Thursday of this week will see me traveling to Great Lakes, Illinois. I haven’t been there since February 8, 1973. My nephew is due to Pass in Review. He’s been at Great Lakes Recruit Training Center since late June. Tom signed up on a delayed enlistment plan in January. Since then a young man I hardly knew because we’re usually separated by hundreds of miles has constantly been in my thoughts and prayers. I called him the night before he left and talked briefly with him and let him know that I’d be praying for him. I’ve sent him 7 letters and a postcard since he’s been in Boot Camp. I know from being there that “mail call” can be a lonely time. I’ve done my best to lighten his load and encourage him along the path to his new career. Whether Tom stays in the Navy for four or thirty-four years one thing is for certain now, he’ll never be the same again. Boot camp is one of those rights of passage that young men and women go through that set them apart from their peers. It is designed to be that way. He has metamorphosed from a civilian with a distinct individuality into a member of a military unit where each person is part of a great whole.
This journey to Great Lakes is part of a larger journey which Tom’s enlistment has been for me. It’s been a journey into my own past and a better insight into my own experience of the United States Navy. Thirty-six years ago on the 13th of October 1972, I led the division onto the field carrying the American flag. I got the honor because I’m tall and I had a good military bearing. I get goose bumps just thinking about standing again at a place where my own Navy journey began. So much has changed in these past 36 years and yet so much remains the same. I’m as anxious as a nineteen year old once more except I know now how it turned out. I did well. I excelled and I hope the same for Tom and his shipmates. One thing is for certain as they pass in review there will be one old sailor with a lump in his throat, a tear in his eye and a chest filled with a healthy sense of pride for this new group of sailors about to become part of the greatest navy in the history of the world.