Add Ukraine to the list of things some people won’t understand

So last week, I wrote about how a lot of your friends and family don’t really understand the experience you and your child are having through the Air Force Academy. And that’s OK.

Here’s something else they may not understand, you’re growing interest in world and geopolitical events.

Recent events have shed light on something else other folks don’t understand. You know, before my son became a Midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, I’d see headlines about U.S. military activity and not give it a second thought. You know, 1,000 troops going to Afghanistan, Navy battle group moving to the China Sea, and it didn’t mean a whole lot. Just numbers and geography.

I had a wise editor who once said, “local news is what’s important to people.” And he meant that if someone thought a global item was important, that made it local. So now I find that pretty much all global news is local. I am constantly checking Google News for the latest headlines.

Once my son accepted his appointment, that began to change. I began paying closer attention to the news stories. How many troops going where? And for how long? My interest intensified as my time at USNA continued, in no small part because Mids I had met were now cycling into the Fleet and could be a part of those numbers mentioned in the stories.

The mind-numbing shooting at the Pensacola naval base brought it all into painful focus. Joshua Kaleb Watson had only recently received his commission from USNA and paid the ultimate price. This wasn’t just a nameless military officer, this was a young man who was my son’s schoolmate. It was personal.

When the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan, I’ll admit to a sigh of relief. I’ll leave the geopolitical discussion to others. For me, I knew a number of Army and Marine folks who had been deployed … not to mention a Navy officer who got sent to Afghanistan when he said, essentially, the military needed more officers there and I was available. With the mission ended, there was one less place our forces would be in harm’s way.

Enter the Ukraine.

By now, Most of the Surface Warfare Officers in my son’s class have been at sea on and off for nearly two years. Plenty of the Submarine officers have found their way underwater and while many of the Navy and Marine flight selects are still working on getting their wings, the Marine ground 2nd Lts. are active.

In short, when a news story mentions the U.S. military, it’s talking about our kids. As a Doolie parent, it can still seem abstract, but to the upperclassmen, it’s serious. The men and women who shepherded them through their Doolie and C3C years are out there in the field. And they are next in line.

Sadly, the cycle of war and conflict will continue, so when this year’s Firsties and C2Cs are out there leading our Air Force, this year’s Doolies and C3Cs will know people on or near the front line.

People who don’t get it will tell us not to worry, that the U.S. military isn’t directly involved. Those of us with a few years under our belt know that doesn’t matter. The situation has heightened tensions around the globe and while it may be the hottest spot right now, it certainly isn’t the only hot spot. And our kids … and the kids of many other parents … are right in the thick of every single one of them.

It’s changed. You see, every time I see one of those videos or pictures of a kid rushing to greet their mom or dad after a deployment, where I was smiled and scrolled on, I stop, watch, and get a lump in my throat. Every time the national anthem is played at a sporting event, where I once pondered game strategy, I find I’m getting misty-eyed while gazing at Old Glory.

As “the home of the brave” rang out at a recent event, a dear friend glanced back at me as I was drying my eyes.

“It’s a lot different now, isn’t it?” she said, smiling.

Yeah, I said. It sure is.

Our time at USAFA is supposed to prepare us for dealing with our sons’ and daughters’ time as officers. And it does to a degree, I suppose. On the other hand, it makes it easier but that doesn’t mean it makes it easy. There’s a huge difference. And like so many things, a lot of people will never understand.

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