Semper Fidelis Always Faithful

Serving our country has a whole new meaning today. Today at 4:20 PM, his mother, sister, and I dropped my 19 year old son Jimmy off at the Marine Corps recruiter in Frederick Maryland. Jimmy departs for boot camp at Parris Island South Carolina in the morning. My last view was of him in his red Marine Corps T-shirt, jumping into a van with two other boys and pulling out with their recruiter. He joins his first cousin Paul who is already in boot camp in San Diego.

In our nation’s history, there have been millions of moments like this. In the abstract and aggregate, these are moving scenes to be sure but when you are the parent of the son or daughter who is heading off, it takes on a whole new, very immediate, and heartfelt meaning.

Jim is the oldest of my two children and my only son. He is a lot different than I am in many ways but we share a lot of the same core interests and values. Like me, Jimmy has become very involved with activities at Antietam National Battlefield. At the age of 17, he worked in the Youth Conservation Corps in the summer of 2008 building fences and trails for the park with the Natural Resources Division. In 2009, he worked in the museum bookstore at the battlefield. He also began volunteering and became a member of Antietam’s all volunteer Battery B, 4th United States Artillery unit. At our last shoot on August 28, Jimmy got moved up to the gunner 4 position and and got to pull the lanyard firing the Napoleon for the first time. Jimmy portrayed an Iron Brigade soldier “volunteered into the battery.” After this shoot, the members of Battery B to my pleasant surprise presented Jimmy with the Hardee hat he wore, as a permanent memento of his service. I think the highest honor was when Jimmy was selected to be a member of the honor guard at the service last September where the remains of the New York soldier found in the Cornfield back in 2008 were transferred to the State of New York for interment at the VA Cemetery in Saratoga.

I served in the Army for many years but being the parent of a service member is an entirely new experience. It will take some getting used to. When we dropped him off, the recruiter gave us Jim’s mailing address at boot camp. I rushed home, and finished a letter that I actually started a few days ago. As I walked out to the mail box carrying the letter and looking down at his name on the envelope, it really hit me that my son had grown into manhood and like millions of Americans in our nation’s history before him, had elected military service – the highest and most honorable of callings. Semper Fidelis. Always Faithful Jimmy.

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