Clippings: A true native son to fill the ranks

I’ve always been proud of my family’s contributions in the military. They’re all gone now, so I have no choice but to acknowledge their service through cherished keepsakes: A pair of McClellan 1859 Union Army cavalry saddlebags from ancestor Henry Parke. A Silver Star medal my Grandpa Fred earned during the Battle of the Bulge in World War II. My grandpa Max’s straight-edge razor, uniform patches and an autographed photo of then-touring actress Ida Lupino from his service in Saipan, also during WWII. A photo of my dad, a Vietnam War-era veteran, smartly attired in his U.S. Navy dress whites.
The same kind of pattern of service has been true on my wife Dottie’s side of the family, including her dad, uncles and a brother.
I’ve felt kind of sheepish through my adult years for having been the member of the family to break a pretty long run of continuous military service. Sure, I registered for the draft in 1980 as I was supposed to, but was never called. Always intent on pursuing a career in journalism, I wasn’t sure Stars & Stripes could give me the training I was looking for.
I took a pass, while feeling immensely grateful to those who served and sacrificed in my place.
So it’s with a whirlwind of emotions that I report our son, Mark, will soon become one of those who’ll be taking my place.
He’ll soon head off to boot camp as an enlistee with the Vermont Air National Guard.
A new link in a chain that will hopefully extend into a period of unparalleled peacetime in world history.
The move made good sense to Mark, who’s always been a helper and a doer. His Uncle Steven Heffernan has been a Vermont Air Guard member for more than two decades, and was able to provide Mark with a testimonial and encouragement. So when Mark saw a chance to help his country, save some money for school bills and receive training as a medic, he signed up after some careful consideration.
As a parent, you feel a great sense of pride tempered by some understandable trepidation.
Will he be safe? Will he be called to a war zone at a moment’s notice? How will he take the hollering, heat and pressure of basic training in Texas? How will I avoid becoming a wreck during long communication blackouts mandated during his initial sojourn with Uncle Sam?
Needless to say, I’ve found myself paying closer attention to national news these days. Ecstatic that North and South Koreas are becoming friendlier, but wishing “bigly” that someone would pull the plug on our Commander in Chief’s Twitter account. Wincing every time I hear about a troop transport plane mishap. Grateful for the protections offered to service men and women both here and abroad. Looking forward to becoming a member of the Vermont Air Guard’s extended family.
While concerned for my son, I’m a little envious about the adventures and camaraderie he’ll share. Proud of him and the medical care he’ll be providing, something he’s already been doing as an EMT.
There’ll be a tear in my eye when we wish Mark farewell. But it won’t be shed in sadness.
Godspeed, Mark.

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