September 21, 2006 was the day I remember as being the day I was forced to give away my son. I can somewhat understand how a father feels now, when he is asked to give his daughter away at the alter when she marries. My son was marrying the United States Army, and with a contract just over three years, his union will actually outlast some of the agreements made between husbands and wives down at the courthouse. The weather on September 21, 2006 reflected my spirit - it rained. I remember thinking the angels were crying right along with me while my Baby Boy stepped up to the podium to pose for the fake swearing in pictures that they do for those who have parents in the room. There were actually only two parents in the room and over 25 swearing in. That fact has hurt me, and has torn at my heart now for exactly one year.
Today my heart is healing from the separation I felt when my son kissed me, saluted me, and promised me he would protect me and my girls from any and all perils as long as he had breath in his body to do so. He is my hero. Today, the sun shines clearly and brightly, my soul rejoices from knowing that Reuben is protected, he has been making good choices, and he has become a man like no other man I could have hoped to have raised. What a difference one year makes. He went from being the star footballer on the high school team to becoming one of many many men and women who will probably remain nameless to so many, all dressed similiarly for a reason, wearing dusty green and brown ACUs, caps, boots, and that beautiful American flag flying on his right bicep. Only his name strip, badge, and rank separate him from every other member in the Force. But I know who he is. He is my son.
Funny, one year ago my son stood 6'3" and weighed about 230 pounds. He was green eyed, blond, and wore the smile that he has carried from the day he was born. Today, on paper, my son is 5'11" and about 190. He has brown hair and hazel eyes. I don't know how they did it, but the United States Army has severely altered my son's appearance. Something about being too tall for the tank he drives, but why change the color of his eyes? I guess someone wasn't gazing into them like a mom does, trying to see whether or not he's telling the full truth. Hazel's OK...I can live with that as long as they bring back all 6'3" of him in about 2 years and 4 months when the gig is up. Of course, he'll be signing up for the National Guard at that point....going to college, getting the teacher's certificate, teaching History, coaching football, barbequing in the backyard, and constantly making plans for protecting us, and maybe his own family at that point.
In one year's time my life has changed - progress is good.