Rite of Passage

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by Uncle Elmer on May 28, 2012

My son received his Selective Service notice a few days ago. Like most young men, he didn’t know what it was. I handed it to him and intoned “You’re a man now.”

Inserted in the mailer were several leaflets advertising opportunities in the “New Military”.

My own military service was laughable. During Army Basic, my old man showed up, and as several of us were out on the parade ground cleaning our M-16s he reminisced about field stripping his M-1 while blindfolded during his boot camp training in 1942. It was a small moment of bonding in our often contentious relationship as his idiot son demonstrated a sliver of responsibility and manhood.

During my stay at Fort Knox, the Drill Instructors warned us about where to crap during bivouac : “Your daddies and grand-daddies shit all over these woods….”. Many years later when I researched my genealogy I found out it was true, the Elmerson clan had deep roots in American military history, and had indeed shit all over the woods of Fort Knox and surrounding environs.

I didn’t join the Army out of any patriotic fervor, it was just an option for a useless young man aspiring to be a “jazz-rock” musician. College was not in my life plan at that time, being a superstar was. I went “Airborne” because Jimi Hendrix had been a paratrooper, and planned to fake a back injury after I got my “wings” so I could get out and put it on my resume.  The Army predictably sucked for me but provided time for me to realize I had no musical talent, so on discharge used my GI Bill to pay for school. Even that I mis-managed and slogged my way towards a degree. At any rate I finally attained it and it has paid off in the years since. In retrospect I could have done it all in a lot less time and trouble than I made for myself.

As for my sons, I don’t advocate either way on the military. It can be a good deal if you understand your options and what you are getting into. The military really does provide a lot of educational opportunities that many fail to avail themselves of. One may get a decent assignment or stuck in a miserable situation and that will affect one’s attitude, however, long-term benefits and options are available if you research them. In my day, the recruiter might only hand you a few brochures and little useful advice. These days you have the internet; don’t walk in and announce you wanna be “Airborne”, or, a “Navy SEAL” for crying out loud because they have a special lever for guys like you that lands them right in some shit. There are plenty of other military jobs that provide work satisfaction and you should find out about them and compare against your innate skills and interests. Furthermore, your initial first years are a heavy investment. If you simply depart the service with no continued military career plans, you will have lost some of this significant effort.

Now, I didn’t want to make this another post about Elmer. Just two cents on Memorial Day while trying to pass some pointers on to my son minus the bitterness and cynicism.



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