Saturday, May 5, 2007

My Baby is Home

My youngest son, Jeff, is home on leave until May 13. He graduated from job school (Public Affairs) at Ft. Meade Defense Information School on April 25 and will begin his assignment at Camp Pendelton on May 15. We love having him here, and it may well be over a year before he is back. He has made us proud of his accomplishments in his short life.

Jeff was always an easy kid, but that is his nature, not so much his parents' influence. We hardly ever had to punish him while growing up. His politics are different from his parents'--so we were not totally responsible for his thinking. Little did we know what an athlete he would be--he started crawling at 5 months old (how do you tell a baby that he is too young to crawl). When his older brother, Kenny, became a Cub Scout Tiger, Jeff was only 3, but loved being at our den meetings. He was the best behaved boy there. When it was his turn to be a Tiger Cub, he asked me to be his den leader. Since his dad was now the den leader for Kenny's den, this was doable. Jeff was always very interested in the outdoors and camping. So after crossing over from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, Jeff rose through the ranks and became a Boy Scout. He has camped in eight states and Canada, climbed most of the Presidential Range in New Hampshire and backpacked for two weeks in New Mexico at Philmont Reservation (Boy Scout Mecca). I feel because of Scouts, he learned a great deal about leadership and also reliance upon oneself. Jeff is an Eagle Scout and thankfully, became one at 16 sparing his parents and troop the agony of trying to beat the deadline of an 18th birthday to complete all the requirements.

He also is a terrific runner. When he entered 8th grade, he changed schools. The gym teacher encouraged him to join the track team. He knew he could run and was fairly fast, so he gave it a try. He never placed while in 8th grade, but he always finished somewhere in the middle. In high school he was fortunate to have a couple great coaches his first two years. With each year came improvement in his running. He would practice during the summers getting up by 7:30 in the mornings to run rather than sleep until noon like many of his friends. People all over the city would tell me they saw him running in different locations. By Senior year in high school he was always placing in the top three in all his meets. Perseverance, strategy, lots of practice and setting goals for himself are what got him there. Evidently, his teammates liked him, too, and made him captain of cross-country, winter track and spring track that year.

Jeff looked at colleges thinking he would major in English. The Marines won out over college. He said if he went to college, from his observations of the guys he knows, all he would learn is how to goof off and drink. Profound thoughts for a 17 yr old. There will be time for college later and he would be earning credits anyway at Public Affairs school . Our older son, Kenny, is a Marine and plans to go to college when he gets out this coming December. But it appears that for now Kenny is at least getting the experience of living with a group of guys without going to college.

Jeff graduated with honors from high school and while waiting to go to boot camp at Parris Island, he got up almost every morning to run to keep up his skills. He also worked out at the gym most days, so by the time he entered the Marines, he had a perfect PT score of 300. He managed to maintain that score all through Boot Camp and graduated with honors, was an Expert in rifle and earned the Leatherneck Award for the highest physical fitness score in the class of 619 graduates. He then went to Combat School for a month, then on to Public Affairs School at Ft. Meade. Jeff did quite well and really enjoyed his time there. While at school he was tested for physical fitness and scored a perfect 300 just prior to graduation and was again honored for his physical accomplishment. A week later he was promoted to Lance Corporal. Not bad for someone who is still 18 years old.

At this moment he is off with his friends, but it is still good to know he is in this house for now. We will miss him when he is gone. He will be at Camp Pendelton until early December, then he will be deployed to Iraq. I just pray that the situation there drastically improves during the next several months.

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