My son recently received his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army, Signal Corps. This was one of the proudest moments I've experienced as a parent.
This is not to say I'm not proud of all of my children, quite the contrary. Each one of them has made me proud of them over and over throughout their lives, but this one was different to me. I got to directly share in Aaron's moment and I will be ever grateful for it.
If you've never seen a commissioning ceremony it is like most commencement type ceremonies: a speech or two, some formal statement of the accomplishment and a celebration. Commissioning has two elements that make make it different and very "goose-bumby" for me.
Each newly-minted officer takes an oath of office wherein they swear to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies. That is a very serious matter indeed and should be given the reverence it deserves. About a dozen men and women swore that oath, promising to put OUR safety and OUR lives ahead of theirs. This kind of commitment is rare and I thank each and every one of them for that sacrifice and it is my fervent wish that that is the ONLY sacrifice they are ever required to give.
The second unique aspect of a commissioning is the tradition of the Silver Dollar Salute. The new officer asks an enlisted man or woman, past or present, who has been influential to them to have the honor of giving the new officer their first Salute. That's how I got to share in his moment and damn near burst with pride. Aaron chose me for that honor.
In the days and weeks, months really because of COVID, before his brother and I traveled to his university for the ceremony, I practiced. A lot. It's been quite a few years since my brief military career, but the need to execute the salute sharply felt even more important than it did under the constant threat of unending pushups during basic training at Ft. Jackson SC. if I had gotten it wrong!
Toes at a forty-five degree angle, hands cupped, thumbs down, arm up smartly, upper arm parallel to the ground, fore arm straight, hand as a knife-edge, tip of my finger at the corner of my eyebrow. "Congratulations, Lieutenant Steele!", wait for his return salute to begin to drop and smartly return my right arm to my side at the position of attention.
One gesture of respect shared between a father and a son.
The father watching his son become the man he tried to be.
The father watching his son exceed his achievements and so proud that he had.
It has always been my dream for my children to achieve more than I have, and each one, in their own way, has or is working on doing that. But one chose a path so similar to my own, and has already soared higher than I could and allowed me to share in his moment in such a special way.