Several of you have commented on how proud Jim and I must be of our son and how difficult to see him choosing this type of work. I've thought about this a lot....actually, once he began talking about joining the Air Force.
As I think back over the course of events that lead to him being where he is now, I am totally awed by how the Lord moved and orchestrated everything. Most mothers (and fathers) are pretty good at reading the 'bent' in their children. And from early on I always thought James would excel in the military. He is very disciplined and focused. Also, he strives to his highest level especially when there is competition. Pressure seems to cause him to thrive. There is an element of him that likes the adrenalin rush that comes from intense situations. He also likes order.
When he was 5 years old, in kindergarten, we visited the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Co. James was so taken with the whole place, eyes wide with excitement! He turned to me and said, "Mom, I'm going to go here to school next year!" I laughed and told him that maybe when he was ready for college that might be a possibility. Well, a little time passes and something else edged into his life that he grew equally passionate about. It was basketball, now to be forever called b-ball. Like I said, he had a passion for it. That seemed to sideline any other thoughts about what he might want to do in life as an adult. As a result, the AFA did not feature prominently during high school.
He went to Idaho for his first year of college because he got a scholarship and could play b-ball. But in the back of his mind he was still toying with a military career. He began the process of submitting his application to the Air Force Academy and, at the same time, he also applied to ROTC for scholarships. It was an incredibly stressful year for him. Basketball took up so much of his time, and there was a major time committment that he needed to make with his upper math courses.
One afternoon I received a phone call from James telling me he had talked with his coach and he dropped out of the basketball program to focus totally on getting into the AFA. For James, dropping the basketball was the highest commitment he could make. He had essays to write and meetings with his senators which required him to fly down here quite often. Of course, we never complained of the time he was able to spend at home! :) But, whenever he flew down, it always entailed him missing a class, and in college, that is something to be avoided, if possible.
In April of 2001 my dad died very unexpectedly. James flew out to Colorado Springs for the funeral. My dad had been in the Air Force for 33 years, as a pilot. My brother-in-law graduated from the AFA and became a navigator. My sister's daughter, Claire, married an AFA graduate. You can say it is in our blood! Even my husband's father served his 20 years in the Air Force. My husband was the odd one out; he served his 4 years in the Army.
When we arrived home from the funeral James received his letter notifying him that he had not been selected for the AFA. Soon after that he received another letter telling him that he had been awarded a full scholarship to a school in Alabama, with the emphasis on his joining the Army. That summer, he left to go down and check out the school and do a basic training type thing. However, his mind began thinking and processing. It was during that time period that he began asking himself exactly what he wanted to do. Did he want to go the Army route or did he want to go the Air Force route? He decided he wanted to do the Air Force, if he could fly. (This was music to Momma's ear's because I would much rather he fly over a war than to walk through the war!)
So, he left Ft. Knox and headed home to UT with the idea he would do ROTC. He contacted USU and finished up the paper work. We were told he most likely had missed the window of opportunity for a scholarship but the Sgt. would go ahead and process it to see what happened. James only had 4 days to the deadline. Also, the Sgt asked him if he wanted to keep his major in History or did he want to change it to a technical degree? James thought about it for a minute or so and replied that he wanted to keep it History. Now, less than 1% of ROTC scholarships are given to non-technical degrees and James got one! He was able to begin that fall with the scholarship.
Another big moment arrived 9/7/01. James called with second thoughts about accepting the monthly stipend. He was to have enlisted but there had been a snag in the paper work which allowed him time to rethink his decisions. That is one of those times when I was so glad his father could talk with him, giving him things to consider and pray about. I was frustrated, wanting him to 'get going'. Dear hubby told him to call and let us know what his decision was. Then, the morning of 9-11. James and I talked on the phone as it was happening. He was so confident, so sure of himself. He told me, "I don't know what happened on Friday, Mom, I just sort of lost my focus. But, I'm focused now, and this is what I am supposed to do. When they call, I'm going." He called back at noon to tell me he was on his way over to enlist in the Air Force. Now, I have to admit, as a mother on Tuesday, I thought, "I'm so glad he hasn't enlisted!" Then we have our discussion and I begin to pray. It was so clear to me that the Lord has had a plan for James, leading and directing each step of the way. Did I believe the Lord had a plan on Friday? Yes. What makes me think His plan had changed on Tuesday? So I bowed my head and committed our son, all over again, to the Lord, asking for forgiveness for trying to 'take control.'
The next three years he grew and matured. There was one very key semester which everything really hung on, at least as far as being chosen for a pilot slot. Through all the hoops, the ups and downs, the Lord has made it very apparent that it is He, and He alone, who has opened the doors for James. There were numerous physicals, and retakes of physicals, and then more physicals. Finally, the day arrived when we received the phone call from James telling us he had been given a pilot slot. Then, there were tons more tests...psychological, physicals, physical fitness tests and apptitude tests which still could knock him out at any given time.
He commissioned as an officer in April of last year and began working in a fighter squadron at Hill AFB, only 45 minutes away from us!! That was a gift beyond any measure for us as parents. It had never crossed our minds to pray for Hill but it goes to show that the Lord blesses beyond our wildest dreams.
Then, in October, he moved out of his apartment and headed for Georgia. During his time in Georgia, the Lord has continued to impress on all of us, that it still is He who is bringing James through his training. Without a doubt, the Lord has accomplished many things, causing James to be stretched beyond his imagination. His first 6 months are winding down and he will head for his final six months of flight training.
His dad and I, as well as our whole family, are so proud of him! We would be proud no matter what he chose to do. But, for us, his parents, I think what keeps us grounded is we know that the Lord has placed James in the position he is in. It is He who has instilled in James the desire to fly and it was He who instilled a very strong sense of patriotism. We have always tried to instill in James a heart attitude that was sensitive to the Lord's leading and direction. And, an obedience to obey that call. I may have fleeting moments, when I take my eyes off the Lord, and I could allow myself to be worried. But, we never want James to be outside of the Lord's leading and direction. It would be MUCH scarier if James was living outside of His will. So, I truly think that is what brings me the most peace. Knowing our son is right where God has placed him which means he is in the palm of His hand and nothing is touching him that hasn't passed through God's hands first. In Him I can rest, no matter what the future holds!