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Ralph Thomas


  A vivid memory of sixty years ago flooded my mind as I sat in the waiting area. It has been many years since I last visited Ft Gillem, now just a glimmer of itís former self. The vehicle inspection was much more thorough as I watched a security guard searching the underside of my car with a long-handled mirror. After opening the trunk for his inspection, I was allowed to proceed to the building where I would witness my oldest grandsonís induction into the United States Army.

  My grandson passed by the waiting area several times, always in a hurry, carrying forms from one place to another. With a big grin on his face he would give me a high-five as if he was having the best time of his life. I tried to remember if I felt the same way when I chose to volunteer rather than be drafted during the Korean Conflict. I remember feeling I had an obligation to serve my country as thousands of others had done before me. Sadly, I feel that many young people, and their parents, want to enjoy the freedom America has to offer, but donít want to do their part in assuring its preservation.      

  I sat next to my oldest daughter and her husband. This grandson was their only child. I did not have adequate words to express to them that I understood their fears. Their lives were about to change in many ways. As is natural, many of their worries were about the worst things that could happen, while not accepting that most worries never come to pass. But, this does not make them any less real.        

  At the same time, I think they were proud of their son. He was doing something he thought was worthwhile, and doing it willingly. He decided to quit college, though he was making excellent grades. But, at this time in his life, the college scene didnít satisfy his inner desires. He was known in our family as an adrenalin junky. Going to college and working part time didnít fulfill his desire to do something that would make a difference, not only in his life but also, perhaps in his country.

  Oftentimes I have admitted that joining the Army was the best thing that I could have done at that time in my life. Three years of military service has a way of maturing a young man or woman. Some countries require two years of military service even during peacetime. I think it is a good idea.

  Some 40 to 50 young people were sitting quietly in a large room waiting for instructions. Most of them were apprehensive, regardless of the bravado smiles on their faces. Some, I suspect, were relieved. They were escaping from situations that would eventually ruin their lives. Serving together in the military has a way of bringing them all together. I was saddened at small number of people in the waiting room. Only a dozen or less appeared to be parents. Where were the rest of them? Perhaps this was an indication as to why these young men and women were redirecting their lives.         

  My grandson told me he had planned the path he wanted to take in the military,  basic training, airborne training, then ranger training. Being an adrenalin junky, I could understand his choices. I was amused when he told me he would be spending several months at Ft. Gordon, Georgia, near Augusta, the same place I underwent basic training sixty years ago. Has it really been that long, I mused.

  Needless to say, I am very proud of him. I think his parents are also very proud of him. In time they will readjust their lives as all parents must do when an only child leaves home. But, for now, all we can do is pray for safe passage through this adventure in a young manís life.


  Ralph Thomas is a Locust Grove resident and the author of Doing Great, but Getting Better and Getting Old Can be Fun.




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