Bweinh! Goes To Boot Camp — Graduation

August 12, 2007, 8:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Articles, Job  | 2 Comments

Bweinh!’s own Job Tate went through training to become a Seabee in the US Navy.
Read his dispatches here: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 6 | Graduation

“I am a United States Sailor.
I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.”

–The Sailor’s Creed

I went through almost all of boot camp thinking no one would make it to my graduation. At 27, I was pretty ancient, had already had a college graduation, and had enjoyed my family’s unwavering support in every last arena of life. So I didn’t want anyone to trouble themselves and come all the way to Chicago just to watch me stand at attention for 90 minutes.

I took the necessary steps to order my mother a copy of my portrait and a DVD of the ceremony. I knew my family — thoroughly and passionately patriotic — was completely behind me and all 774 squids in my graduating class. But a few days before graduation, as I was able to once again ply my body with a Pepsi and watch my shoulders begin to relax in the presence of my drill instructors, I learned in a phone call that my parents and two dear family friends would be attending. I felt bad, sharply bad, that I hadn’t done enough to dissuade them from troubling themselves with such a long drive and change in schedule, to convince them it wasn’t important to me.

It rained the morning of my graduation. Poured, actually, and we had to march to the drill hall with our pantlegs tucked into our socks so they wouldn’t get muddy; new sailors navigating their first bodies of water that collected in potholes. But suddenly, the sun, suddenly, formation, and suddenly, the bay doors opened and we marched in, to the loudest din of cheering I have ever heard.

And suddenly, I felt overwhelmed by the joy of knowing my folks were there. How could I ever have entertained the notion of convincing them not to come? They were there at a naval base — viewing as much a chapter of their lives as mine. Their youngest son, in the uniform of the nation they had so dutifully prayed, worked and grieved for. I felt the generations they represent; the Midwest work ethic and the New England sense of duty they embody. My expired grandfolks, my siblings, the nieces and nephews. And the fact that I stood there, foremost, as the Christian man they had raised without respect for compromise, was perfectly satisfying and ratifying.

Boot camp was, far and away, the greatest challenge of my life. A salad of physical, emotional and mental trauma, voluntarily placed on me at an age when independence had begun to take alarming, unrelenting root inside me. A set of stories that would take me years to tell. But all of it was punctuated in a morning ritual, practiced every Friday in Great Lakes, Illinois, where Americans come from all over to see their sons and daughters become sailors. I saluted a thousand times that morning — admirals, captains and the Stars and Stripes. My drill instructors, guests of honor and the commanding officer. Dutiful, proud, respectful salutes, all of them.

But it wasn’t until I was relieved, hugged and shook my way to the side door, bounced up the stairs like a 5-year-old, and found them smiling at the top, was able to salute my Mom and Dad — my neckerchief shamefully askew — that I felt the deepest sense of pride wash over me.

I will serve this country with incredible energy. I will make and take any steps necessary to ensure I only and ever do the right thing. But I know, without compromise, that I will fill this uniform as the believer my parents raised me to be. The American, sailor, Seabee — sunburnt, cold, discouraged, heady, laughing and proud — colored boldly by the means of my parents. Those agents and deputies of Christ.

As much a chapter of their life as it is mine.


2 Comments to “Bweinh! Goes To Boot Camp — Graduation”

  1. David on August 13th, 2007 1:44 pm

    You have my heartfelt congratulations. You are truly an amazing person.

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