Pride and Patriotism Doesn't Come in Blue or Red, Left or Right

This post of mine (under a headline I did not write and that made me cringe -- "A Leftist Mom’s Pride in Her Enlisted Son”) was recently published on a conservative blog:

My son made the decision last year, after completing his college education, to enlist in the Coast Guard. As July 4 nears, he’s rounding third base and heading for home. He’ll graduate from boot camp July 9, and after five days of well-deserved leave, he’ll depart for his first duty assignment aboard the USCG cutter Mackinaw out of Cheboygan, Michigan – the only heavy ice-breaker on the Great Lakes.

It’s a mystery to me how a child I raised could solemnly raise his hand at his swearing-in and reply -- when asked why he was enlisting -- “I want to save lives and serve my country.” It’s not that he grew up with no moral compass or sense of duty to others. It’s just that he was a child of privilege, not need; and raised by a mother who came of age to Bob Dylan’s raging Masters of War, violent protests in the streets and on college campuses, and a deep suspicion of government in the wake of Kent State and Watergate.

I felt humbled by his conviction of purpose.

We hear that only about 1% of Americans volunteer to serve in a branch of the Armed Forces. My son had a longstanding desire to be one of them. And although my politics lean left and I did not support the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I’ve found that something rather strange has happened to me: I’ve joined a close-knit club that encompasses the families of all who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

On July 4, my son will participate in Cape May’s Sunset Parade as a member of the next graduating class of USCG Guardians. I wish I could be there to see it. I know that I will be feeling the significance of this on the 4th of July, and all other days that recognize the sacrifices of our Armed Forces, in a way I never have before. And feeling grateful that my son is one of the men and women who are willing to be “Semper Paratus” (Aways Ready).

Since the publication of this post, I've had the privilege of watching my son graduate from boot camp. In the end, our politics didn't matter -- every family member in attendance felt a sense of pride in their recruit's surviving a tough program and coming out on the other side, ready to serve. 

And me? I've entered that stage of parenthood where my son has more to teach me than I have to teach him. I find myself reconnecting with the idealism of my youth -- and love of my country -- through his life choices. 

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