By Grin and Barrett
Oooh, damn that MRT class! Master Resiliency sounds harmless enough. A minor, innocuous slice of my day, whittled down to two hours of playing Angry Birds in the back of a classroom. Now, this class about emotional strength was a fairly benign affair; that was until that sneaky bastard of an instructor busted out the Team Hoyt video. For those of you who do not know what I’m referring to, Dick Hoyt is a father who pulls/carries/pushes his disabled son Rick through triathlons across the country. This inspiring video shows the incredible depths of perseverance and resiliency that a father has for his son’s well being.
After the video ended, cleverly set to Casting Crown’s “I Can Only Imagine,” I sat there, Angry Birds abandoned, lump in my throat and eyes on the verge of an ocular outpouring (No, not crying…THERE’S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!). I admit, it took me to the brink of an emotional outbreak, but I was able to get back to my Angry Birds with only an emotional clearing of the throat – several times. (Admin Note: The strategic clearing of the throat is a cleverly disguised way we men get rid of that “lump in the throat.”) Watching the Hoyt video got me thinking about my own sons. Now, for the record, I haven’t blubbered like a baby since watching “John Q” ten years ago when my boys were six and four. But blubbering aside, I find I’m experiencing that emotional “throat clearing” more and more as I get older (Admin Note #2: In the interest of foregoing writing “throat clearing” in quotes for the zillionth time, I’ll hitherto refer to it as TC). I think it’s a product of having boys grow into men, realizing the greatness that can be, and where I, as their father, have failed them. Being a father involves a whole lot of emotional self-flagellation, rising exponentially the older the children get. Recently, more than ever in my lifetime, TC situations are getting to me on a regular basis, seemingly popping up from no-where. For example:
-Recently watched “The Last Samurai” for the fourth or fifth time, and though the film is a clear Tom Cruise I-Love-Me fest, there is a clear TC moment. This, of course, is when Nobutada dies, protecting his father’s escape. On the TC Meter, I give this a three cough. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXSZp9vhDd0
-On the episode of “Coming Home” where J.J. Rutledge announces his college choice as his father walks on stage, home early from deployment. Holy Crap. A definite four cougher. http://www.mylifetime.com/shows/coming-home/video/coming-home/season-1/episode-1/jj-rutledge
There are others, of course, but at the expense of sounding like I’m going through “The Change,” I’ll leave it at those. There does seem to be a common theme here, as most of the TC scenes tend to involve the father-son dynamic, though as my daughter grows into a young lady, I foresee “Father of the Bride” scenes as a catalyst for much of the same.
This is the backdrop to my current situation. It is an emotional one, to be sure, one that every parent deals with over the course of a young life. Where is my child headed? What is his path? As my son grows and comes of age, I imagine him lifting his right arm, swearing an oath I did so long ago. Will his path lead him to happiness? Fulfillment? Peril? Will his choices be guided by courage and faith? Will his leaders be men and women of strength, character, wisdom, and integrity? I hope so.
If he follows my path into military service, I hope his leaders treat him with grace, mercy, discipline, fairness, strength, and compassion. I hope they look after my son as if he were their own. But this is more than my wish, or should be more. This should be their mandate, their pledge to me as a father. To train him, discipline him, mentor him, and lead him. And as I ponder these thoughts, I know that I too have that mandate. To treat each Soldier under my charge as I would want my son treated. With respect, dignity, high expectations, and compassion. If I treat “Joe” as if he were a failure, he will be a failure. If I treat him as a professional who deserves respect, he will strive to earn it.
We pay great lip service to this as leaders, but do our actions actually support it? We call our Soldiers the most professional in the world in one breath, and bemoan the failings of “Joe” to our peers in the next. We defend Joe from the politicians and left-wing activists one moment, only to tell him how [email protected]#$ed up he is the next. It’s time we do more than pay lip service to our Soldiers’ professionalism and dedication. I know that this is what Mothers and Fathers should expect from me as I lead their sons and daughters, and it is definitely what I expect of the men and women who may one day lead mine.
Who are the leaders you have admired during your career? What are the qualities that have made you respect them?