When You Can’t Just Say No

“We’ll just tell him no,” my husband said. “He can’t join the military; it’s too dangerous.”

“You do realize that when he turns eighteen, he can join even if we say no?” I countered.

For years, our son has been enamored with the military. In addition to all the books he reads on history of the military and history of weaponry, I’ve found library books hidden under his bed with titles like “How to Survive Basic Training.” I have to admit that I’m not thrilled with the idea of him signing up for the military either, but my husband and I finally decided that we needed to help him either get this idea out of his system or prepare him as best we can for military life. After all, the final goal of our homeschooling program is to prepare him for adult life–whatever version of adult life he chooses.

After some online searching, I found several groups for young people which are military-related. Each branch of the military has a group for young people that’s commissioned to help teach kids to stay away from drug abuse and be good citizens. I found listings for local chapters of the Sea Cadets, Civil Air Patrol, and Young Marines. At an orientation, my son saw a sergeant barking orders at a group of kids doing PT (physical training) exercises; he was thrilled though when he described the scene to his sister, she couldn’t understand why that scene didn’t scare him off. So we plonked down a registration fee, cut his shaggy hair short, and gathered up the clothes he needed for their beginning uniform. For just over three hours  a week, he attends a meeting where they work on learning different lessons such as map reading, martial arts, the need for physical fitness. During PT, they run, do pull-ups, push-ups, and stretches, and more, over and over again.

We rather hoped the yelling and pushing of his limits would be enough to cure him of his military aspirations. So far it hasn’t. If he sticks with this program, I’m sure he’ll be much better prepared for the real basic training than most recruits, so it’s accomplishing that goal.

One of my biggest worries about him joining the military is that someday he’ll end up a beaten-down veteran who can’t cope with what he experienced while in the military and will end up living in a cardboard box on the street begging for money at intersections–as I see some around here doing. It occurred to me this week that maybe this is something that we should approach head-on here and now. So, I found several books at our local library on PTSD and how to deal with it. We’ve started talking about the ideas in the books, about coping with experiences that seem too much to handle, about getting help from others rather than trying to be an island dealing with problems, and about ways to heal from PTSD.

He’ll be marching in a couple of Veterans Day parades, camping out with them, and such. And while I’m still not too thrilled about the idea of him in the military, I am quite proud to see him running at the head of the pack of a couple of dozen youngsters, always coming in far in advance of the rest, as he pushes to get himself to do the PT that he was afraid would be too much for him.




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