Friday, January 4, 2013

A Change of Course

From the time that our fourth child arrived, and college tuitions continued to rise at a rate that far exceeded our capabilities, we have explained to our children that, while we believe in the value of a college education, it would be their responsibility.  We would help but the bulk of the burden would be on them.  

Our reasoning for this was two fold.  First, with four children, we simply cannot afford a half a million dollars in college tuition.  It just isn't possible.  Second,  they NEED to be an active participant financially, a dog in the fight so to speak, for them to fully appreciate what they are receiving.    We truly believe that by doing so they will value the experience more  and be less willing to waste their time AND money.

In an attempt to help them, mostly through scholarships, we tried to steer our kids in directions that would help them achieve this goal.  Joining clubs, taking on leadership roles, volunteering, community activity in addition to the sports (we asked that they do at least one) would be a good place to start.  Working after school, on weekends and during the summer we also saw not just as a monetary benefit, but as character building.  Look for opportunities everywhere and anywhere and use them to shine.

This we preached.  For many years.  And as our oldest approached college age, we found that we didn't make the impact we had hoped.  We had the money to help with is first semester tuition and finally got through to him that we simply couldn't so much  more.  So, the boy took matters into his own hand.

Today, we took the day and drove up to Fargo to empty out his dorm room.  He withdrew from his spring semester classes.  We then drove over to North Dakota's 119th AirWing Squadron where my 18 year old son enlisted in the Air National Guard.*
He is officially a member of the armed forces.  This was not a quick decision nor was it painless, I mean paperless.  He spent a lot of time during fall semester talking with the recruiter, learning of his options, his commitment, and ultimately, he decided that this was a perfect option for him. 

So, he is taking the spring semester off.  He will head down to Lackland AFB in late March for  8 1/2 weeks of basic training.  From San Antonio, he will head to Ft Lee, Virginia where he will attend tech school for Air Transportation Specialist for 6 weeks.  Then, back to Minneapolis where he will undergo 30 days OTJ training.  By my calculations, he will be done and ready to return to NDSU in August with several semesters tuition in hand, the benefits of the GI and Marshall Bill, and hopefully a new purpose:  to serve his country with integrity and to finish his college education in the process.

His commitment will be for 6 years of once monthly weekend duty and a yearly 2 week commitment with 2 years of inactive duty after 6 years.  OR he can remain in the reserves and complete 20 years towards a reserve retirement.  During his school year, for each grade above a "c" he receives, he will be reimbursed.  Round and round and round in my mind I went looking for the catch but could only see this as a win-win.  He will graduate with an engineering degree and 4 years military experience with 2 years of active reserve on his commitment.  Now, I'm not a recruiter, but I have to imagine that if I was looking at two college resumes and one had 4 years of military experience WITH that degree, again, that's a no brainer.

I know there are parents would be disappointed that their child would interrupt their college experience for military service.  Not me.  I can't seem to keep the buttons from busting from my jacket.  Yes, that is actually a state of pride.  I looked it up.

And the squadron he is attached to, well...it is SO fitting:
 My son...you have chosen wisely.

*No comment on the hair cut allowed.  He knows it goes at basic and has decided to be a "bitter clinger" for the next 2 months.

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