Manners...don't forget, are kindness. You must always be kind.
- Melissa Hellstern
The spring and summer of ‘06 had brought a whirlwind of change to what normal life looked like in our home. Our oldest son had graduated high school, enlisted in the Marine Corps and entered boot camp at Parris Island.
We were getting a crash course in what it meant to be a military family.
Those 13 weeks of Marine Corps boot camp were a boot camp for me as well. I was learning how to pray for our son in ways I’d never before considered. I was coming face-to-face with all the preconceived ideas I’d had about our kids entering adulthood.
Most of all I was learning to rely on God more fully.
My memories of the actual day of graduation come to me more as snapshots, rather than a continuous movie.
Some things are crystal clear, like the first predawn glimpse I had of Jimmy as he ran with his platoon. The absolute peace that came when I could finally envelope him in a hug after the ceremony. The pride I could hear ringing in his voice when he showed us his Marine Corps ring.
Other aspects of that day have more of an out-of-focus quality. After the ceremony he spent hours showing us around the base, pointing out places he’d lived and worked during the previous 13 weeks.
I tried to pay attention, but my focus was on him as I tried to pinpoint the cause of the changes I saw.
As parents, most of us have time to watch our kids make the transition from child to adult. We have that four-year buffer when our children go off to college. They’re living as adults, but still sheltered and still within our realm of responsibility.
That day I saw the finished product, the end result of a transition that I’d hoped would take years. The boy I’d hugged goodbye weeks earlier had become a man.
He might come back home for visits, but he was already fully engaged in the path God had for him. The selfishness of normal adolescence had morphed into ultimate selflessness. He would soon be facing deployment and war.
Even as he’d learned to fight and carry a gun, he’d learned to love his fellow man in a way that few experience.
It would take me a while longer to come to grips with the changes that had occured. I still had lessons to learn in letting go. But that day was a beginning. I was sad that the little boy was now just a memory, but so proud of the man that stood before me.
Edie Melson is a leading professional in the publishing industry. She also knows what it’s like to send a loved one off to war. Her oldest son went from high school graduation, to Marine Corp boot camp, to Iraq; where he served two tours fighting on the front lines as an infantry Marine. Fighting Fear: Winning the War at Home When Your Soldier Leaves for Battle, is Edie’s heart project. Look for her two newest books for military families debuting in 2014: While My Son Serves and While My Husband Serves. You can also connect with Edie on Twitter and Facebook.