Memorial Day has always meant a lot to me, though it has not held any personal connection. I have not had any close relatives who have served in the military in time of peace or war so I have no real tangible connection to our armed servicemen and women. As a patriot and a student of history, however, I recognize the sacrifice of those who have served and it touches me deeply.
That has been my perspective, my perch from which I viewed Memorial Day. This year, however, my perspective has changed somewhat.
My oldest son has made the decision to join the Air Force. He has been working his way through college with the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor but has decided that he wants to spend the next four years as a pararescue jumper in the Air Force before completing his degree. These soldiers are a combination of flight medic (which appeals to Jeffrey greatly) and Special Forces soldier. They provide aid in humanitarian and combat environments and even serve NASA missions and have been used to recover astronauts after water landings. The motto of USAF Pararescue is “That Others May Live,” and this fits my son’s mantra perfectly.
It did not come as a great shock to me when he decided to enlist, but I was mildly surprised. I shouldn’t have been. He’s as strong mentally as he is physically and has a thirst for new challenges and adventure that I have recognized in him for years. He grew up in McKinney so we haven’t moved very far but he wants to see the world and this could give him that opportunity. He has the hunger to experience life, a hunger which will serve him well in the years to come.
I’m proud of his decision, but I am also scared for my son. We’re a tight-knit family unit and I realize the dangers he faces in the next four years. This is a monumental decision fraught with peril. He could die, it’s that simple. I’ve sat down and spoken with him about his decision and the risks involved all the while supporting his decision. He’s young and invincible (or so he thinks) but he recognizes the danger.
I’m not facing anything that countless other families have already dealt with, but it’s very real, nonetheless. Now all those AP news stories about slowing down troop withdrawls, unrest in the Ukraine and North and South Korea firing on each other hit a lot closer to home. These aren’t just problems for other people to deal with, these could land on my front step, so to speak.
With that in mind, Armed Forces Day (May 17) and Memorial Day took on a whole new meaning in the Williams household this year.