Dear Tazi Kat:
My wonderful grandson is about to make the biggest mistake of his life! He is turning 18 next month, is set to graduate high school in May, and has decided that school is not for him and that he wants to join the military. He will sign now, and they will take him away after he graduates this spring. I just know he will be sent overseas to fight and die in some foreign country for U.S. oil interests! How in the world can I talk him out of this decision?
“Joey” has never been the best student, but that is because he does not apply himself to his studies. He has always preferred having a good time to studying, so his grades do not reflect his true potential. I have offered to pay for his continued education at a community college, until his grades are high enough to get into a better school, but he has refused my offer. Joey says that the Navy will give him the kind of education that he cannot get from a schoolbook; that it will help him to become a man; and that maybe after his tour of duty is up he will be ready to return to school for a degree – on the G.I. bill, so his education will be free.
I asked Joey point-blank if he was trying to run away from trouble, but he denied any problems and insisted that his decision to enlist is of his own free will. I reminded him that his girlfriend might not be willing to wait for a man who might not come home, but he brushed off that concern, too. There is just no getting through to the boy! Again, Tazi-Kat, how in the world can I talk my grandson out of this devastatingly bad decision?
Dear Nay-saying Nana:
At almost 18, your grandson is no longer a “boy”, but a man – albeit a young one – who is capable of making his own decisions. The decision that “school is not for him” is not one that was made overnight, but through years of required education to which he has not “applied himself”. To send him to community college is to attempt to extend an adolescence that your grandson is currently happy to leave behind.
The decision to enlist in the military is a scary one for families to face, especially in a time of world-wide political unrest. If it comforts you at all, remember that countries with “U.S. oil interests” are landlocked, and do not sponsor a national Navy of their own [Ed. Note: This is what Tazi's Mommie's cousin told her to stop her from worrying so much when he was deployed to the Gulf]. This is not to say that your grandson will not face danger as a Seaman in the U.S. Navy; but it is his free-will choice to risk that danger in order to protect the United States and our interests overseas. If I were his grandparent, I would be proud of his decision to put country above self.
I am afraid there is no talking your grandson out of his decision to enlist in the Navy; but there are ways for you to come to terms with his decision and to learn to be more supportive of it – even if you honestly believe it is a “devastatingly bad” one. There are many support groups for the family members our military members leave back home when they report for service, including Operation Home Front for the families of soldiers deployed overseas and the National Military Family Association, to name a few.
In time, the uncertainty of where your grandson will be stationed and what he will be doing will melt away when a structured daily routine develops. Use this time before your grandson’s official leave date to speak to him about his goals, and what he hopes the Navy will do for him. Listen with an open mind, and an open heart, and do your best to be supportive of him. Once you educate yourself about what awaits your grandson, you may find yourself feeling a sense of pride as opposed to a sense of dread. I wish you both nothing but the best!