As parents, we’re proud of our kids (most of the time). We gave birth to them, we diapered them, put up with toddler tantrums, held their hands when they crossed the street, and we guided them through school and sometimes painful life experiences. We taught our kids values, the benefits of hard work and the repercussions of bad decisions when we grounded them, took away that allowance, or gave them those extra chores. We used them as “slave labor” (their terminology). Our kids mowed the yard, did the dishes, and took out the trash while we oversaw the work and paid the allowance. We made our daughters wear that “old fashioned skirt that no one else wears, Mom!” and refused to buy our sons those baggy jeans “that everyone else has.” We made them eat their vegetables instead of the burgers, fries, and shakes that everyone else’s parents let them eat and made them go to bed positively hours before anyone else. We “owned” our kid and we were proud to say, “This is my kid.”
We may still be proud of our kids, especially now that they’re taking on life as an adult and have made adult decisions, like joining the military. But as parents we need to realize that someone else now controls your kid’s life. Yes, Moms and Dads, Uncle Sam has taken over that job! Uncle Sam, in the guise of that miserable drill sergeant, drill instructor, or training instructor has taken over your job to get your kid out of bed at the crack of dawn (only this time it really is at the crack of dawn). Uncle Sam now makes your kid clean that room, eat that food, march here, march there, dress in that not-exactly-trendy-outfit, move this, learn that, scrub this, paint that. . .you get the picture.
Yes parents, your kid, the apple of your eye, your pride and joy, no longer “belongs” to you. Your kid belongs to Uncle Sam. While that young man or woman is in the military, they are soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. The rules that the services set out, apply to them all the time. For instance – motorcycle safety gear. If your kid rides a motorcycle, she must wear personal protective gear, like helmets, goggles, reflective garments, gloves and sturdy footwear. It doesn’t matter if you live in a “helmet-free” state; your kid must wear the protective gear or she’s violated regulations. A young Marine we heard about didn’t bother putting on the helmet when moving a motorcycle just a couple of yards… and the hospital stay was enlivened by irate Gunny Sergeants, Lieutenants and Commanders visits and phone calls tearing another strip off him, to the consternation of his mother. Said young Marine explained it to her – and she was quite happy that these visits were impressing on him the need for safety!
The same rules apply for wearing seatbelts. Your kid must wear them, whether he’s required to do so by state laws or not. Not only must your kid wear his seatbelt, but if he’s driving he must require everyone else in the car to wear them too. Uncle Sam can (and does) require your kid to maintain a certain level of fitness, and can (and does) require your kid to have certain immunizations. Your kid may be prohibited from participating in certain hazardous sports (like paragliding or bungee jumping) without first getting approval and a briefing. You see, Uncle Sam wants his “assets” to be fit and ready to do the job they signed up to do. GI – does stand for Government Issue!
Even though you’ve given your kid to Uncle Sam for the duration of that enlistment, you can still be proud of that child. After all, you raised him to be the kind of man who could stand up, raise their hand, and say “take me, I can do it.” You raised her to be proud to serve our great country. Uncle Sam, and his terrifying drill sergeants, drill instructors, or training instructors, has taken your kid and forged the child you raised into the honorable warrior that emerged at the end of those endless weeks of training. That young warrior, who may have lost weight but has gained muscle and confidence, is still your kid. But that young warrior also belongs to Uncle Sam. He has emerged standing straighter, smiling proudly, and ready to serve. You can still be proud of that kid, and you should be proud of yourself. You’ve done well!