Before I deployed, about 2 months ago, I was shopping at Ralphs, the local grocery store. I was in uniform, having just come from base. Out of the store, I bustled, with my heavy, plastic bags biting into my hands.
As I exited, I pushed past a small group of people. Someone grabbed my arm and I turned.
Excuse me, are you in the Navy? a serious-looking lady asked me.
Yes. I smiled
This is my son, Connor. He is seven years old. You want to join the Navy, right Connor?
A shy, skinny boy stared up at me with a steady gaze and nodded.
You want to join the Navy? I asked.
He nodded again and stepped towards me. His eyes stared at my uniform as if he was already a Sailor. As if he already knew what it meant.
As long as I can remember he has wanted to get in the Navy, his mother added.
I shook my head. I always find this amazing. I’ve had so many jobs in my life, I’m always surprised when I hear someone knows exactly what they want to do. Hell, I’ve been in the Navy for more than a decade and I am not entirely sure I want to do it as a career. (Just kidding, I love it. Me and Navy, we’re one.) But I don’t tell this to them. That is great, I said instead.
Would you tell my son what it takes to be in the Navy? You know, what traits. And she gave me that secret nod. That go-ahead nod that mothers world-wide have perfected.
I put down my groceries. Dedication, honesty, and courtesy. You can’t disrespect anyone. You can’t tell lies. Always be on time. Listen to your mother, your elders.
You hear that Connor? She turned to me. Thank you so much. . .
I am going to give you something, Connor. I pulled the frogs off my Aircrew wings and slipped them off my uniform. And I gave them to the boy.
Those are real wings, his mom cautioned him. He turned them over in his hand, his eyes shining.
Give him a salute, Connor.
He lined up and readied his right hand at his side. Carefully, he folded two fingers under his thumb. And then he snapped a crisp Cub Scout salute at me. I brought my feet together and popped off a tough one too. And then I dropped it.
Thanks, that just made my day, I told the mother. I shook her hand and picked up my groceries. Kid is going to steal my job someday, I thought. But whatever happens in these tumultuous times, we will be okay if we have more Connors around. . .