I listen to two great kids talk about the future.

The Marines called my house yesterday.

I was taking an old screen door off the back porch when the phone rang. I answered the phone and spent a minute exchanging pleasantries with Sergeant Roberts. He was a nice enough guy and someone who I think, by virtue of his title, is deserving of total respect. All the same, the military really doesn’t call me that often. I was trying to put that puzzle together when the grenade landed at my feet.

“Sir, I’m calling to speak with The Omawari-son.”


Truth be told, I should have seen it coming. I just wouldn’t let myself connect the dots. I know the school shares student information with recruiters. We’ve gotten nearly as many mailings from the armed services as we have from colleges. I still see the chubby two-year old and his constant companion, a stuffed dog named Brown Pup. The Sergeant sees an honor student who is sturdier than many varieties of trees.

I admire the Marines and the self-sacrifice they embody. I admire my son for the same reason. He’d do anything to help anyone, but I’m not sure they’d be a good fit for one another. All the same, it isn’t my life, isn’t my decision, isn’t my place to screen that call for him. I went to get him.

Handing It Over. We Hand A Lot Over To Kids.

He was lying on the floor, banging out some calculus homework. “You’ve got a call, it’s the Marines.” He told me it was no problem, he knew his answer.

I left him alone with the call. By alone, I mean I was out on the porch with the door open, pretending to unscrew the old screen door so I could hear. There were a lot of yes sir and no sirs. A few laughs. I know what his answer is going to be too. All the same, he is polite and respectful with the  Sergeant, as he should be. He’s a great kid.

It hits me hard. It is easy to watch the news and hear about our “troops”.  Each of these people are someone’s “great kid”. Those you see interviewed are usually officers – more poised, older, experienced. There in the background, and on the front line is a great kid whose prom pictures are hardly back from the photographer. Someone just like The Omawari-son. The voice on the phone talking to my son helped me realize how young those faces on TV really are.

That is the way it has been for generations.  I think of WW II veterans as the older men they were portrayed as in films. They were just kids. Vietnam, same thing. And now the Omawari-son’s generation. Kids being sent to do the bidding of older men who’ve nothing to lose by sending them off on missions – some just, others questionable. Some kids never come home. God bless those kids and their folks.

Nicely Done, Gentlemen

The conversation goes on. There was a discussion of his height and weight. Something about his grades. Then on to a discussion of his future. He lays it out for the Sergeant.  He is pursuing his goal of being an environmental scientist and while he has ideas toward a career in federal service, he doesn’t think being a Marine is that career. He tells me after the call that the Sergeant was very nice about the call not breaking his way. There was no pressure when it was clear the interest was not there.

I’d support my son in whatever career decision he made, as long as it ends up with him being a respectful, honorable man in addition to whatever formal title he earns.

I was nervous in handing the phone over to my son to talk to a recruiter. I’m proud to know there was an man on the other end who did his job by calling a great kid, but proved his honor by treating that great kid’s dream with the same respect he was accorded.

I hope the Sergeant’s dad is as proud of his great kid as I am of mine. He deserves it.

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21 Comments on “I listen to two great kids talk about the future.”

  1. Mary says:

    Well-said. I know when my cousin joined the Marines, his Mom was terrified because it was at the beginning of the war on terrorism. I’m a Vet’s daughter and have a lot of military in my family. I can’t imagine what it is like to have a son or daughter consider the military or even hand teh phone over for a conversation.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • omawarisan says:

      Thanks for commenting Mary. I so support the military and what they do. I can’t imagine being in your aunt’s shoes.

      In the end, I think it helped my son to have that talk.

  2. izaakmak says:

    My father was a WWI veteran, the man that actually shared my mom’s house with me fought in the Korean War. Both of them talked (not much, but enough) of the pride they felt at having served their country.

    When I visited my Air Force recruiter’s office 2 days after I turned 17 (my birthday was on a Saturday), he asked me about my dreams and I answered him as honestly as I could. He then lied to me about how the Air Force could help them all come true.

    Even after discovering the dramatic difference between the sales pitch and the reality, I was still determined to serve with the kind of pride that my role models had served with. But I’ve never been able to get rid of the bad taste being lied to left in my mouth.

    I’ve always hoped that my recruiter was the exception and not the rule. If there’s any real decency left in that system, then perhaps your post has justified my hope.

    • omawarisan says:

      I was really struck by how gracefully the recruiter handled the discussion. My son was really impressed by it and brought it up again today. I hope things have changed.

      Striking how many of that older generation never speaks specifically of their experiences, but always reflects on pride in what they’d done for the country.

  3. linlah says:

    I remember when my boy got old enough to register. There was definately a kaboom but whatever his decision I would’ve supported his decision.

