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Several months ago, I met a man and his son who came to me to buy knives and have others sharpened. The man was your typical suburbanite, but his son was a willowy, skiddish young man dressed in cammo with a 'sidewall' haircut, odd for his age.

I got the chance to talk privately with his father, who in some amusement told me how it was to raise the boy.

Turns out the boy was always doing push-ups, always running or jogging, devouring gun and knife magazines, shooting and then asking to strip every firearm an adult would trust him with.

"The kid has wanted to be a Marine since he could walk," the father told me, laughing in spite of himself, "Where he gets it, I have no idea. I told him that I would buy a Darrell Ralph knife from you if he kept his grades up and saw it through to the end."

"Here's the check," he continued, "he leaves next week..."



I bent down over the sharpener this morning, fending off three miffed clients who all have waited too long to get their hunting and filet knives sharpened. I'm going to make a wad of money, but I'm a little cheesed. Then someone cracked my name off so crystal and sharp I thought my Dad had come back from the dead.

"Chico," the voice reiterated, "Just dropped by to say hello."

I looked up at a crisp newly vetted Marine. Spine as ramrod straight as his creases, and an attitude proud and grounded.

"Clint?" I breathed, "I didn't know you were even back..."

"Thought I'd surprise you," he grinned, "Got some time for a wise-mouth kid?"

I stared at his newly minted 'campaign' ribbon, and shiny "expert rifleman" designation. He shook my hand, confident and honest.

"Had to carry in my knife," he mused, "I can't carry anything in my pants."

Then he whispered, "I have my wallet in my sock."

As I put a fresh edge on his knife, we talked and laughed as we previously had, but there was no question that events were now different. There was a gray haze to our glad-handing, and I finally just broke the 'wall.'

"Where are you headed now?"
"Pendleton. A few more classes. Some training."
"And then?"
"I go where I'm sent."
"When...?"
"Two weeks. Wanna see the family. Tie things up right."
"Like to have you over for dinner--if you have time."
"I'd like that."
"I'll call over to your dad's house."
"Gotta fly, Chico, we all sharp?"
"Like a razor."

The Marine faked a half-smile.

"Thanks for the support," he said as he extended his hand.
I quickly wiped the dross off and extended my own. "Be safe."

He nodded, turned and disappeared.

I cannot relate the pain in my heart.
 

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Are you sad because you fear for him? This young man has nearly achieved his dream! I am glad we still have quality young people who want to go out and do that job.
My youngest son is thinking of enlisting when he graduates high school this coming spring. I'm glad he's found something he is interested in. I hope he finds himself somewhere on the journey. I think he needs the discipline and opportunities the service will offer him, but I am so afraid for him too.
I know there are over 4000 parents in this country who will argue with me, but I just keep telling myself that the bad ending is low percentage stuff. Like being a cop or riding a motorcycle.
In the end, the most important thing for him, and for any of us really, is that we spend our time here doing things we enjoy. Serving others is an honorable pursuit no matter how it is done.
May your darkest fears never be realized...
 

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Fourstar,

The best thing that America does in guiding our daily affairs is producing young men, like Clint. They provide needed services, and also make us strive to match their passion and dedication in the homeland.

I once made the comment that why should our best have to go to war and face 'their worst.' And yet, I know in my heart that I enjoy liberty because we produce these people.

About two weeks ago I saw an older gentleman wander through the store with a giant brass belt buckle depicting a parachute and wings. "Airborne?" I asked and he simply nodded. I shook his hand. His sacrifices ensured that I was born into a land of peace and prosperity.

And now the soldiers and Marines are young enough to be my grandchildren. I sharpen their knives. I love them. I bolster them with stories and laughter. I endeavor to underline that people appreciate their service.

I live in a land where I choose my own path, speak my mind, and live primarily without fear. I hope that "little kid doing push-ups" never has to pay any price, and yet I know he has made the choice. Our current military action has a 'face' for me, and I fear for him.

But make no mistake, I think he is our nation's best. He used some of his precious free time to seek me out. And I am proud to call him my friend. I don't take this little story lightly, and I wish you could have been there with me. It makes me treasure even the smallest comforts.
 

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I can so relate to what you're saying.
Many years ago, well not that many, I was very active as an adult leader in the scouts. Saw many young boys grow and mature. Got attached to all of my boys and hated to see them leave the troop for whatever reason.

One afternoon as I was running some errands I happened to be walking across a rather large parking lot having forgotten exactly where I had parked the blasted cage. I hear someone holler, "hey, Mr. D." Turning around I see this young man dressed in an Army class "A" uniform heading my way. Being retired Army myself, I thought perhaps it was someone I knew from my days in uniform. But that couldn't be. Having retired in 93, all the folks I knew must be retired too.
Then upon closer examination I discover that this young soldier is one of my scouts from a few years back. He's grown so tall, straight and strong. What happened to the young boy I once knew?
We talked for what seemed like hours, but was in reality only a few minutes.
I had to really hold it together after he told me he was preparing to ship to Iraq with a unit in the 101st out of Campbell. This would be his first tour overseas. Then he shakes my hand, looks me in the eye and tells me, "you know, I still remember all the things you taught me. I remember all of the great times we had. Thanks for being there."
I really had to pull it together and maintain my composure. I looked him straight in the eye and told him "Thanks for being there too." Then I gave him a hug and told him to be safe.
A piece of my heart walked away that day in the parkinglot. Dressed in Army green.
 

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Very good story, Chico. Thanks for posting it and sharing your experience. I think the title is a good summary. One lesson that I've learned that's reiterated in your story is that of examples. We live our lives and we rarely suspect the impact we have on others. If there is such a thing as immortality it's achieved by actions, not potions.
 

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That kid was me. Enlisting (and later receiving my comission) was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I learned a lot of lesssons in the Corps.
My parents hated my decsion and turned their backs on me for it. That was 20 years ago. I never spoke to my parents again but I still keep up with my buddies from the Corps.
Clint made a good decision. Not everyone can be a Marine and I hope that his parents are proud of him and don't let their fears get in the way of showing that pride.
 

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jgrant said:
That kid was me. Enlisting (and later receiving my comission) was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. I learned a lot of lesssons in the Corps.
My parents hated my decsion and turned their backs on me for it. That was 20 years ago. I never spoke to my parents again but I still keep up with my buddies from the Corps.
Clint made a good decision. Not everyone can be a Marine and I hope that his parents are proud of him and don't let their fears get in the way of showing that pride.
Wow, that is some story. The armed forces do a lot on so many different levels for the people of this country, I know it sure helped me out as a young adult when I joined the Army.

The decision your your parents made is just plain awful.

Thanks for the 20 years you gave to our country!

{salute(
 

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No need for thanks. I did what I loved. My point was that we should not feel sorry for young men and women entering the Armed Forces. It is often their best choice. Sometimes we assume that military service = death but that is not the case. It may or may not happen but we should not assume that it will.
Instead of being sad we should be proud that there are still men and women like Clint who want to serve their country!

Clint is a good man for doing what he is doing. {salute(
 
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