Partly because of my job and more so because we have four children, I have always tried to keep up with what’s happening in culture and with young people. Following what is trending, whether in the entertainment industry, music business, books or fashion, I have tried to at least know is out there.
Sadly, most of the time I am dismayed and frightened about what influences are so pervasive and how young people seem to embrace what all too often is depraved. I am certainly no prude and struggle tirelessly not to be judgmental. Still, my overall opinion is that the current culture leaves much to be desired.
After hearing that rather depressing intro, let me assure you that I am about to introduce you to a young man who offers all of us hope for the future.
Recently I was talking to a new friend and the all too familiar subject of children came up. Danielle Gustaveson told me about her 14-year-old son, Colton Bugay. As soon as she began, I knew I had to meet this remarkable young man.
Danielle explained that Colton has been fascinated with the military since he was 3 years old. His cousin joined the Army, and Colton went on a tour of the Army base. They got him an “official” uniform and even dog tags with his personal information engraved.
Every year he wanted a new uniform. Danielle said she just thought it was a passing phase. As it turned out, Colton’s love of the military was anything but a passing phase.
When I met Colton, he was decked out in camouflage. He told me about his visit to his cousin’s Army base and how his enthusiasm for the military has increased over the years.
The events of Sept. 11, 2001, profoundly affected his feelings, Colton said.
“Even though I was really young, I began thinking about strategies and things I would do to help keep our nation safe,” he said.
Danielle said it was “mind-blowing” to hear her little boy talk about such things.
“He loved spending time with his grandfather, Ray Nelson, who was a Marine veteran of the Vietnam War, until he passed away a few years ago,” Danielle said.
Colton said he loves spending time with veterans of all ages and listening to their experiences. How heartening it is to hear of someone so young appreciating our brave soldiers whether they are active duty or not.
Danielle tried to get Colton into the ROTC program. It wasn’t offered at his school, and she was unsuccessful when she tried to get him redistricted.
Instead, Danielle discovered the Naval Sea Cadet Corps and signed him up. This amazing program, which has been around since the 1950s, helps youths ages 11-17 experience firsthand what it is like to be in the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines.
Once accepted, the cadets go through a rigorous boot camp and then a wide variety of training events, including shooting, marching, survival camping and more. Colton said although it is not easy, he loves all of it.
Danielle said while she wishes her son wanted to be involved in something that might not be as dangerous, she is proud of him and all of his accomplishments.
“I’m grateful he knows what he wants and that what comes along with being military minded are qualities like honor, respect, self discipline, a good work ethic, dedication, determination and strength of character,” she said.
Danielle also said that the Sea Cadet program is teaching Colton things she never could. “It’s not a camp at all — they are tough on the kids, but these are kids who truly want to be there.”
Danielle said that when Colton was 7, she let him watch “Saving Private Ryan” because she wanted him to see the harsh reality of war. She went on to ask her son if he was afraid to die.
“Yes, I am mom,” he said, “but someone has to keep our country safe. There have to be soldiers who are willing to die for our freedom so that 9/11 never happens again.”
What a fine soldier Colton is going to be. I have no doubt this is a young man who will go far in life.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.