Proud to read military news

Published 9:14 pm Wednesday, August 25, 2010

To the editor:

I just finished reading today’s listings of military news in the Suffolk News-Herald. Today, there were seven people listed — three women and two men. I say “women” and “men,” but most are really just teenagers — young boys and girls barely out of high school.

I wonder how many people read this section. Probably only those who have family in the military themselves or the parents and friends of those who are listed.

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As a former soldier, when I read about those moving on from basic training or on to their permanent duty stations, it resonates strongly with me, because even after all these years, I remember how it felt taking that next step. I remember the pride, the uncertainty and the fear.

I wonder how many of these graduates were able to have family members in the audience. I wonder how many had ever traveled out of Suffolk before they left for basic training. I wonder how many truly felt prepared and ready for that next step.

For me, the answer to all those questions was negative, and yet the experiences and the information I learned in the Army stay with me and aid me even today.

I’m thinking so much about this today because yesterday I watched my only daughter get sworn in to the Navy. She’s following the steps of her three older brothers, and part of me is quite proud of her. The other part wants to lock her in her room until she turns 25 so I can be assured of her safety at least until then.

Every time one of my children goes overseas and returns back home safely, I feel like I’ve won a lottery. My two oldest are no longer active duty, but my 22-year-old leaves for Baghdad in a month or so.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to react anymore when my children talk about joining the military. It’s not like they don’t have other options. Any of them could have gone on to college, and I even offered to let them take a year off and “find” themselves. But they all wanted to join the military.

My 17-year-old son watched his sister with pride and listened as the officer who swore them in told them all how proud they should be to have made it that far, as many don’t even qualify. I watched as my son eagerly took a card from one of the Army recruiters.

I guess I need to keep practicing my “proud” smile. I may need it again next year.

Gia L. Sams