(Not my first 'dear john' letter)
I am thinking today of the November 11, 1988 graduation day from basic. I am there in my mind for several reasons.
1) I have seldom felt the pride and shock combined as I felt on that day.
2) I was with your grandmother and today I can't be.
3) It was one of the most wonderful days in my life.
4) It was the day that I realized you were no longer the kid I struggled to understand and raise without jail time on your resume.
Traveling with my mom to Florida to watch you graduate from basic training on Veteran's Day was exciting and I was missing you so much that poor Grandma was exhausted listening to me talk about how excited I was to see you. The letters you sent, the calls you made were great, but seeing you and giving you a mommy hug was all I could think about. I had felt the gigantic changes in your mindset all through basic as you wrote to educate me about the lingo and the routine. You shared so much of what you were experiencing and I felt your maturity with each letter growing and developing. It was a mixed bag for me. I certainly wanted you to grow up and be independent and learn how to take responsibility, but I didn't know if all that meant you wouldn't need a mom anymore. I just didn't know.
Funny isn't it? There I was traveling with my own mother, who was just as excited to see you as I was, wondering if YOU needed a mom! I surely still needed mine. Still do.
Today I remember clearly that tall, straight-standing man in uniform that walked into that cafeteria hat in hand and walking toward us. I didn't recognize you for a few seconds, nor did Momma. WOW. The smile finally broke and the tears fell from my eyes unchecked. My heart was so full and I was so interested to sit and talk with you and feel whatever you were feeling.
What I learned that week-end was life changing for me. I learned that somehow in the midst of all the craziness that was life with our two teen-age kids, a really good human boy had developed something from it all. Something that the Navy pulled out to full exposure. The confidence was there. The pride in self, was there. The maturity I had been watching develop through calls and letters, was glaringly there. Very starkly different and yet at the heart, the same.
The man before us was the natural and militarized version of the defiant teen I sent them. I was, at first, very ashamed that I couldn't find this man in my own teen. Then as the week-end progressed, it became clear that I had instilled the basics, the Navy had fine-tuned and developed it all in two months. With that clarification, I stood tall and proud and I knew for all the days of my life, my son, the Sailor, would always need his mom. I also knew that for all the days of my life I would be bragging about what a wonderful son I have. How proud I am that he chose to serve his country in such an honorable way and that he would never look back and wish he had chosen another path. This was his destiny and this was part of my legacy. The world is a better and safer place because my little guy gave four years of his freedom for generations of freedom to America.
Thank you, first for being the brave and brilliant Sailor you will always be; second for being the most incredible son I could ever ask for; third for always needing your mom. It's mutual, btw, I need you, too.
Enjoy this day, walk with pride and be sure your kids know exactly who their daddy is. The Navy is a proud and honored branch and you are an exemplary member for life.
I love you and I honor your service and your growth today and every day.