I chose to entitle this commentary “words from a proud military parent” because, well, that’s who and what I am now.
Please allow me to explain. On April 28, my son, Tylan enlisted into the U.S. Air Force. I admit, that I had mixed feelings about his decision, but I knew that I would be supportive regardless. I also knew that he would be fine in whatever he decided to do with his life. He’s just that kind of young man. I will admit that my mixed feelings didn’t come from his decision to join the military, as I am a retired Army senior noncommissioned officer. My mixed feelings came because I’ve always known his potential and felt that there were other things that he could excel in. Tylan stands 6 feet 3 inches tall and during the time he played college football, he weighed about 228 pounds, which in my opinion, was perfect size for a college freshman linebacker. Not so much for a wide receiver, which is where his heart was at the time.
For you football fans out there, he also ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4, which are promising numbers considering his potential for carrying the necessary weight and possessing the speed to play at an elite level. Sounds like great football talk, right? It was. However, it was not great talk from a dad’s perspective.
After an intense self-assessment, I had to accept that my days of playing football were over and it was completely unfair for me to want my son to accomplish what, in a sense, were my dreams, but not necessarily his.
So he chose not to continue with his college degree or play football. Instead, he chose a life of military service.
As any parent would, I cringed at the thought of him serving in Anbar province, Afghanistan or even going out on patrols. Even though I served in Iraq during its most dangerous time, it is not something I wanted my child to experience. My thoughts were, I did it so that you wouldn’t have to.
But the more I thought about it, the prouder I became of him. Once he said to me, “I’m following in your footsteps and honoring you by serving my country just like you did,” ... what could I say?
What I didn’t know at the time was that Tylan had already spoken with several recruiters from four of the five services — Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Now that I think about it, I remember during his senior year in high school, he had this notion of becoming a Navy SEAL. Then he said he wanted to be a Marine. No offense to you “Jarheads” out there, but no!
Then, there was the Army, my service of choice. We discussed the Army at one point, but it was also during the time that he was contemplating not going back to school, which was not an option. So, I said no to the Army because I had done that and to be honest, not all of my experiences were pleasant.
Finally he called me and said, “Dad, I’m joining the Air Force.” Without a second thought of saying yes or no, I responded with, “Okay.” It just felt like he was sure that’s what he wanted to do and I could feel his confidence in his decision, so I approved.
So now, I’ve marked my calendar and on June 28, I will be somewhere on the parade field at Lackland Air Force Base, near San Antonio, proudly watching the sea of blue as it marches by.
In a sense, I will still get my wish of watching my son take part in an on-field celebration. But instead of wearing Carolina Blue, he’ll don his Air Force blue uniform for the noblest of causes — serving as a member of the U.S. military.
I love you, son