“I want to be a marine,” said my son after this year’s Veteran’s Day Assembly hosted by our high school. He looked me in the eye when he said it. He’s been looking me in the eye a lot lately, since he is officially taller than me.
Christopher always had an interest in soldiers and military history. I remember he read a story out of the American Diary series about a soldier and his time in war. Christopher cried when the main character buddy died. He shows me videos that various performers have done in support of our troops (Letters from War; Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue; and American Soldier are just a few). He and I have watched Band of Brothers, Windtalkers, and Flags of Our Fathers. But more than all that, he sees heroes in the kids from our school who enlist and serve. So, after seeing the presentation of faces of former students who have served and who are serving, I found his statement not surprising.
Before I could respond, he said, “I know. I have to go through college and ROTC so I start as an officer.” I laugh. We have had a few family discussions on this topic too. From one of those conversations last spring, I wrote this poem.
Some of My Boys
Goofy, gangly and grinning,
some of my boys that sat in my classes
have not only enlisted,
but have been sent overseas
into the war, into harm’s way.
I see them on leave
or on a digital picture
grinning, maybe gangly still,
but goofy no more
due to the war, due to harm’s way.
“Hey, Mr. Sura,” they say,
“…and you smiled and said...”
We were a brotherhood of goofy and grinning
before the war, before harm’s way.
My son reads and watches
about soldiers, brotherhood, honor and death
while he is goofy, gangly and grinning in life.
He has heroes, the boys I know,
in the war, in harm’s way.
He makes me proud that he cares.
He respects their call and their risk
while he and his high school buds
stumble around goofy and grinning,
away from war, away from harm.
And my goofy, gangly, grinning boys
stand watch afar and keep my son safe.
They say, “We got him covered, Mr. Sura.
“Your wife and daughter too.
For them, no war, nor harm’s way.”
All I am left to say is
“Love you guys,”
in my goofy, gangly, grinning way.
“Come home safe
from the war, from harm’s way.”
“I want to be a marine,” he said. I think of the faces that had flash on the screen. I know a lot of them, and I know more each year. I am proud of each every one of the men and women on that screen. Two of the faces are in memoriam.
I think of my son’s face on that screen.
Our guest speaker was a mother telling her story of her son’s enlistment, training, serving in Afghanistan and returning home. She spoke of her journey as a parent and how it involved pride, joy, honor and fear. Her words hit close to home.
“I want to be a marine,” my son had said.
My emotions and thoughts tumble about. It’s a jungle out there.