Friday, September 04, 2015

The Marine

A little over a year ago, my sister texted me to let me know that her son, my nephew had signed a letter of intent to join the Marines. This was a good three months before the start of his senior year in high school. "Letter of Intent" is probably not the right term because that's what athletes do..I'm sure there's some other term for it that's much more manly and military sounding, but the point is, this 17 year old kid decided that he was going to join what most people consider the toughest branch of the military as soon as he possibly could after graduation.

"That's, umm? Great?"  I remember saying.  Not meaning "that's great" at all. More like, HOLY SHITBALLS ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? THE MARINES?? OUR CONNOR??

"I know," she said, "but he's going to legally be an adult. It's not like I can tell him no."

And she was proud of him. Scared shitless, but so proud of him, I know. Everyone was... still is actually because he did it.  He graduated high school in May of this year and not even two weeks later, he was in San Diego for basic training. He graduated today, his 2nd graduation in less than 4 months, though I'm betting this one felt a little more hard won to him.

First, my sister texted me this picture:

Which I am still not able to really look at without tearing up. People commented on it things like "So handsome!" and "He looks like a MAn!"  and while I know those things to be technically true, it's not what I see. I see a little kid running around in his underwear and a batman mask, only this time it looks more like a Marine's uniform.

And then my sister posted a bunch of photos from the Family Day and the graduation and the one that I kept coming back to was this one:

And what I see here is a kid who's seeing his mom for the first time after being away from his family for longer than he's ever been away in his life. I see him trying not to be emotional but it getting the better of him for just a quick second. 

And there are lots more pictures. Of Connor in his green workout clothes running in formation with his battalion, of him standing tall (SO tall in his uniform). All of these pictures point to a kid who is no longer a kid, but who is now a MARINE that everyone sees now as A MAN. And I realize that I'm a little bit not having it yet. 

If that sounds like I'm not being supportive, let me assure you that I am incredibly, incredibly proud of my nephew. He is pure of heart and full of love and life and he saw something that he wanted to be a part of and he joined right in, without hesitation, which is something that some people go their whole lives without having the courage to do. He's 18 years old and he's a Marine and he is strong and brave. 
 But I don't think that joining the military and completing basic training is what makes you a Man. It's what happens next: what he does with his knowledge and his new-found skills and confidence, where he goes from here, the choices he makes, how he conducts himself in the face of things that I will never face. I think it's THOSE things will make the Man. And I, for one, can't wait to see it because I know that he had it in him even without the uniform: that bravery, that courage. That kid in the batman mask had it in him the whole time. 


Mel F said...

that picture of them hugging? My favorite picture. It says so much. He's this big marine, tough as nails, but crumples at the sight of his mom. It's beautiful. And it speaks to me like no other picture has. I'm proud of this kid. The skinny, gangly boy that grew up with mine. He's growing up. But still, there's nothing like a son's love for his momma. And that picture shows that. It makes my heart smile.

Tamara Fehr said...

My son was in his platoon. We have had an emotional and exciting two days. Yes the boys have changed and are now men. Their journey is just beginning. It has been an extraordinary experience for them all. I am so proud and grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of the last two days.