Kristi’s son had an interest in the military that went far beyond plastic soldiers and G.I. Joes. He knew military history as if he had been there, and military aircraft down to minute details. At age 10, he went with his grandfather on a “Tiger Cruise.” The two spent 10 days on an aircraft carrier traveling from Pearl Harbor to San Diego. By the time he reached Coronado, he knew what he wanted to be.
Mary’s son is self-disciplined and athletic, so when he chose to enter an ROTC program in college, Mary was not surprised. What caught her off guard was her daughter’s recent interest in pursuing a commission at West Point.
Peter Bowen, President of Servite High School in Anaheim, has been there. “By the time
I was 30 I had landed on an aircraft carrier and flown all over the world,” he says. After 24 years, Bowen retired from the Marine Corps as a Major. “Service is a fantastic way for a young person to learn leadership, life experience and responsibility you can’t get anywhere else,” says Bowen. He encourages students and parents to consider military options. “The military teaches the same virtues of leadership, community, service and commitment as the Catholic Church,” he says. “You learn to do the right thing for the right reasons.”
Since Catholic high schools are college prep, students who are interested in pursuing military service may want to be officers. This involves either applying to one of the military academies or attending a civilian university’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program.
At West Point, cadets are given a full scholarship and a salary. With acceptance into an ROTC program, the military pays for most or all college tuition. The program requires the students to take ROTC classes in addition to their majors and spend about four weeks during the summer in training. After graduation, students attend officer training school for approximately 10 weeks. ROTC is offered at thousands of colleges and universities, from Harvard and MIT to Cal State Fullerton.
Entering the military directly out of high school is a shorter process. Student candidates enlist and, following boot camp, they begin service. They also have the opportunity to take a wide variety of specialized training such as electronics, mechanics and engineering and can continue their education with the help of the GI Bill’s scholarships.
Both Kristi and Mary support their children’s decision to enter the military. According to Kristi, “Parents need to take a step back from the fear and look at the bigger picture. The military helps young people forge a path for their life and come out with great strength of character.”
Mary concurs. “I’m not worried about what can happen to my children in the military, especially in context of the college experience. I would be much more worried for their soul and character at a typical college campus. If something were to happen to my child I would rather it be because they were serving a higher cause than crashing into a tree while driving drunk.”
Father Kevin Sweeney is a Navy chaplain, and was former assistant pastor at San Francisco Solano Church in Rancho Santa Margarita. He urges parents to do their research and look at the benefits of military service. “The parents must honestly evaluate their child,” says Father Kevin. “The military will not make a spoiled brat into a happy, polite, well-mannered young adult unless that young person is open to what the military has to offer. However, the camaraderie, sense of real purpose and service to the nation is very rewarding.”
Editor’s Note: Because of Pentagon warnings regarding terrorist threats to military families, only the first names of family members were used in this story.