This week my daughter, a senior in high school, shared with me how a couple of her friends are leaving to serve in the Navy.
“Yeah,” she said, “they leave next weekend.”
Her voice is calm, but the words carry an unusual weight as they pass between us. There is something unspoken between us, maybe an odd recognition of life transitioning around her. The real world is arriving at her doorstep.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised, but for some reason, this affects me as well.
For the past several years our home seemed to serve as a place she and her friends would spend hours occupying the living room – that is, between runs to the refrigerator. We simply could not keep enough Cokes or snacks in the house.
They were young teenagers spreading their wings of independence while exploring the unfolding world around them. I can remember times waking up and going downstairs to find more than a dozen sleeping throughout the house. And some I met for the first time when offering them a cup of coffee.
And like most parents, we recognize the good in kids and welcomed them into our home.
I guess what strikes me odd is to picture them in uniform. The military is not a transitional period of life but rather an honorable and mature commitment to both our nation and to one’s self. Furthermore, there are no “drop/add” deadlines if you decide you don’t like the teacher or find the homework too much trouble.
And green hair color, as one of her friends experimented with, will not fly when he arrives for induction.
I’ve hired or worked with hundreds of individuals who earned the right to call themselves former members of our armed forces. And to me, there is something very special and valuable about the way they look at the world. Never am I surprised when I discover someone whom I consider to exhibit tremendous character and work ethic to have served in the military. I know from personal experience, these people understand the true meaning of responsibility
I never served in the military. And for what it is worth, that bothers me more with each passing year. No matter how hard I worked in college or whatever I did after graduation, there will always be a part of me feeling as if I didn’t do my part when compared to those who served our country.
So now, as some of my daughter’s friends begin to make life-impacting decisions, I can’t help but want to shake the hand of each and every one of those electing to serve. Odds are they probably do not yet understand or appreciate the incalculable value of what they are doing for both themselves and those around them.
No matter where their lives will lead them, these young people, who spent the better part of the past couple of years playing video games or working out tunes in a local garage band, are crossing a powerful and life-changing threshold.
This is not a new story, a nation’s youth stepping forward to serve. And I imagine there are countless others who’ve watched from the sidelines as “kids” moved from the sofa to serving our nation.
We as a nation are truly blessed to know these exceptional young people. Let us all wish them – and all those who serve our nation – Godspeed.
Woolsey is the publisher of the Times-Georgian. You can read more of his columns at leonardwoolsey.com.