As a Military mom, the Fourth of July means something different than it used to.
I don’t suppose I was ever very patriotic. I mean, I have fond memories of parades, fireworks, watermelon, and swimming until my 42 cousins and I passed out cold.
And I know the pledge of allegiance, I vote, and I appreciate freedom. When I think of it. Which is more often now that I have an enlisted child. And the home of the brave, well, that’s my house.
He lived here.
And he grew in both folly and wisdom.
Granted he is married and they have a cat now. So he is making his own home. But he was here. He wandered my halls and ate all my cheese. And, he left his socks on my coffee table. He wrestled with his brother on these sacred and sticky floors. And he studied for geometry and ate obscene helpings of “totes perf casserole” at my dining room table.
It isn’t that I am super sentimental. I mean, I love all of my children. And, I wouldn’t want to be the native of any other country.
I will confess, I begged him not to join. As a matter of fact, I think I offered to buy him a car if he would not join the Marines.
Still, this is the home of the brave.
A home, managed by a woman who tried to bribe one of her babies, with a Camero, not to be brave.
I am glad he could not be swayed.
Certainly, I was not happy when he boarded that bus for boot camp. No, I have never been more crushed or terrified, as when I finally received that call, from an unknown number, and heard his weary hollars, “MOM THIS IS JOHN! I HAVE ARRIVED AT PENDLETON! I WILL TALK TO IN 12 WEEKS – I LOVE YOU!
I had no way of checking on him. The horror stories hummed constantly in my ears. And I waited by the mailbox, desperately worried, physically sick and terrified, here at the home of the brave. When he shipped out for what was supposed to be 9 months, that turned into 11, I encouraged him not to call us. To save his minutes and his time for the girl who has had his heart since the 5th grade. I counted on her to relay messages and I grew in the bravest of feats a mother must endure, letting go.
And in a jovial conversation right before his wedding, he told of adventures on the high seas, “metric tons” of red curry in Thailand, and sea turtle sightings in the Indian Ocean. He referred to his brothers, fellow Marines and listed them by their surnames, Skully, Crank, and Weston.
I asked him what everyone called him. And he flatly answered, “John.”
You can’t walk into a room full of Marines and yell, “AMERINE.” Because everyone jumps to attention.
And that’s my boy, raised here, in the home of the brave.
I feel all the feels for America today, with all the pooky and political nonsense. And there is a list of things I do not do as the mother of an enlisted man-child.
- I don’t watch the news. Don’t ask me about current events, I don’t know.
- Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Top Gun, American Sniper, and MASH… nope.
- And I refuse to get into political debates about the government, the President, Democrat, Republican, or whatever thing you associate with.
I won’t and I don’t because you can’t win a debate with someone whose baby signed up to fight for your right to debate. My son said yes to your no’s, your hate, your convictions, your belief, your unbelief, and your passion, so you might continue to voice them.
In a recent interview, I was asked if I was disgusted by the NFL/kneeling versus standing during the national anthem drama. And no, I am not. For one thing, I don’t watch much football. And for another thing, I know that my enlisted child’s sacrifice and beliefs about freedom and protest, pay for your right to stand or kneel.
Also, we are more of a basketball family, here at the home of the brave.
I guess I used to give a passing thought to a Veteran in line at Walmart. But, now I boldly tap them on the shoulder and boast of our camaraderie.
Of the emails and messages I receive from mom’s who have just boarded their babies on a bus to boot camp, I can offer no real comfort. And I cannot tell them what to expect or how to deal. Because if there is a mixed bag, it is the pride a mother feels, knowing her child choose something bigger than themselves, something powerful and diverse and the sheer terror of the unknown, the danger, and the distance.
Sure, there are pleasantries and platitudes, of course, with today’s advances, we don’t go long without hearing something from our active Military babies, but it is not the same.
It isn’t the comforts of having their laundry piled in our basket, their cereal bowls left by the sink, or their voice echoing through the halls of the home of the brave.
Perhaps I sound quite boastful. And maybe this sounds like a clique. A band of mothers of sons and daughters, whose sacrifice gets lost in the noise of shallow threats to move to Canada if so-and-so is elected, and simple boycotts of movie luxuries and coffee houses, to sound involved and wise.
But it is most difficult to convey, to help others understand, we know these humans. We changed their diapers years before they would hold a rifle or be called pirate, sailor, airman, or soldier. Long before they donned dress blues or combat fatigues, they begged us for one more story or another scoop of ice cream.
And while I am most certain there are plenty of emotions for each of us, on this the day of our country’s birth, it is my son who I am most cognizant of. My son, and the mothers of sons and daughters enlisted in the military, volley for my attention. The lineage they volunteered to be a part of and the deep sense of commitment and conviction they sought, those are the things that strike me most.
So, on this day, that is what I celebrate, as the night sky explodes with color and heat. A grown child who will not eat corn on the cob with us or jump off the dock. A boy who signed up to serve and protect, make a difference and be counted among the few and the proud, he and his brothers and sister and the mamas who adore them, they are cause for this celebration.
A celebration he cannot attend, here at the home of the brave.
Happy Fourth of July… Semper Fi. Love, Jami