I am in San Diego with my family and my son’s sweetheart. He just graduated from Marine Bootcamp.
I am a military mom.
Boo, aka Sugar Bum, is a Marine.
Which makes me, Boo’s mom, a Marine mom.
The draft ended in 1973, except for moms of the enlisted. We still are being drafted. The United States Military is still drafting moms.
We don’t get to decide.
The first morning after graduation I found our Marine in the lobby of our hotel. He didn’t sleep so he ambled around the streets of San Diego. For those of you who aren’t familiar with downtown San Diego and the Gas Lamp District, it is gorgeous – perfectly 72 degrees.
Oh, and there are homeless people… everywhere. And they are not like the homeless people we have encountered. They aren’t holding tin cups out in the hope of spare change. We have been screamed at, spit on, and chased.
“YOU WANDERED AROUND DOWNTOWN!?!?!?!” I barked at the Marine-baby.
“Yeah, and it was so sad. I have worked on homeless mission trips before. We gave away bibles and sandwiches, you cannot approach or speak to these poor people. They are so mentally ill, I just walked around and was amazed and sad for them.”
The inside of my cheek began to bleed as I dug my teeth into it in an attempt to silence myself.
You can’t tell a Marine not to walk around the block because there are displaced people on the street.
The litany of things I cannot say runs through my mind.
“We don’t mess with explosives,” and “No, you may not swim with your boots on!” or “You will not rappel off a tall building mister!” – little things that were common place for a boy mom to say aren’t applicable for a Marine mom.
And the people I want to explain things to are off limits to me.
I know this boy… man, er…Marine.
I know him.
I know he gave up his food, dry socks, or sacrificed for the greater good of his company– and that was just in boot camp. I know what he’ll do for anyone before himself.
He came like that.
And I know on that bus the first time he was yelled at – “GET OFF MY BUS!” – that I didn’t prepare him for what was ahead.
I put him on a bus when he was 5.
And then I pictured him trying not to cry, being made fun of for his stutter… and his slower than the “norm” learning abilities and I got on that bus and dragged him off and homeschooled him – through high school.
Before graduation, the Drill Instructors taunted, “We are about to bring out your Marines! Moms get first hugs! Girlfriends don’t count today!” But in my heart, I knew… she could go first. I didn’t want a half-way, side-hug to pacify me until he could embrace his best-friend and sweetie. He’s not a child.
I am used to his 6’3” frame and beard… man-baby.
I know him.
After graduation, we went out for chips and salsa. Older gentleman swarmed him, and I was proud, the uniform reflects the boy he’s always been.
As he shook hands and graciously accepted the congratulatory praises, I noted the huge, dark scabs on his elbows from belly crawling. They don’t phase him.
They never have. He’d rather work until he bleeds than fail.
I know him, and maybe that’s the hardest part of my recent draft into this branch of motherhood.
I know what he’ll do for everyone else first.
I know what he’ll sacrifice.
I know what he’ll gladly face.
I know what he values.
I know how much he cares.
I know there is no stopping him.
I know how much he loves.
I know how patriotic he is… I know how spiritual.
I know how proud he is… and I know there are few like him.
I can’t ask him to be less so that I can take a deep breath or sleep more peacefully.
I know, I have always known.
So, this is who I am now. This is the latest challenge I must face in my motherhood. I have received my orders and tucked them in my purse.
When he left he could do 10 pull-ups, now he can do 20. When he departed for boot camp, I couldn’t fathom – now I kind of can.
I walk taller, and I am learning the drills.
I know what is allowed and what isn’t.
I am debriefed, debunked and basically prepared.
Another layer is added to my vocation as a mom; an accolade to my ever absent bravery.
My verbiage is changing, my prayers more intense.
I am buying Marine Mom t-shirts as license to heave sobs and whimper prayers in the Walmart bathroom in the hope to be embraced by a fellow military mother who knows how terrified I am.
It is a sisterhood I didn’t sign up for – but desperately need.
The few, the proud… the hysterical.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
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