Number three graduates from basic and hiking past challenges

A couple weeks ago I visited Fort Benning, Georgia to attend my 3rd child’s graduation from basic training – US Army.

At Fort Benning with Chris

I wrote a little about “the boy” in “It’s On! and The Heart of the Child” – and I won’t go into much more detail at this point.. However, I’ll reflect a bit on the time in Atlanta and moments that I’ll remember.

Georgia in a nutshell

It visited with my first ex-wife (EX001). I have an EX002 and decided to use a number system that left room for 997 more.

Our oldest son joined us – his bus arriving at the Atlanta airport almost exactly as we left the terminal to get our rental car. This rather opportune timing is significant. Had he been even 10 minutes later, we would have missed the blue cord ceremony.

Blue Cord & Timing

Army graduation took place on Friday, but Thursday was Family Day. The day starts with the Blue Cord ceremony. I had misread (or not read carefully) the time of the ceremony – which was scheduled for 9:00AM.

The day before we flew to Atlanta, Chris had called and left me a message. He expressed how he wanted me to affix the blue cord to his dress blues. The blue cord is a special ceremony and symbol given only to infantry as the front-line soldiers.

We had taken the red-eye, arriving in Atlanta at 7:20am. Between getting the car and the hour and half drive down to Ft. Benning, I was certain we would miss the ceremony.

We pulled into Ft. Benning around 10:00am and his unit was in formation on a large blacktop. My oldest son told me to get out and he would park the car. Chris’s mom and I rushed to the area – a volunteer explained they had NOT yet presented their blue cords. And this is when the tears started for me.

We found Chris and he saw us – and this is when his tears started.

I had the privilege of attaching the blue cord to my soldier son’s uniform.

infantry blue cord

The graduation on Friday was held at the Infantry Museum in Columbus Georgia. The grounds there are amazing and it was a nice ceremony – but both my son and I agree that the moment the day prior was more significant.

Thank God for timing!

Matt, do you worry?

I’ve been asked that a lot lately. I suppose with the state of the world, I should worry. As of yet, I don’t worry about my boy and war. I worry about my boy and the world in general.

The unfortunate truth is that the military is necessary but we, in the US, live in such comfort and relative safety, that many have no stomach for or understanding of the moral need for our military. There is a misguided notion that all warriors and all causes are the same – just two sides to the same coin.

I worry that, my son, must endure the philosophical dismissiveness that places theory above practice, and relegates military service as having little or no value.

As far as war – well, if he is deployed to an active battle area, I’ll worry. At this point, I am simply proud that he made it through basic…. something I failed to do.

Rock Force!

Stone Mountain, the KKK, and Hiking

I’ve visited Atlanta a few times. Each time, when “Googling” the area, I would see pictures of Stone Mountain – a large quartz dome that rises almost 1,000 feet above the surrounding area.

During our visit, we stayed with some friends we have not seen in several years and took a day to visit Stone Mountain.

The place has some southern history – for sure. It’s a state park now, but it was the site of KKK cross burnings and contains the largest bas relief in the world. As someone with southern roots, it was interesting.

They have a laser show that is projected against the North Face of the mountain – very well done with homage paid to southern roots, but also a recognition of the need for change and reconciliation.

However, hiking the mountain was the highlight for me.

No long explanation.. but I had the pleasure of hiking up with our friend’s daughter. 18 years ago, when she was born with cerebral palsy, her parents were told she would likely never walk. Oops! Wrong answer!

My son went ahead – running up the mountain – but she and I proceeded to pretty much kick Stone Mountain’s ass – impressing her Dad and Mom in the process. Her excitement at reaching the peak was as emotional for me as the blue cord ceremony.

My eldest doing a handstand on Stone Mountain

Rock Force!

Next Steps

We returned home and for a couple days, I had all 4 kids at the house. That doesn’t happen enough.

#3 is off to basic. #2 is back to Phoenix. #1 is in Michigan.

That leaves “the girl” (#4) and I in Los Angeles.

And I’m left with these thoughts!

  1. I need to try to be present more for my children’s significant events!
  2. When told you cannot do something – seriously, work to kick the mountain’s ass. Even if you don’t make it all the way, you might surprise yourself. And.… you might make it all the way.
  3. Skeletons and family history are just that, history. It doesn’t make you who you are – your actions do that – so embrace the history as a reference point, not as a definition.

Oh.. we ran down Stone Mountain – a rather jarring but exciting mile and a half. Four days later, I threw my back out! No grand lesson, just annoying!

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