I posted this a long time ago but I want you to know that when I write the things I do…I actually don’t sit around telling other people to do stuff while I relax. My son…came home from high school one day and told me the recruiters had come to his school and he signed up, so that he could jump out of helicopters. No one said being a mother was easy. really. NO ONE EVER SAID THAT! Anyway, I went to the Recruiting Station and fought with the teenager in his uniform but he was just someone else’s kid, sitting behind a desk. This is a sanitized version of what happened. I edited a bit and filled in a few missing spaces but otherwise it’s the same as the original post. I really believe in fighting back and not just sitting around taking the garbage other people throw at me. And trust me, no one screws around with my kids. NO ONE.
“I’m going to repel out of helicopters,” said my male child, smiling.
“No. You’re not. You have never even been on an airplane. I’m not signing anything that even implies that you can can jump out of a plane.”
“I already signed up. It looks like fun. They do it in M*A*S*H reruns.”
“They are coming to get me.”
“The guys who came to school. They said if we signed up, we could repel out of helicopters and shoot guns.”
“RECRUITERS CAME TO YOUR SCHOOL AND YOU SIGNED UP TO JOIN THE ARMY?”
“Yeah. Some of the other guys did too. It will be fun. And why are you looking at me like that?”
“You are going to graduate in a few months. You are NOT going into the army. They can’t just take you. I won’t let them have you. You’re seventeen, underage, and they have to know how stupid you are, since you actually SIGNED UP IN THE FIRST PLACE.”
“No. I really want to do this. You always said that we have to learn by doing and by making our own decisions.”
“Yes, but I was thinking more of deciding on which shoes you were going to wear. Seriously. Why don’t you just kill me now and get it over with. I’m ready. I’ll even get the knife for you. Just make it quick because I’ve suffered enough.”
“You are a suburban kid. You don’t have a CLUE what you are getting into.”
“I want to go.”
So, they came to get him. The car was filled with sobbing underage boys. My son looked at me and I said, “Are you having fun yet?” He got into the back seat with the crying kids and left. My husband and I went into the house, sat on the stairs going up to the bedrooms, and wondered why we had done this to ourselves. We didn’t know about the whole brain thing making people reproduce, at the time.
Keith called from the hotel that night and sounded a bit freaked. They were flying to the base the next morning. We stayed awake all night wondering if it was too late to run away and let the kids fend for themselves. We actually came up with some good ideas as to why it would be okay but my husband was the Great Earth Father, when it came to the beasties, so I couldn’t convince him to leave.
A couple days later Keith called and said, “Get me out of here.”
“Really? No helicopters?” I asked. “Not having a good time?”
“I want to come home.”
“Fine,” I said. “I’ll get you out.”
“I know,” he said, “that’s why I called.”
So, my husband called a friend of his who had been stationed on that base when he was in the army. His friend generously took the time to call and talk to someone he knew who was still there. Zip. No help. So, I called the commander, or whatever the head guy is called, and I told him to send my kid home. He said, “No.” And I said, “What you did was wrong.” He said “No.” I said, “You’ll be sorry.” He said, “I don’t think so.” And I said, “Wanna bet?” We hung up and I began to make plans.
I spoke to the chaplain. He told me to let the boy grow up. I told him that that wasn’t actually up to him. And then I thought…this man has no sense of self-preservation. “LET HIM GO!” I said. He said, “No.” So I told him that I was calling all the media friends that I had, which were considerable at the time, since I was extremely active. I told him that I was going to chain myself to the gates at the base. I told him that I wasn’t going to leave until they let my son come home. He said that I couldn’t do that and I said, “Watch me.” Chaining myself to a gate was a piece of cake, compared to some of the other things I’ve done. Anyway, the thing is, NOT ONE OF THEM SCARED ME IN THE LEAST. They’re just little boys/guys in costumes. I’m a mom. Screw them.
As soon as my kids opened their eyes, I taught them to ALWAYS QUESTION AUTHORITY! NEVER DO ANYTHING YOU DON’T WANT TO DO NO MATTER WHO TELLS YOU TO DO IT, and that’s exactly what my kid did.
When he called, I told him not to do ANYTHING they told him to do. I told him not to fight, or get physical in any way. Not to verbally argue. To shut up and stand still. I told him I was coming down and chaining myself to the gates, or whatever, until they let him out. He said, “Okay.” (He was not surprised by that in the least)
He did exactly what we talked about. I felt as if I was on top of Mt. Everest. My heart just swelled with love. This proved that I wasn’t a total failure as a mother but instead had raised warrior children who would fight ANYONE, OR ANYTHING, for what they believed it. And, at the moment, he believed in COMING HOME.
The DI, otherwise known as the guy who stands in front of you and yells in your face, was standing in front of him and yelling (spit flying out of his mouth) in his face. Keith just stood there. No matter what the guy did, he just stood there.
They found out he was allergic to tumbleweed when he swelled up like a balloon. Our allergist said that might happen and it did.
After he got out of the hospital, the yelling started again. The guy said, “You are going to go into a building filled with tear gas but you can’t wear a mask”. My son said, “Not in a million years.” They couldn’t make him do it. He just stood there and refused, no matter how much the guy yelled, or spit. He would NOT do it. How bloody awesome is THAT?
He called me from the brig, or whatever they call army jail. He said they took him out of his cell and made him stand by a line, while someone yelled in his face. I said, “Okay, gross, but you’re not in a building filled with tear gas.” He agreed. He called again, while I was making arrangements to fly down there. He said, “You don’t have to come down, they’re sending me home.”
“Why? And yiiippppeee.”
“They said I was a bad influence on the other guys because I wouldn’t do anything they told me to do. The other guys were wondering why they had to do stupid stuff too and well, trouble was starting. So, they are giving me an honorable discharge and I’m coming home right away.” (See…one person CAN make a difference)
“I love you,” I said. “I’m so proud of you. I think you are amazingly fabulous.”
“They wanted me to be in charge of shooting because I was really good at it but I told them I didn’t care.”
“I don’t want to die anymore,” I said, happily. “So thank you for that,”
“Call when you land at O’Hara and we’ll pick you up.”
“See you soon,” he said.
“I thought you were going to call us when you landed.”
“I couldn’t want that long,” he said, hugging me. “I missed you guys and slept with your pictures under my pillow. And I know how to roll my t-shirts into tiny sizes.”
My husband came in from paying the cab driver and the hugging and crying began.
He was very neat for about a week. He actually did roll his t-shirts into tiny sizes. He was even nice to his sister. He loved us and was sweet for that same week and then things went back to normal. He never did repel out of a helicopter. Unfortunately, he did a lot of other things that were way more dangerous than that. That’s just the kind of person he was.
I was happy that I didn’t have to chain myself to anything. Bathroom breaks are tough, when you’re doing that kind of thing alone. But really, it’s such a small thing to do when the reason for doing it is so incredibly good. And I believe that it’s a mother’s job to teach by example and to protect her kids from their own stupidity, and the stupidity of the culture they live in, the government, right-wing crazies, the church, or anyone else who tries to do ANYTHING to children.
Look I carried them, DELIVERED THEM, watched over them. fed them, taught them how to blow their noses, use a spoon, to stand up and walk, to be decent human beings and I don’t give a flying fuck about the army, or anyone in it. No one messes with my kids.
Our son died of leukemia. He fought that the same way he fought the army. With courage and by doing it his own way. Miss him every single day.