My oldest son, Ross, graduated from high school in June. He told me, in June, like he’s been telling me all through high school, that he didn’t want to go to college. He got a job working construction. He loves to build stuff.
One rainy day, after slogging through thick mud pushing a wheelbarrow full of cement, he came home and said he didn’t think he wanted to do that for the rest of his life.
Goody! Can we talk about college again?
No. He wanted to talk about the military again. He’s been talking about the military for four years. And I’ve been crying about it for four years. I’ve had a few not-so-friendly run-ins with military recruiters. And I’ve bothered the principal of the high school a few times about all those military recruiters up at the school. Why, why, why must they let them come there? Leave my little boy alone! Don’t they know these are children? Recruiters would send stuff in the mail and I would throw it out. I’m a mother. I like my child just how he is, with all his arms and legs attached. At one point, Ross asked me to sign him into the military when he was 17, when it requires a parent signature.
Are you kidding? My grandmother signed my father’s little brother into the Marines when he was 17, during World War II, and he was killed on a Pacific Island. So. I don’t think so.
But Ross was 18 and he had already scheduled an appointment with a Navy recruiter to go to Beckley (West Virginia), a couple of hours south, to the military entrance processing station there. What? I asked him what else he’d done without telling me. ARE YOU MARRIED? (No. Whew.) The Navy recruiter called the next day and I grilled him. He almost made me feel like it might be okay. Like I have a choice. My son is 18. Do they not know that is still a child?
Ross wanted to be a Seabee. He loves construction! He had taken the ASVAB (general military entrance exam). Only when he went to Beckley to sign up, there were no positions available in the Seabees. In fact, it’s not so easy to get into the military these days. The past year’s economy has created quite a backlog in the military for new enlistees. The military is very appealing in poor economic times.
Oh, happy day! No more military. Only. There were two jobs needing enlistees in the Navy. That would be Navy SEALs and nukes (the nuclear program). SEALs and nukes are in demand because these are positions that require high qualifications.
I actually have some experience and knowledge about Navy nukes. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was a Navy wife. I was married to a nuclear submariner. (He was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina, though he ported out of King’s Bay, Georgia.) He was, in fact (of course), Ross’s father.
To be a Navy nuke is prestigious–and difficult. It requires a six-year enlistment due to the two-year educational training. There are big bonuses and advanced pay grades. It’s rigorous and only the smartest of the smart get in there.
Ross threw the Seabees out the window, since nothing was available there. He was bound and determined to join the Navy. He didn’t want to be a SEAL, though. He’d do that nuke thing. That’d be fine. The Navy recruiter took another glance at his less-than-stellar high school transcripts, which didn’t include classes like, say, PHYSICS, and told him that he didn’t think that was going to work out.
Ross + high school = girls + cars
Sorry, there wasn’t much time (OR ANY) for that studying thing. Or taking real classes.
His ASVAB score wasn’t that high and he’d have to take the separate nuclear test and pass it with flying colors. The Navy recruiter advised against it. Maybe a job requiring less qualification would come up. Ross decided he’d take the nuke test.
He went home and asked his 11th-grade football-playing little brother to explain physics to him. (His 11th-grade football-playing brother actually takes real classes in high school and pays attention.) Another job in the Navy, requiring less qualification, did come up. The recruiter called. Ross refused it. He went back to Beckley and took the nuke test.
And passed it.
Only he didn’t pass it very high, so if he was going to get in the nuke program, he was going to have to go back yet again and re-take the ASVAB and make a very high score to qualify.
The Navy recruiter said he’d never had anyone re-take the ASVAB and improve their score. At all. Much less, by a significant margin, which was what Ross needed to do.
He thought he was wasting his time.
On a boy who didn’t even take physics in high school, or anything past the basic required maths.
And he gave Ross two weeks to prepare.
I cried a little bit more then I bought Ross a study book. Ross decided to learn everything there was to know about physics in two weeks. (Teenagers are SO FUNNY.) And I decided that if he could really make it into the Navy’s nuclear program, I was okay. It’s safe. He’ll be living in a submarine and sleeping on a shelf. I’ve been inside a Navy submarine. I was a Navy wife. This, I know. It’s not Afghanistan.
Ross took the study book in hand and said, “I don’t know how to study. I can’t remember the last time I studied.”
Me: “Well, IT WASN’T IN HIGH SCHOOL, WAS IT?”
Yesterday, he went back to Beckley and re-took the ASVAB. He scored so high, if he’d done that the first time around, he wouldn’t have even had to take the separate nuke test.
There’s no turning back. His signature is on the dotted line. He is scheduled for boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois and two years of nuclear school in Charleston, South Carolina, to be followed by four years of sea duty. There is a total six-year commitment. He volunteered for submarines.
HE’S IN THE NAVY NOW.
Holding the envelope with his enlistment contract.
Boot camp ship date: June 17, 2010.
I’m proud of him.