  4. planetross says:

    Will all the government services phone? … or just the marines?

  5. Pauline says:

    “I’m proud to know there was an man on the other end who did his job by calling a great kid, but proved his honor by treating that great kid’s dream with the same respect he was accorded.”

    That was decent of the Sergeant to respect your son’s wishes and it sounds like your son has quite the future ahead of him!

    • omawarisan says:

      I was very impressed with his decency. I know he is under pressure to get people into uniforms, but this was someone who didn’t allow his job pressures to drive him to act against the best interest of others.

      On my son, I agree…he’s got so much going for him.

  6. shoutabyss says:

    He does sound like a great kid. And I like the way you told it.

    My Army recruiter – well, let’s be gracious here – fibbed right to my face.

    Oh well. Live and learn.

    And I know exactly what you mean by the word “troops.” I feel that sort of context every time I hear the word.

    • omawarisan says:

      I’ve heard the fibbing thing from so many people. I was ready for the guy to fill my son’s ear with that and it just didn’t happen.

      I’m sure my son isn’t really oriented toward the service, but I want him to keep a genuine respect for those who are. If we end up dealing with other recruiters, I hope they play things as well as this man. I think the hard sell kind of cuts into that respect.

      • shoutabyss says:

        It sounds like your son and the recruiter were both class acts. I call that a win-win! 🙂

        In my case, I’m sure it was fairly a common scenario. I took the entrance exams. The recruiter then told me my scores were so high I could have ANY job I wanted. (Step #1 – pump up the ego.)

        He then recommended a job, Foxtrot-13, that not only included computers (my one and only request) it also had a $5,000 enlistment bonus. (Steps #2 and #3 – lie and appeal to greed.) I was sold.

        It turned out that Foxtrot-13 was Fire Support Specialist, also known as Forward Observer in layman’s terminology. And we had a lifespan of 13 seconds in combat. And I never saw any computers related to my job. 🙂

        I don’t think my scores must have been as high as the recruiter led me to believe. 🙂

  7. Keli says:

    You (and your son) handled this very well, Oma. I’m afraid I was not quite as gracious, my first time ’round this issue. I felt the recruiter to be a bit more aggressive than I liked, and would not turn over the phone to my son. I’m glad your encounter was a positive one. We’ve only received mailings since then.

    • omawarisan says:

      Keli, I was fully prepared to be less gracious but the recruiter turned out to be the opposite of what I’d prepared for. I am kind of getting the idea that my experience was more the exception than the rule.

      I actually considered not putting him on the phone anyhow, but figured that in the fall I’m not going to be in the dorm to screen his calls so I’d better let him be ready.

  8. Kate says:

    If I ever have children, I am not sure how I would respond if one of my children chose to enlist (or was drafted, if that ever gets reinstated). I think I’d be terrified all the time. My dad was the only boy in his family and was in the Air Force. He could never figure out why he didn’t get sent to Vietnam. It turns out my grandmother had written a letter — one she didn’t tell him about until many years later — asking that he not be sent there because he was her only son. The military respected her wish and for that I am so grateful. Neither of us might be here today if things had gone otherwise.

    • omawarisan says:

      It really is a scary prospect Kate. We really had to come to terms with a lot of it when we remembered he had to register for Selective Service at 18. I was working on college financial aid forms and there it was, they registered him from there. It was one check block, but it was huge.

  9. shoutabyss says:

    Right now, yeah, I’d be pretty terrified as well. When a new general recently appointed by Obama modified air support policy to, in effect, put a zero tolerance on civilian casualties in Afghanistan, that increased the casualty rate of American troops. (I think it approx. doubled them.) Troops under fire could no longer call for a an air strike to take out a sniper in a building if the strike might result in civilian deaths or was too close to a mosque, etc.

    I’m not sure I’d appreciate my kid’s life being placed secondary to the consideration of a building.

  10. writerdood says:

    When I joined the Marines, the conversation was quite… different. I called them actually. It’s a long story.

    You’re lucky your son was solid on doing something else. Particularly something that involves going to college. I’m promoting that in my own kids. I know what I’ll say to my son if he tells me he wants to join the Marines, and it will involve a lot of questions about what he expects to get out of it. Because, frankly, there are things you get out of it, and not all of them are good.

    I learned my lesson, did my time, got out and used my GI bill to go to college, but only then did I discover how woeful a deal I had received in comparison to the Army’s GI bill program, or the Navy or the Air Force. The USMC did not do a good job of taking care of its own. You have to watch them like a hawk, or they’re screw you for everything they can get.

    I learned that much.

    • omawarisan says:

      That is a shame. I think that, overall, all the branches are good and do amazing things. but there are so many bad recruiting stories. I had the idea that what we ran acrosss was the exception, but I’m fairly sure of that now.

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