USAF--Support him, or STFU

This is more disappointing to me than it is maddening, which is why I didn’t post in the Pit.

Hallboy, who turned 18 in May and graduated high school a few weeks ago, is seriously considering joining the United States Air Force. So serious, he’s contacted a recruiter (the same one who he’d talked to for nearly two years throughout his past two years in high school), and I suspect we’ll be meeting with the recruiter face-to-face fairly soon. It’s something he’s thought about now for YEARS. Also, my SIL (Hallboy’s BIL) is in the Air Force, so he’s gotten info second hand from his BIL over the years. His mind isn’t set in stone, but it’s headed that way.

As a side note, he’s a very strong swimmer, is very interested in computers, and wants to fly helicoptors, so I asked him to talk to a US Coast Guard recruiter before he makes up his mind one way or the other, and he’s agreed, and contacted the USCG recruiter as well.

All good so far.

The one thing he knows for sure is that he doesn’t yet want to go to college. High school was okay, but he’s not interested in college at this point. Not only that, but he’d have to pay for college himself if he wanted to go in the least bit (there is NO savings for him to go to college and there’s no way I can financially support him or contribute towards his college educations), and I cannot in good faith encourage that path if he’s not 100% set on college (which he isn’t).

…As a side note here, I went to college when the Hallkids were little and I was raising them myself. For YEARS, I worked part time and went to school part time. As a result it took me three times as long and cost three times as much. I will be paying Sallie Mae until I die and it’s likely I’ll never get them paid off–and no, that’s not hyperbole. I seriously owe that much in school loans. You might be able to see why I’m reluctant to push college on a kid who really doesn’t have much of a desire to go to college.

Anyway, Hallboy has a family who he’s very close to–he’s good friends with their son and they’ve been friends since about third grade. We’ll call the friend Luke, 'cause that’s his name. Anyway, Luke’s parents were considerably older when they had him and his brother. Dad stayed at home to watch after the boys while mom went to work as a physician. Luke graduated high school a year early and he and his brother went to a local college, where dad drives them to school every day, then picks them up from school every evening. (Even though Luke and his brother are 18 and 19, neither drive.)

Luke’s parents are very…hippie-ish. They’re both about in their 60’s now, and have expressed to Hallboy how disappointed they are that Hallboy isn’t going to college, and their HORROR that he’s considering joining the Air Force. Um, no, they haven’t offered to pay Hallboy’s way through college (even if he wanted to go, which at this point, he doesn’t). Instead, they’ve just expressed their disapproval at him joining the service.

These people have been like another set of parents to Hallboy–he even calls them Mom and Dad. Dad has really been the only father figure that Hallboy has known throughout the years, and Dad has taught him some really good things in life, but this…I makes me sad that if they can’t support him on this, they can’t at least shut up.

I haven’t talked with Hallboy about it lately, but knowing him, it’s likely he hasn’t brought it up to them since the first time he said something about it and they expressed their horror. I know though that he’d really like to have their support if he moves forward with this stage of his life. I know they are most likely feeling a sense of fear at the thought of Hallboy leaving and possibly being deployed. I’d be lying if I said the thought of it doesn’t leave me dying inside. And I suspect they might have some reservations about the whole role and responsibilities of the military and war and the US being in other countries. Yeah, so do I.

But, guess what? I’m going to suck it up and be there to support his decision the best I can.

It just makes me sad that they can’t support him, and I’d like to tell them to STFU if they can’t provide support. This is his battle though, and I’m not going to say anything negative to or about them to him–he doesn’t need hard feelings as he works through this. Plus, I think one of the lessons he has to learn about the military is to defend the military and his decisions.

Sometimes it’s hard to be a mom.

I’m sure there are choices he might (at least theoretically) make that you would not support, that you would argue against. If you love a person, sometimes you may feel that the way to support them is to oppose their choice. Of course, once someone is an adult the responsibility for the choice is theirs; you can still make your feelings known, but if they aren’t to be dissuaded, the choices are indeed to shut up and accept them for what they are, or to let the relationship go.

Personally I think the Coast Guard is pretty cool. Good luck to him whatever his choice.

It’s just an opposing opinion, not the end of world. Hallboy is grown enough, if he’s eligible to enter the Armed Forces, to make his own choice. That includes hearing opposing views and deciding for himself.

