I’ve waffled back and forth whether to post the letter that I recently wrote to my son Brooks upon the occasion of receiving his wings as a Naval Aviator. On the one hand, it WAS a letter written to my son…not necessarily to the world. But, on the other hand, this IS my blog, where I write about my life and my view of the world. So, although it seems a private thing, I decided my message to my son was an appropriate entry in my blog. It conveys my state of mind, emotions and view of the journey that Brooks has been on for these past several years…..
November 3, 2010
I sit on this small airplane, as it takes off from Dallas and heads east to Pensacola, FL. We arc into the sky and I think about how happy I will be to see you at the end of this particular journey. It has been a while since you and I have had time for ourselves, to be together and enjoy each other’s company.
I don’t believe I’ve ever been a guest at your house, before!
Because of whom I am (or rather should I say how I am), I know the message I want to give you at this momentous time of your life would be better delivered in the written form than the spoken word. I wouldn’t be able to speak these words to you without becoming emotional. So, I write….
I remember the Sunday before you left home to enlist in the US Navy. You were only 17 years old, and I will admit that at the time I felt cheated out of your last year at home. You decided to finish high school during the summer between your Junior and Senior years, and convinced us to allow you to enlist in the military. I was not very happy about not only having you leave home too soon, but also embarking on this journey that I was afraid was too impulsively begun.
At the end of the service that morning at church, you, your father and I went to the altar to pray. We prayed for the Lord’s protection upon you as you left home to begin your adult life. I remember telling the Lord that we understood that you were never ours to keep and that you belonged to Him always. We thanked Him for giving us the privilege and often challenging responsibility of your life, and hoped that you would never abandon the life lessons that we tried to teach you while you were in our care.
And then, you were gone.
It has been ten years since that day, and I hardly can believe that is the case. When I look at the man that you have become, I can truthfully say that our prayers that day have been honored. You have become a young man of honor, kindness and determination. Your strength of character has been honed by difficulty and trial. You have developed a moral code that has become the axis of your heart and mind. You are considerate of others and have learned the value of grace.
You have learned so many lessons beyond what we could have taught you during your childhood years. You have learned what it means to dream of possibilities, and to choose a destiny. You have learned that you really can accomplish anything that you put your mind to. You have learned the value of a determined work ethic, and enjoyed the rewards of pressing on and not allowing anything to turn you from your path. You have experienced the truth that a life is built one decision at a time, and that every choice has a consequence.
And while I am thinking about life lessons learned, I believe that you have recently learned this lesson: We don’t know the scope of our influence during this life, and we must take every opportunity to shine the light for others who may not have had the opportunity to experience that light. The most important message we can live is that there is always Hope, that we are never completely alone, and that there is One who loves us more than we can ever understand. I believe if we can live this message, then our lives will have fulfillment and purpose and we will never experience regret at the end of our time here on this earth.
On Friday, November 5, 2010 you will receive your “wings” as a US Naval Aviator. This ceremony is not simply the culmination of 18 months of flight school. The significance of this event has been around 6.5 or 7 years in the making. It is the arrival at the end of this journey (and the beginning of a new journey) that we will celebrate with you on that day.
Your journey began when you realized (once enlisted) that it would be better to be an officer in the Navy than an enlisted sailor. So you decided to research the options available to you to become an officer. You pursued the option of obtaining an appointment to the US Naval Academy, beginning with setting up interviews with the necessary officials in Washington and beginning the process. You ended up not receiving just one nomination, but three, and were awarded an appointment to the US Naval Academy.
Because you had been out of school by then for a few years, your journey to the Academy began at the US Naval Academy Prep school in Newport, Rhode Island. You spent one year there, preparing for the rigorous course ahead. You learned what life at the Academy would be like both academically and in discipline.
Then, you arrived in Annapolis, MD and took the pledge as a “plebe” to declare your purpose for the next four years. It was during these years that most of the life lessons mentioned before were learned. Even when the outcome was not sure, you made the commitment to continue your course, hoping that in the end you would earn your first choice selection as a pilot in the US Navy.
Graduation day in May 2008 was a highlight of your life, and most certainly of ours. I know that you know how proud we were of you and your accomplishment, but I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to have experienced that day. Added to our pride was our knowledge of the sacrifice of years and of self in military service that you (and your fellow graduates) were giving to us and to our country.
Your journey continued after graduation as you waited months and months for flight school to begin. And finally, you have completed that training and are poised to begin your service as a US Naval aviator, flying your beloved helicopters and serving your country in any way through which you are called.
So, Brooks, I hope that this letter can give you some insight on all of the love and pride and gratefulness I am feeling when I regard you and your life and the person that you have become. I hope that some day you will have the great honor of regarding your own son with such emotions and knowledge that his life has been directed by a Hand that was surer than the human example of his own parents.
I love you and I wish you joy and fulfillment as you begin the next chapter, and pray for safety and mercy for you and all of your comrades-in-arms (so to speak.)