On my son’s Induction Day at the Coast Guard Academy, after a heartfelt good-bye,I walked directly to the chapel and I made all sorts of promises to God if He would just watch over my son. My husband worried all that first summer as he was all too familiar with the physical challenges ahead of his son. I started to worry when classes started that fall. At a service academy, a student can be kicked out should your GPA fall under 2.0. All through his four years at USCGA, my son had consistently fluctuated between a 1.9 and a 2.1 and i consistently fluctuated between rosary beads and Tylenol P.M.
One day early in that first semester he saw the ocean racing team setting off down the Thames River for a weekend on the open ocean. Brian wanted nothing more than to go with them. Shortly after that, Brian had finagled his way onto the ocean racing team and stayed with it for the four years. My husband and I would drive up to Annapolis to meet him when the races were held there. Going to watch your son participate in ocean racing is like watching submarine races. They cast off early in the morning, and reappear around 4 or 5 that afternoon. But in the evenings Brian was ours, and we could take him out to dinner.
One weekend I sensed considerable unease in my son. Brian was grappling with Physics II the second time around, and from what he shared with us, we gathered he was uncertain of how this would turn out. Bookie’s roommate from the Naval Academy and his wife, Scott and Barb Krajnik, had invited the three of us to stay at their house in Saverna Park that weekend, and they joined us for dinner at a Mexican restaurant on Saturday night.
Brian was quiet , and so was I, watching him. But this was ok because Scott was making enough noise for all five of us as he reminisced with Bookie. I sat there and loved Scott for the evening he was giving us. When my husband is with this particular soul-mate from the Class of ‘73, there is a side to him that comes out that is just plain lovely to see. That deep bond of friendship between the two of them – the unabashed love they have for each other – warms all who happen to be with them. Brian has seen this intermittently over the years. Our wanderings with the Navy haven’t allowed us many long evenings over dinner with these good friends. But Brian witnessed it again that evening as listened to the tales of days long gone by, yet so similar to the world in which he was now immersed.
A couple of days after that weekend, Bookie got an email from Brian . In the spare bedroom Brian had slept in, he had spotted one of the black velvet-covered cases that he knew usually held medals. It was on the floor of the spare room, thrown among some other stuff. Brian had taken a look inside, and saw a Legion of Merit Award. He knew this was a highly coveted award, and not given out frequently. This young cadet was quite impressed. He asked his father to tell him what Scott had done to receive such a prestigious award. And why would he just leave it there? Bookie replied, telling him in the first paragraph the reason Scott had received the Legion of Merit. In the second paragraph, Bookie told his son not to be too much concerned about medals.
Book has a couple of those medals, but own son didn’t know about them.
During the following Christmas leave, over lunch with Brian, I told him about his father’s medals. He did not say much. He listened intently as I spoke, paused for a moment of silence, and then silently nodded his head in acknowledgement – a reaction to information that has increased in my son the more time he has spent at USCGA. He then told me about how his grades were going – not good – but he hoped that his military ranking would help him out. Brian was now in his third year, but he had never spoken of a military ranking. I asked him what that number was. When he told me, I asked him to please tell his father this, as it would mean so much to him.
He said no. “How can I do that, Mom? Dad doesn’t even talk about his medals.”
Over the years, I have lectured both my sons till I was blue in the face trying to tell them how to do things right. Bookie has quietly walked through his life – good days and bad days – as a living example to his sons of how to do things right. Just as Scott has done for his daughters, Jack Rush for his children, Howard Sidman for his – the list goes on and on and it covers all those people I have come to know so well as the 16th Company, Class of ’73.
The day after graduation, Brian is flying to Florida to attend his best friend’s wedding. This gives me almost as much joy as his graduation itself. The lessons have been learned. When all is said and done, it is the friendships with which he leaves on that much-longed for graduation day that will serve him best. This bond of friendship will only deepen between the two of them , and the unabashed love they have for each other will warm all who happen to be with them.