"Where Is Your Kid Going To College?"The #1 most-often-asked question, as your child approaches his/her senior year of high school. Here it is, people, Part 1 of a new series in our continuing adventure on RebelHousewife.com: NAVY MOM.
My son is going into the Navy. He graduated from high school in May, and left for Basic Training, at Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center, outside of Chicago, just 30 days later. I am so proud of him, so excited for him, and I experienced such surprising devastation as the time came, and we handed our 18-year-old son over to the U.S. Military.
This is a kid who has never loved the academic aspects of school, although he is very bright and highly technical. If he could have earned his high school diploma in Mythbuster’s Science, MAKE Magazine, technology, video games, and taking things apart, he would have been a 4.0 student. Upon graduation, with decent grades, he just wanted to GO -- get out of Georgia! -- BE and DO. He is ready for adventure, and after the 13-year slog through public education...GO, Zac, GO!
His interest in the military was a surprise to us. He enrolled in the high school JROTC program after a presentation about elective choices in 8th grade. At the time, he was stumbling and grumbling through the dark tunnel of puberty -- a good kid, but for a year or two there, between 13 and 15, he lived furtively in his room or out in the wild, with not much to say to the parents. (It was such a relief when he turned 16 and emerged from the tunnel into a much more pleasant and interactive young man. What finally brought him out? He wanted to get his driver’s license and drive our car.)
During that angsty time, I think the structure and discipline of the military, the community and brotherhood, attracted him in a way that 15 years of attempted structure and discipline at home, obviously, had not.
We didn’t hear too much about JROTC in 9th grade. Granted, he still wasn’t talking much, at that point. In 10th grade, things started to get serious. He kept his hair cut short and got up earlier than he even knew the day existed to run and work out. He was careful to arrange his schedule to show up for events and activities. He participated in all the extra-curriculars: Raiders, Drill Team, Rifle Team, parades, charity drives, academic competitions, community service. He asked us to help out, and by the end of 10th grade, we had become the JROTC Mom & Dad for 180 cadets: driving to meets and practices, cheering them on, providing field support (FOOD) at weekend competitions, and organizing Honors & Award Ceremony receptions (FOOD).
During that sophomore year, his high school JROTC program had strong student leadership, with two of the leaders earning full-ride scholarships to West Point Military Academy. Under that impressive example, Zac started taking JROTC even more seriously.
By 11th grade, he earned his commendation in the Saber Day Ceremony and became a cadet staff officer. His best friend, a fellow JROTC cadet leader, graduated that year and Zac was very interested and impressed with his friend’s direction: Having earned a full four-year scholarship with the Georgia National Guard, he went to Army Basic & Advanced Training that summer/fall, and then started college full-time in January. He will get paid, actually, on top of tuition and expenses, all through college for his Weekend Warrior service, and graduate as an officer.
In Zac’s Senior year, he was Cadet LT COL Caldwell, Battalion Commander in charge of the Grady High School unit. Under his leadership, they earned high honors throughout the year and were awarded #1 Army JROTC in Atlanta Public Schools. He was really good at this military stuff!
He seriously contemplated his future, worked really hard in JROTC and in school, still managing to have enough fun, and get into enough trouble, to fully enjoy his senior year. He started on college applications and the ROTC scholarship process. He scored very highly on the ASVAB, the military entrance test, and felt he did much better on the ASVAB than the SATs.
Ultimately, he decided to enlist. He wanted to GO, BE, and DO -- and figured, realistically, college could wait.
After four years in the ARMY JROTC program, immersed in the brotherhood of the ARMY; three summers at ARMY JROTC summer camp at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia; and with the best friend going ARMY -- we were worried. Although neither my husband nor I served in the military, we are both from Navy families -- his Dad was career Navy and my Dad was a Marine. We both grew up on and near Navy bases around the world. We are WATER people.
We attended a Visitor’s Day during one of Zac’s summer camps at Fort Benning -- in June. It was a hot, dusty, dirty level of hell (with apologies to the Army people). While we were exuberant in our support of the military, we tried to be subtle about our preferences. After Visitor’s Day, I pointed out to him, subtly, of course, that every Navy base I had ever been on had been so clean, so well-run, so modern -- ON THE WATER, beautiful beaches!!! Subtle.
He gave it a lot of thought and talked to a lot of people: his JROTC instructors, family, mentors, friends. He asked us to come along when he talked to both the Army and the Navy recruiters. He really did his research...
He chose NAVY!!! (Thank You, Sweet Little Baby Jesus!) With his ASVAB score, he was able to choose, and contract for, an IT career path, with a top security clearance and a six-year commitment (because of the extra schooling required for the rating).
Funny thing is, after 8 weeks’ Basic Training at Great Lakes, he goes to Pensacola, Florida for 22 weeks -- in school! (Hopefully, IT school will be more Mythbusters & MAKE Magazine than academics?) He will have his great adventure on the sea, but he’ll begin working toward his college degree -- and getting paid! -- at the same time. After his first year or two of active duty, he will have the opportunity to apply for college programs. The Navy will take him off active duty to finish his degree, he can go through Officer Training and finish his career as a "Mustang" (enlisted-turned-officer).
All in good time. This kid needs a year or two...or four, even, if that’s what he wants. There is plenty of time for college and serious girlfriends, a wife, babies and everything else. Better to have his adventure now, before all of that.
OF COURSE I worry about my son in the military -- how could I not? But in my Mom’s heart, I know this is the perfect plan for my GO, BE, DO, active son...
And I could not be more proud of him.