As a dad you wonder what your kids have taken to heart from you. Just what of the examples you set will they grab onto and make their own? And we all set those examples, good and bad, no matter what.
With my boys I tried to be the best example I could, although I had my moments of regret. I've been the stern disciplinarian and the loving comforter. I was the dedicated public servant and the sports lover with both taking me away from them maybe more often than they should have. Their mom picked up the slack when it was necessary and I am sure handled things she would have rather I handled.
I've smiled with them in success, shared in their tragedies and gave them my advice on how to react with an eye toward learning lessons. I've whipped them when I was the one crying when it was all over.
Through it all, most of all, I wanted my boys to be quality young men who understood responsibility and respect. I wanted them to value family and this country and to understand the foundation on which their lives would be built.
I can't say mission accomplished because we all grow and learn every day of our lives. But, I had an opportunity to reflect on my boys this week as the second of the three entered a life of public service.
He is the middle child and it took him a while to find his way to this place and it was with great pride I watched him graduate from the Georgia Corrections Academy. He's serving his community in the Valdosta State Prison. He's excited about the opportunity and I saw things in him that day that I had been hoping to see. He is proud of his accomplishments, as is the entire family.
His younger brother has been in a similar job these last four years here in Brevard with the BCSO as a corrections deputy. He has been unwavering in his support for his older brother and I saw them grow closer as graduation day neared. They will be fantastic support for each other as they progress through their very tough jobs.
The dinner time discussions will prove to be interesting from here on out as well. It's a dangerous job, yet the stories can be as funny as they can be shocking. We have already seen that.
I can't say all of this without acknowledging their older brother, Chris, who is my son that many of you know as the one who had the horrific car accident where his crushed hip was the most severe of his many injuries. There are many reasons to be proud of him in how he has handled that adversity and the lifelong ramifications of that crash.
Obviously, he won't be joining the ranks of those protecting our society in the same way his brothers are, but that doesn't mean the same idea hasn't rubbed off on him. It's my hope that he will attain the goals he has set for himself as he, too, seeks a way to serve.
When all is said and done. We raise our kids by what we say to them and what we show them. All three of mine are fathers doing their best to set examples for their kids as we all did for ours. My hope is that they have and will continue set those positive examples and expectations.
I had a strong desire for public service as a teen looking to what being an adult would be. Apparently, at least that part of my life impacted them in a way that makes them want to do the same. I'm glad for that. I'm proud of them for that and I wish them health, safety and happiness along the way.
I hope when they have the opportunity to reflect on what they have done, what their lives accomplished along the way, that they will be able to see their kids and what they become and can have the same pride in their children that I have in them.
If that's the legacy that we have provided, if their kids grow up to appreciate that there are some things bigger than self and are worthy of personal sacrifice...then we could have done a lot worse.
And if there is one song that exemplifies this spirit we all should hold, it's this verse from The Battle Hymn of the Republic:
In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in his bosom that transfigured you and me.
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on.
May it always be so.