years his goals changed. But even as an eighteen year old, he will still try and catch a snake that is in the yard. Now, he can tell me anything about guns, knives, or any other type of weapon imaginable. During his high school graduation, he stood up with just a few others as they were mentioned for joining the military. I never would have thought that would be my son, but I have never felt so proud as I did at that moment. I remember his first steps, his first words, his first day of school. I am sad that I will miss his first trip in an airplane. I get nervous when I think about him going off on his own. I won't be there when he gets sick or hurt. This is the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and that is let my boy grow up.
As we count down the days, it gets more difficult to think or realize that we won't get to talk to him or see him for thirteen weeks. If he were going off to college, we could call him or skype or go see him. I will miss his helping hand as the oldest of seven. I will miss seeing him wrestle around with his brothers and tormenting his sisters. I will miss his sarcasm and his rib-crushing hugs. I know that he is doing is an amazing thing. There are so few that make the decision to defend our country. I will be the first to tell any parent with sons or daughters interested in the military that they should go for it. If they don't, who will? It's not an easy road to take.
In six days we will say goodbye to our baby boy. Chad says it's not goodbye. I know it's not goodbye, but the handsome young man that I have spent the last eighteen years of my life raising is not going to be a boy when he comes home. He will be a United States Marine.