By Jade Stone
I hope you all had an amazing Fourth of July with your families. I know I did! As you may already know or at least suspect, I come from a long line of veterans dating back to at least the Civil War.
Every patriarch in both my mom’s and dad’s side of the family served in an armed force in some capacity or another. Even the women in my family have played a tremendous role in supporting the soldiers.
In fact, when my Grandpa was sent to serve on the USS Buchanan in the pacific during World War II, my Grandma gave up everything she had in a rural southwestern town in Missouri and followed him to California to be near him. While there, she found work in a bomb factory that made munitions to support our troops. Theirs is a story for another time but certainly you can see that all things military and patriotic are practically woven into the threads of our very being. All that said, its obvious that the 4th of July is far from “just another barbeque” for us!
We have similar long standing traditions as everyone else in our great country: Barbeque, good food, family, and fireworks. The difference is that we decorate our house inside and out in all things red, white, and blue! My folks live on a lake in Missouri and there is no doubt in anyone’s mind by looking at the exterior of their home that it is the home of a devoted military family.
Banners, Flags and lights are some of the highlights that decorate the deck and anyone who dares put a flag up in that area gets a lesson on how to fly the flag correctly when flying more than one. There is also special sense of pride and admiration in the air for our family members who served. Dad always takes a moment to say a few words for both those who gave their all as well as those continuing to give.
Surely by now you can see that being a soldier is a big part of our family’s lifestyle. However when I had a son, people started to ask me if I would continue to be so supportive once it became his turn to make a decision to serve. I would be lying if I said that didn’t faze me.
I had to consider all the angles, but for me it was an easy conclusion. In my mind it will always be his choice that I will support wholeheartedly regardless of the decision. Now that said, it never occurred to me that my son Jess might mistake our family’s strong patriotic emotions and beliefs for expectation.
I never thought about it of course, until this weekend. Jess began asking about some of the decorations and why we do various things. He is a curious 5-year-old so of course he had lots of questions. I explained that the 4th of July was a special day to celebrate our many freedoms and to also remember those that made our freedoms possible.
He already understood the job of the soldier was to protect us and our freedoms. So the conversation naturally turned to questions about who the soldiers were in our family so I gave him a very brief toddler version hoping to satisfy his curiosity. But the next question floored me. He looked up at me with big brown eyes and asked with such naivety “Mommy, will I be a soldier too”?
I’m sure the look on my face was that of shock and bewilderment. I quickly recomposed so as to not alarm him in any way, as I’m sure he wasn’t expecting much of a reaction at all, and told him “Only if you choose to be. You can be anything you want”. He placed his hand on his chin and looked up sideways as if in contemplation and said “Mommy, I fink I wanna be a soldier, jus like Daddy and papaw and uncle Bubbles”(whose name is actually bubba but Jess calls him “bubbles”).
It brought tears to my eyes for two reasons: 1) it warmed my heart with pride to know that we are instilling a sense of patriotism in our son that sometimes feels lost in the rest of the world, but 2) my mind flashed forward 15 years to a moment when his dad and I might be putting him on a plane to deploy and that was heartbreaking.
People have told me I should do everything I can to prevent him joining any branch of service. But even with the knowledge of what heartbreak could lie ahead, I can’t in good conscience raise him to be any different. Though in some respects my heart sits on a fence, I will always believe it is his decision. But, if he chooses to join an armed force, you can rest assured that I will support him with a pride that only a soldier’s mother can know and understand, because Jess would become one in a long line of our family’s proud soldiers.
Jade welcomes your comments here as well as any suggestions you may have for her future posts. You may also e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To read previous Military Mama posts, CLICK HERE.