It would be great, for you, if they were on board with your view, but it sounds like they have always done right by him, over the years. They are entitled to hold a view other than yours, and present it to him without earning your scorn, for doing so.

It makes you seem threatened that perhaps their influence if greater than yours. That’s ridiculous, on it’s face, and besides, it’s his decision to make, let him make it and stop trying to influence his choice. You’ll be happier and, he’s going to do, what he’s going to do, anyway.

Yeah, they’re right at the age to be most affected when Vietnam was such a major, divisive force in this country. It is hard to put one’s feelings aside and simply be glad that a young person has found their path when they don’t agree with that decision. I caught the end of that era and it was hard for me to keep my mouth shut when a friend’s son joined the Marines. But attitudes change with the times, and all you can do it tell Hallboy about the reasons behind it.

Hallboy’s lucky to have such a mom, and I know it’s gotta be so hard for you. Count me in on your side, and hopefully this will be a learning point for him, that he has to do what he really wants to do, even if someone he cares about might not like it so much. Hopefully you can get a quiet word or elbow dig into the ribs to your BIL and he’ll get the hint. He might just be making sure Hallboy really wants to do this, and doesn’t just feel he has no other option, like Job Corps. Keep reminding BIL of the benefits for your son, and that it’s your son’s decision, and that he WANTS THIS. BIL may have a hard time reconciling that with the draft he likely lived through, but it IS a different time, and your son doesn’t HAVE to join. He WANTS to, and that’s a world of difference.

Your probably right that Hallboy would be better off in the military then at college. But its a pretty big decision, and one that’s difficult to back out of if it turns out to be the wrong choice. So its probably good for him to hear a strong counter-argument from someone he respects before he signs up. If he still wants to go, then it just goes to show that he’s determined and its the right course. If he gets talked out of it, then maybe he wasn’t so sure it was a good idea in the first place.

In anycase, I don’t really see any reason to be angry at “Dad”.

Well said.

Am I getting this right? You aren’t happy with your son going into the air force, and neither are his other “adopted” parents. They have expressed this to him only once that you know of, and you are considering telling them to butt out and STFU?

Plus, you aren’t willing to even encourage him to go to college, at least in part because it didn’t work out for you, who tried it under circumstances not even remotely close to what he faces?

I lack words.

It’s all well and good that they are venturing opinions for Hallboy to consider. But you used the terms “their HORROR” and then “their disapproval”. Which is it? Hallboy is the one that makes the final decision. Sounds like he has a good head on his shoulders.

FWIW I was in a similar situation, enlisted in the USAF and spent 4 years growing up. Best decision I ever made. Good luck to you and Hallboy.

Sorry Boyo Jim, that’s incorrect. I’m all for him joining the Air Force or the Coast Guard, or whatever else he wants to do. His friends parents, whom he’s been close to for years, think he should go to college–regardless if he wants to or not (he doesn’t), or that he or I can afford it (we cannot).

College DID work out for me–I earned my Bachelors degree, and have never regretted it one bit. What I do regret is that I had no other option to pay for college, rather than take out loans for which I will be paying for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, this is what millions of other people are facing in regards college (let me know if you’re not familar with this and I’ll gladly provide you with some links to support this). Even starting with part time classes at our local Community College will likely mean that it costs him thousands per semester–thousands which neither of us have without obtaining loans to pay for. Me not pushing him towards college is two fold–he has repeatedly expressed that he does NOT want to start college now, and he does not have the ability to afford college without getting himself into debt.

As far as his “adoptive” parents expressing their views, they’ve done it at least twice that I know of. While I can appreciate their point of view, even their concern, my discontent lies in them telling him not to do it (which they have). To me, there’s a difference in telling someone your thoughts, versus explicitly telling them not to do it, particularly if it does not include a conversation about options (which, to my knowledge, their conversation did not).

Sandra Battye, I hadn’t thought of how their experiences with Vietnam may have influenced their opinions–thanks for that insight.

That is the dumbest stance I have ever heard.

:dubious: difficult to back out of? Not really as long as you are still in basic. Something like 15% separate in boot and another few percent separate in the first 6 months of service. Or at least that was a study I read back in 2002 or 03.

