He and I have been talking more since he made the decision to enlist. I guess we finally have something major in common. His was a decision I am very proud of. See, I retired from the Air Force myself after 20 years of service and it’s always a very special feeling when one’s sons follow in their old man’s footsteps.
I wouldn't trade a minute of my Air Force experience for anything and I hope Ben feels the same way.
I hope Ben realizes how proud he’s already made me. He’s a fine young man of 22 years and a rather good look-ing chap, if I do say so myself. Of course, some say he favors me. That’s a cross enough for the young man to bear. Ha ha….
He enlisted on Aug. 14. That was a month to the day shy of what will be the 34th anniversary of my enlistment. I’m sure things have changed. But I am still sure that if a young man or woman seriously approaches a military ca-reer, it will make him or her a better person.
Ben is an extremely intelligent young man and I know he will do his country proud while on active duty.
I did offer him some fatherly advice, advice I offer here to any young person going into, or thinking about going into, the military.
Remember, when you are in basic training, your training instructors have a job to do. How well they do that job will directly affect your military career. They must first tear you down from being an individual and then build you into a person who recognizes the team comes first.
It’s not personal towards you as an individual, but it is personal to them as to how well they succeed because they know that what you learn at the very beginning of your career will be things useful to you 15 and 20 years later.
Being a member of the U.S. military is not just a job. When you took that oath of office it was a serious matter. Other than being a first responder, no other career requires you to possibly lay your life on the line. Never forget that.
Ben, I pray you never have to venture into harm’s way, but if you do, I know you will equip yourself well.
Remember to choose your friends wisely. Running with the wrong crowd in the military carries the same conse-quences as it does in the civilian world — only the penalties can be much harsher. Just because you are old enough to buy a drink in the airman’s club, I hope you choose otherwise.
Alcohol and being a good airman do not go together. I’ve been there and have seen how it has affected otherwise good men and women.
Cigarettes are another temptation to avoid. “Smoke if you got ‘em” is not as romantic as it sounds.
Take your training seriously. One day it may save your life. It may seem silly now to have to fold your T-shirts just so or to keep your toothpaste dispenser clean. But it’s the discipline you will need if you ever fold a parachute or maintain a fuel line on an F-16.
Keep your uniform looking good, clean and pressed. Always show pride in yourself and your branch of the ser-vice. Doing this will show respect for all those who have worn the uniform before you. You are another generation to stand watch over our country's freedoms and we are depending on you to do it well.
The sky is the limit for you now. I think back to how excited I was to wear that blue uniform and to dream of the possibilities as I left my technical school at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss.
I had a great career and I am praying you do as well. Take every opportunity that comes your way for advance-ment. Study hard for your promotion tests and always keep a sharp salute for those officers with which you will come in contact.
Never forget that your family is proud of you and loves you dearly. Keep in your heart that your dad is very proud of you.
For one last piece of advice, always lean on the Jesus Christ who has loved and saved you. You can be a Chris-tian and serve in the military. It won’t be easy, but you were brought up to know what is expected of a Christian man and you can do it. I know you can.
Oh, and one other thing, don’t forget to write – especially your Nana.
As usual, God bless….
Dennis Norwood is a reporter for The Catoosa County News. He can be reached at email@example.com or 706-935.2621.