Posted on

‘Always ready, always there’




Evening Times Editor

My daughter graduated from the Academies of West Memphis last Friday night. She, along with the rest of the Class of 2024, received their diplomas and now they are getting ready for the next stage of their lives.

For some, that’s college. For others that’s entering the workforce. Others might take a “skip year” and see the world. Some might get married and start a family, go to trade school, or, let’s be honest, just sit at home at Mom and Dad’s and try to figure some stuff out.

A few days before graduation, the school had its annual Honors Banquet for the graduating seniors who received some kind of scholarship. There were representatives from several colleges and universities on hand to officially “sign” their latest freshmen.

Also on hand were representatives from some of our armed services to congratulate the newest recruits into the Army, Navy and National Guard who had received college scholarships as part of their joining the military, including one young lady who is friends with my daughter. She was receiving the Minuteman Scholarship, which is basically a free college education in exchange for a number of years of service in the National Guard. A pretty cool deal, I thought.

Until my daughter’s eyes lit up.

I did not serve in the military (although I get asked about it from time to time because of the way I wear my hair). I was considering it and was being recruited pretty heavily my senior year, but then the Gulf War broke out and my Mom wouldn’t let me go (I’m only sort of kidding). But my Dad was in the Army. Several of my cousins and uncles served in the military. My Uncle Ralph was a Marine and was killed in Vietnam, so there’s a military legacy of sorts in my family that I’m very proud of.

“I should do that,” my daughter said quietly as we sat in the audience.

“Yeah, I don’t know about that,” I said. She’s already going all the way to Fayetteville for college. Who knows where a military adventure might send her.

That was it. After the presentations, there was a luncheon, but I skipped out on that to get back to work. However, on the way back, I got a text from my wife, who stayed for the luncheon.

“Terra wants to join the National Guard,” she said.

“Yeah, she told me,” I replied, along with a little “smirk” emoji.

A few minutes later I got another text.

“We’re going to talk to the recruiters,” my wife wrote.

And that’s how my fivefoot- nothing daughter got into the National Guard. It wasn’t entirely out of the blue. We had talked about it maybe a year or so ago, but that was about it. But she said she really felt the call to serve and thought it would be a good experience for her. Plus, she’ll have college completely paid for and have money on top of that “for just two weekends a month” like the old commercials used to say.

And if she decides to make a career of it, she’ll come out of college an officer and can retire after 20 years will full benefits. It’s not necessarily the path one envisions when raising a daughter, but it’s her life and her decision and she’s the kind of person who is going to be a success no matter what direction she goes in life, so I’m kind of excited to see where this take her… as long as she remembers to come home from time to time.

The news that she would be joining the National Guard spread throughout our friends and family circle over the next few days to a decidedly mixed reaction. Some folks said it was a great idea while others reacted like she told them she was going to the Dark Side of the Moon or joining a cult. Her oldest brother was aghast. His baby sister in the military?

Not gonna lie… it’s a little strange to even wrap my head around it. I mean, I guess it makes sense in a lot of ways. She has always been part of one “team” or another, whether it was softball, volleyball, band, the youth group at church, or part of the Girls Club, so I guess this is a natural transition. Only now she’ll be playing for Team U.S.A. and they won’t just be playing games.

I guess the only thing to do now is get a hat or a t-shirt or something that says, “Proud National Guard Dad” or something. By the way, the title of this column is the National Guard motto. Full disclosure: I had to look it up. It’s not as well known as “Be all that you can be,” or “We’re looking for a few food men,” or “First ones in, last ones out,” but it’s pretty cool.

And I’m sure when the time comes for her to go “there,” she’ll be “ready” to serve.

Scroll Up