Sunday, August 09, 2009
Once the pomp and ceremony of graduation was completed, he joined us for
the day. We ate, walked through the mall, saw a movie, and then ate again. He checked his balance in his bank account, and experimentally withdrew $20 of his pay, just because he could.
As we were walking through the mall, a cell phone salesman struck up a conversation with the young sailor fresh from boot camp, asking his about his division, et cetera. I started to warn him about these sales tactics, as he was listening and answering the questions politely, but warnings died on my lips as he assured me that he knew the guy was "just buttering me up".
"They warned us about that. On base. They talked to us a lot about something called 'predatory lending,' too."
He said that this weekend, they were forbidden to drink, smoke, get a tattoo, or sign a contract. He thoughtfully informed us that in the case of his death, we'd get a nice windfall, because of his life insurance.
He talked nonstop about all things Navy; in particular, he talked about how to put out fires. He talked about getting bronchitis, and how they took him to the VA and put him on bed rest for several days. My fears of the military chewing him up and spitting him out were allayed. They took care of him.
I asked him about the many women I'd seen at graduation. Some of them were tiny, barely 5 feet. He told me that some of them were under 5 feet, but they'd done the work, and that everyone treated them with respect - nobody picked on the girls. Everyone was treated fairly.
I asked him about the guy I nick-named "the sidler" who slid sideways up and down the rows when they stood in formation, leading with his shoulder.
"Oh, him - He's checking to see if anyone is about to pass out." He described people who got sick or dizzy when they stood in one place for too long. Nobody was thrashed, they were made to sit down.
He nodded and greeted other sailors walking through the mall with their families, and continued talking about the various simulations and drills they went through. He talked of the kids that could not pass the physical fitness tests, and the one that tried to climb over the wall, past the barbed wire, to get off the base, and another one who tried to run out the gate. Everything, all their training, eating, sleeping - was all done in one building, to simulate life on a ship.
"I don't know why they did that. I mean, was hard, but geeze, it wasn't that hard. I paid attention to everything. I learned a lot. I never really tried that hard in school, you know, so I had a lot of room in my brain." He recounted much of what he'd learned about military history.
He was happy when he saw us at graduation. He was happy when I hugged him good bye. He seemed anxious to be back on base a little earlier than his scheduled watch that evening, so that he wouldn't be caught late, but also to check out the recreation hall, which he hadn't been allowed to visit during boot camp. He didn't linger, but he didn't sprint away from us, either.
No longer Mini-Baboo, the kid whose name I didn't use of concerns of predators. He is an adult now. He is Seaman Jon, with 3 bars that I don't remember the meaning of on his sleeve. And I, his mother of a sailor, am relaxed.