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On to bigger and better things for one young man
Mike Tasos

Whomever spoke of times that try men’s souls flubbed badly. He should have given moms equal billing. 

We parents love, fret, counsel, yell and wonder when these kids will get busy with getting gone. As Jeff Garlin who plays the dad in ABC series “The Goldbergs,” he claimed to be looking forward to “finally having some peace and quiet” when the kids left.

He might have said it, but no way he meant it. 

It’s more like we wise parents realize no matter the trials and tribulations, we never have enough time. The baseball-coaching days fade from memory and become one of those “Damn, that was a good time!”

When your kids are involved, all bets are off when it comes to point-of-view and perspective. 

Growing up in the early ’70s, my stepdad was a right-wing Republican who bought that tripe that our fighting in Vietnam was a noble endeavor. That is, until the notice to register for the draft hit our mailbox. 

One little piece of mail was like getting sledgehammered between the eyes. He saw the war in a whole new light. No peace marches, no posters. Just an unfailing belief that our elected leaders were giving us a huge swerve.

I imagine the emotions going through any parent’s mind when their child is ready to become a Marine run the gamut from pride to tears, with an enormous number of stops in-between.

Jon Howard is my friend, like Cheech and Papa Kenny, as close to family as I have on this side of the country. 

And like any friend who is hurting, you’ll do whatever can be done to help.

Jon’s anguish, accompanied by tears and prayers, has its roots in what his youngest son Jud has up and done.

A week from tomorrow, Jud leaves for 13 weeks on Parris Island as a grunt in the United States Marine Corps.

Hold it! Wasn’t I coaching Jud a week or so ago? Wasn’t he the kid who helped me deal with tough parents and coaches by sitting next to me on the bench and within two minutes, have me laughing until I was crying?

No, that yesterday was five years ago. Jud and the rest of the boys were 12. Next Monday, when he ships out, he’ll be 17 and looking forward, he’ll be a week or so past his 18th birthday when he ships out for infantry school in July.

We see soldiers all the time, and try to buy them a meal or give up a first-class airplane seat when possible, but this one hits close to home. Like that piece of mail 45 years ago, it spurs a whole new way of looking at those who sacrifice to serve. Jon has paid special attention to all things military on TV and YouTube. He and Jud’s mom, Kristi, while panged with the trepidation that is only natural, couldn’t be prouder, praying intensely that Jud’s decision is the right one.

As his longtime classmates get spiffed up for prom, Jud will be dancing in fatigues for 10-mile jaunts through a swamp, unable to phone Mom and Dad until he graduates. Instead of hearing “Pomp and Circumstance,” Jud will matriculate to the lyrics “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…”

Jud’s undertaking appears to be for all the right reason, “wanting to do something that is bigger than myself. I want to do something that will last forever.” That’s pretty heady perspective coming from a kid not old enough to vote. 

Pops is trying to deal with the separation, offering he has told Jud and brother Cooper he loves them every night. It looks like Coop will step in for a while.

Those Marine drill instructors are legendary in their affinity for getting stirred up, hollering and sometimes asking their charges to do tasks that seemingly make no sense.

Maybe that’s why Jud’s mind is at ease as he gets ready to leave. Basic training will be a lot like being home with Pops. Only the sergeants probably speak softer.

Personally, this is one of those events that hold true meaning when life events are tallied up. Time for more hugs, more laughs and more understanding. We need to make the most of the times before our kids are up and gone. 

I know Jud is going to be outstanding and be an impressive Marine. He’s already started down that path. He called me “sir” during our recent talk.


Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. He hopes he gets one more chance at one of Vicki’s breakfasts before he ships out. Comments can be sent to miketasos@earthlink.net. He is also on Facebook.