Last week our son, Ethan, signed papers to enlist in the army. He is scheduled to begin Boot Camp at the end of September at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina. He is excited and energized in a way that I haven’t seen since he made the decision to move out of our house; and I am very proud to say that I am the mother of a future soldier.
So what led our 24 year-old college graduate with a degree in Cinema Studies from San Francisco State to enlist in the army?
He traces it back to selling mops at Travis Air Force Base. Let me explain…for the past several months, Ethan had a job that was basically like doing a live infomercial. Think Billy Mays and ShamWow and you’ve got the picture. The company he worked for would go into a Sears store, set up a small stage and then Ethan would show up and do a 20 minute sales pitch 10 times a day, talking about why this $39.95 mop would change your life forever.
Although he actually really liked this job and he talks about how it has given him the confidence to approach any cute girl, he worked solely on commission and the company sent him to stores where there wasn’t any traffic. We had to talk him down from the ledge on a couple Sundays when the only people on the third floor of Sears were him and the guy selling mattresses.
To break up the monotony of Sears stores, he also did his road show at the huge Travis AFB Commissary. He says that during the week he spent there doing his huckster gig, he saw people who looked like their lives had purpose. And although he had tried his best to find his purpose in the film production world in the year since he graduated – and even gotten down to the finishing line between himself and one other applicant for two different film jobs – it just wasn’t coming together for him.
He ended up quitting the MopWow job and that’s when Steve suggested to him that he consider the military. Steve can speak from personal experience because he enlisted when he was 20 and ended up spending thee years in Germany as a medic.
Steve’s encouragement kicked in and Ethan visited the recruiter. The more he found out about the options open to him, the more excited he got. He took the aptitude test and scored extremely well. He found out that the army would help pay back his student loans. He saw himself thriving in a place that as he says “is all about rules and order.” Plus, he likes imagining himself looking fit and sharp in his uniform.
He passed the physical and is mentally preparing as best he can for the toughness of Boot Camp. I guess Steve and I can consider it a compliment when he said “that finally having overbearing militaristic parents who make you do things you don’t want to do will pay off.”
He is counting down the days and already speaking in army acronyms. After Boot Camp, he will go to DLI (Defense Language Institute) in Monterey where he’ll spend a year learning a language that wasn’t an option in high school such as Korean. How he’ll spend the remaining four years of his commitment is TBD.
Even though he says that he will have to trade in his contact lenses for a pair of truly ugly glasses, I can’t wait to get the photo of him in his fatigues (and glasses) with the flag in the background. Army proud? You bet.