Monday, September 10, 2012

It's not your father's Army...

...nor his country either. I've just returned from grandson Derek's Army Infantry "Turning Blue" and Advanced Individual Training (AIT) graduation exercises at Fort Benning, Georgia. It's been fifty years since I was last there doing a little training of my own, and I'm here to tell you that the place and the people are nothing like they were back in the day. Is there one enduring image that captures it all?  Sure.  How about several hundred moms, dads, siblings, and girlfriends around the perimeter cheering wildly as the newly minted Infantrymen galloped out of the barracks to 'form up' for the ceremony? The Army of today is definitely paying attention to the need to emphasize public relations in everything they do, as well they should.

Only four decades ago, such a scene would have been inconceivable.  We all know the reasons for that fact, or if we don't know, we should. Suffice it to say that Derek has now joined the 1% of his generation that has or ever will have any direct knowledge of military life, and he soon will also know something about service and sacrifice that the other 99% will never know.

On the way home from Georgia, I talked to another grandson, Henry, who is going to finish up at Amherst this December, and will probably be entering law school in September 2013. We talked about Derek's Infantry training and his ambitions relative to the Army.  Henry plays soccer at Amherst and is no stranger to strenuous exertion, so he shares an understanding of 'sucking it up' when your body's telling you to knock it off already. Henry and I talked about Derek's exposure to working side by side with contemporaries from all walks of life, about having to comply with anything his Drill Sergeant required of him whether it made any sense to him or not, and about the feeling of being a part of something bigger than yourself.

Then Henry said: "I'm not going to be doing anything between December and September.  You don't suppose I could go to Basic, do you?


A..Andrew said...

Well Henry's comment must have totally knocked your socks off!
It must have been quite a trip for you , but sounds like you're very proud of your grandson. And so you should be. As you say only 1% of the population knows what it means to serve their country in this way. I wish him well.

Larry Crane said...

Of course, there is no one best path for our youngsters to follow. Based on my exposure to the Army of today, I would say that the military service is definitely worth investigating. It's definitely not your father's Army.