6 Unburned Pieces of The Mind
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My Son's in the Army Now

My son called the other night and said it’s official. He’s enlisted in the Army and starts basic training the third week of September at Fort Benning, GA. Living in Houston, TX for the last year and a half, he was going to begin his second year of college, but decided that trying to be a full-time student while working full-time to pay for tuition and books was too much of a struggle. He figures that while in the Army, he’ll at least get the training and courses he wants to take, and be doing something exciting and worthwhile without having to worry about food and shelter.

As a single parent, saving for his college tuition was not an option. It was all I could do to keep up with food, rent and bills. Without scholarships, my son decided to try and pay his own way. He didn’t want to apply for financial aid, even though I suggested a Pell Grant might be in his best interest. And he didn’t want to apply for student loans to be paid back. Luckily, his grandparents where able to help him with some of his college expenses during his first year, but he didn’t want to continue to ask for their help and support.

With a score of seventy-six on his ASVAB test, he has been allowed to choose his career path. He decided to sign up for the Special Forces Enlistment Option, and after he completes his training, he'll go on to schools battalion to train in communications or computer systems. It is good to hear how excited he is, and how promising his future seems to be.

His enthusiasm reminds me of how I felt when I went into the Marine Corps as a wide-eyed seventeen year old. When I stepped off the bus with seventy-two other recruits at MCRD-San Diego, I knew my life would never be the same--that everything up to that point somehow didn’t really matter anymore. After being shorn of all our hair, we had to change out of our civilian clothes, go through a shower, and then put on our new fatigues. No sooner than we got our boots on we were ordered to “fall in” for formation. From that first march to the barracks, I survived and endured the next twelve-weeks and became a Marine. And in the process I learned about honor, respect, courage, and commitment--values that I still live by.

It seems that I have been marching ever since. From the Marines as a truck driver to General Electric as a machinist; to college, graduate school and teaching; to marriage, divorce and single parenting; my life has been a series of events that only now I am beginning to understand and appreciate.

I wish my son well. Like Odysseus’s son, Telamachos, his adventures in life are only beginning. I can only hope that he will take advantage of the opportunities he is presented with, and that he is able to make the kind of choices that will ensure he lives a long life filled with goodness and hope.

S. L. Cunningham