But <whinge> college <end whinge> But college what? You can take classes while enlisted, mrAru got most of a bachelors while out making holes in the water. All he had to pay was books and materials. He could also have participated in some sort of deposit program to pay for more school after retirement.

And you know, getting out and actually interacting with people other than family and family friends is a great way to discover a burning desire to become an oceanographer, a beat poet, an anthropologist or a wreck diver. Beats getting yet another generic liberal arts degree for lack of a better idea and getting a McJob [not that there is anything wrong with working a mcjob - but if you can pass the physical and discipline needs, you can have a steady career in the military and have full benefits in the meantime. mcjobs don’t tend to have much in the way of benefits.]

National Guard.

Dear phall0:
If your son does not want college, there’s no point paying for something you cannot afford that he will (even unconsciously) resent. :wink: (It took me several years of adult life to properly appreciate college: I am now going to community college part-time because I am totally scared of student loans) But your post made me remember when I was barely 18 and had enlisted in the Navy… my Mom was wholly positive, Dad was more “I don’t know what to think… but I will support you.” That was enough. The Navy changed my life :slight_smile: As long as he has you supporting him, he’ll be fine.
Write to him in boot camp: I still have my Dad’s letters to me. Anything from home is awesome. Thank him for me, too! >^.^< the decision to defend our country is no light one.

The military is a FANTASTIC thing to do if you don’t want/aren’t ready for college. If he’s got the aptitude there are so mant choices! I’d recommend Navy/ Coast guard (The Navy schools are great and the Coasties go to Navy schools) or the Air Force. He’ll learn a skill/trade that he can use for the rest of his life AND a bit of discipline as well.

BTW, He ain’t flying a helicopter unless he finishes college first. He could be part of a Helo crew, but he won’t fly it unless he’s an officer. (Which requires college) Just make sure he knows that before he enlists.

He’s had many folks tell him, “Let the service put you through college!”. I think he realizes that eventually he will want to do college, but not now. And honestly, he’s faced with either getting a no-end job that pays minimum wage and has no future (that’s about what’s available in our job market to someone with limited transportation, a HS diploma and no work experience), going to college on his own dime, or joining the military. The pulling factor is that he’s talked about the AF for years now. Yes, he know there may be other options (Peace Corps maybe, backpacking his way across the US, etc.).

As mentioned earlier the military is a GREAT place to go if you’re unsure about college and yes the military will pay your tuition while you’re serving. Additionally today’s post 9-11 GI Bill is in a word, FANTASTIC.

The hippy couple that is against this decision needs to realize that Vietnam is over. It’s a different ball game today.

This should be, and it sounds like it will be, totally your son’s decision. However, from what you say about his relationship to his “mom” and “dad”, it is also thoroughly appropriate for them to tell them their opinion, and indeed, to try to talk him around to their way of thinking. They would be letting him down if they did not do so, and, frankly, it is good for him to have the downside of his plan laid out clearly for him, so he makes his decision with his eyes fully open.

If you think (rightly or wrongly) that someone is about to make a disastrous decision, and you do not try to dissuade them from it, you are not being supportive, you are being irresponsible.

So, no, unless they are in some way trying to force him do do what they want rather what he decides (and have the power to do that) they most definitely should not STFU, and by giving him their point of view they are supporting him, and you, and he, should be grateful that they care enough to do so.

You might want to mention this to the many Gulf War Vets who suffer from excessive tour numbers, PTSD, depleted Uranium sicknesses, etc. They probably just need to get over themselves.

It’s not really a different ball game today, just playing different teams.

Oh, yeah, I’m one of those hippie Vietnam vets - funny the stuff you still remember.

A word of advice for Hallboy, if he is going to sign on the dotted line, is to get a guaranteed, contracted MOS instead of going in “open contract” and letting the military decide what his MOS will be. If the military needs cooks when he goes through boot camp, then if he has an open contract that’s what his assigned MOS might be even if he wants to be a rescue swimmer. Nothing wrong with cooks, unless your heart is set on becoming a rescue swimmer.

I was 18 when I enlisted. Then, later told my folks what I’d done. They went ballistic but they were the kind of people who didn’t let their kids make their own decisions, they would instead strong-arm us into their decisions.

What’s MOS?