The whole “generations” concept hit me hard last week. My son graduated from college – The United States Air Force Academy. The week was full of events – receptions, ceremonies, a military parade and culminating in a speech by President Obama and seeing my son receive his diploma from the President. It was all very exciting, but as these types of events so often do, they made me reminisce. So, in the spirit of generations and of Father’s Day, I want to share some of my feelings.
Barbara and I arrived on Sunday afternoon, just in time to attend a baccalaureate service held in the iconic Cadet Chapel. The chapel is a stunning building. While I sat in the chapel waiting for the service to begin it occurred to me that it was this very structure that nearly forty-five years earlier piqued my interest in attending a service academy. When I was eight years old I came across a picture book about the Academy. The Cadet Chapel was on the cover. Inside were pictures of very cool uniformed cadets involved in various very cool activities – athletic, academic and military. It had me at “hello” and I told my parents that I wanted to attend the Air Force Academy. I kept that desire alive, though it did wax and wane a bit through the years.
As fate would have it I did not attend the Air Force Academy, but did attend West Point. Here I was, thirty-one years later, participating in my son’s graduation events and remembering how similar they were with mine decades earlier.
Nothing much had changed with the ceremonies, but now it was my son graduating so the perspective was entirely different. I was more excited about this graduation than I was for my own. I love being a dad!
My thoughts then went to my parents. My dad was me – thirty-one years ago.
As eerie as that seems (for both of us), that’s what a generation will do for you! My parents supported their children in their big (and trivial) events.
They came to my important passages – including my graduation from West Point.
They came to the receptions, banquets, ceremonies and parades, just like I was doing this week. My parents pinned on my lieutenant’s bars, just as Barbara and I did for our son.
Dad served in the military as well. His example made me want to serve so a service academy seemed natural. Dad was an Army paratrooper. He attended “jump school” in 1953.
This is how the Army’s Parachute School is commonly referred to. I had the chance to attend jump school as well and wanted to so I could honor Dad.
I graduated within a month of being exactly thirty years from Dad’s graduation. Yet another generation!!
When he came to graduation and saw Fort Benning, he mentioned that nothing had changed.
The old WWII barracks were just like he remembered them, and so was the harassment! In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “…it’s deja vu all over again!”
What occurs in those thirty-ish year segments is that one generation prepares another generation and then hands the baton.
I am certainly proud of my son – and all of my children – and am totally confident in their abilities and readiness to take over from us. As I meet their friends, and see the caliber of people they are, I am more convinced than ever that we are going to be in good hands. I suspect my father had similar sentiments of me and my siblings when he was me some three decades ago.
Daniel – well done and congratulations! The world is yours. Keep being awesome!
Dad – thank you. Thank you for being a great example, a great provider and a great teacher. Happy Fathers Day!
West Point leaders – next year get an amazing fly over from the Thunderbirds for graduation!! (they were really, really cool)