Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Sometimes it's hard to be a parent or grandparent, and yesterday it was particularly hard for me. My oldest grandson joined the Marines.

It's not that I have anything against the Marines. My four years in the military provided probably the most valuable experiences of my life, and I owe much of my moderate success to the "can-do" mindset I developed in the paratroopers. The Marines may be equally beneficial for my 19 year old grandson.

What irks me is that this young man failed to involve his dad or me in the decision-making process. Despite being in the 97th percentile on his ACT tests and being accepted to a fine college with an ROTC program, he chose enlistment as a private. Moreover, I have no idea whether he made the best "deal" he could make with the Marines. There are many incentives available, but I bet the recruiter only needs to offer them if they're needed to close the deal. However, my grandson decided to go it alone and make his deal with no advice. That's a kid for you!

One of the best things about being alive is that each of us is a free agent in many respects. We make choices and live with them. Some choices have great import, and joining the Marines is one of these. My bright but immature grandson will never forget the day he signed on the dotted line; his life has taken an irrevocable turn for better or worse.

I'm praying this choice will be for the better, but - it's Michael's life and he's entitled to guide it. My sorrow is that he pushed his dad and me to the sidelines. My hope is that he'll bring us back in when he realizes that going it alone is like sailing out into the ocean without a life preserver; thrilling, but dangerous.

Have his dad and I each made ill-considered and reckless choices in years past? Of course. We wish we could transplant the wisdom we earned by bitter experience, but we are our own best examples of why these transplants seldom occur. Such is life.


Sonja's Mom said...

My husband was a Marine – or I should say is a Marine because, “once a Marine – always a Marine” is as true statement. We always remember the Marine Corps birthday and he gets a tear in his eye when ever he hears a Band playing the Marine Corps Anthem. If your grandson gets through basic, he will be a different man. He will be a member of a unique group that is brave, honest and above all loyal. He will be able to stand on his own two feet in the most difficult of situations. Perhaps he has already taken that first step in making this decision by himself. At this point all you can do is support him and be proud of him as I’m sure you are. If he is anything like his grandfather (judging by your writing) he will do fine. The Corps takes care of its own. Good luck to him and Semper Fidelis.

ThomasLB said...

Oh I don't know. The military didn't seem to have a positive affect on Timothy McVeigh or George W. Bush.

I think people grow up a lot when they leave the nest, regardless of whether it's in a military or a civilian environment.