Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Ex-Cadet

We met in an airport yesterday as I was flying to visit family members.

He and I boarded the same airport tram, and he looked young and fit and was carrying an envelope with an impressive Army eagle insignia on it, and upon closer inspection, the words "Official Documents."

I guess he noticed my Army-issued assault pack (backpack), and the bright orange name tag which reads "Chaplain" and my last name, because as we were dismounting the vehicle he asked me whether I were, in fact an Army Chaplain. I said yes, and asked him if he were in the Army.

"I just left the Military Academy," he said somewhat sheepishly.

"Good!" I replied.

He looked somewhat quizzically at me.

"I must have spoken with at least five Chaplains there before I left, but the place was just not for me," he continued.

"Good!" I replied again.

He looked positively confused.

"If your heart was telling you that's not the place for you, then it's a good decision to have left, and I would suppose one that was not easily reached. Good for you! That shows courage and self-knowledge, which are to be applauded."

He managed a somewhat wan smile.

"And besides, at worst it can only be a terrible mistake!" I continued. "Mistakes -- even terrible ones -- can be dealt with. Nuclear annihilation or the end-of-all-that-is cannot. I bet there were some there at the Academy who made this out to be the equivalent (or worse) of nuclear holocaust...?"

He nodded.

"So why did you leave, then?"

"It was just too much, too soon. I'd gotten into an ROTC program at a good school, and I'm going to see if I can get back into that program, but this just wasn't right for me."

"Way to go, young man! I truly believe that God speaks to us in the inner longings of our hearts, and if your heart was telling you that this was not the right time and place for you, hooray that you had the courage and wisdom to listen to that still, small voice within you! It's *your* life, and *your* military career, so don't let anyone else try to live it for you. ROTC is a noble endeavor; my Dad went through ROTC and became an Army Officer, I'm proud to say. I myself have been involved with ROTC at the university where I teach biology, and am impressed by the caliber of the Cadets I've gotten to know. At worst, this can only be a terrible mistake!"

He smiled a genuine and relaxed smile.

We parted ways shortly after we'd met.

"Thank you, Sir. This has helped me probably more than any of the conversations I had while I was there at the Academy."

Who knew?

Blessings and peace to one and all,

Fr. Tim, SJ

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1 comment:

Kanani said...

I hope this will be the first of many times he listens to his inner voice, the one that signals to him when something isn't quite right.

WestPoint isn't for everyone, and it's not the only route to a military career, and if it weren't for NCO's, and officers from a more diverse pool than West Point, the military would cease to function.

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