by Carolyn Trower

I’ve said numerous times how proud I am of the youth of Ralls County. I don’t think you can find a better group anywhere. After raising two sons and teaching elementary through seniors for 30 years, I know kids are a conundrum at best. They test your patience every day and push you to the limits of your sanity. They are worth it, though.
Monday’s school Veterans Day assembly was such an example. It’s not easy to get all the students, K-12, in one gym and then keep them quiet for an assembly. But as each phase of the assembly took place, they sat, quietly and respectfully during the music and the speakers, and finally sat in complete silence as the slide show with local veterans’ photos played against the large screen. They applauded the veterans and then returned to class.
Some of them, especially the older ones, may have left thinking about joining the service. And that’s admirable. It’s scary for a parent to send their son or daughter to the military, knowing they will be facing hardships and going through things we’d rather they not have to face. But they will also be stretched and pushed to their limits, and in the process find that they can do many things they had not thought possible.
The hardest thing I’ve done as a parent was to take my oldest son to the bus station in Hannibal for the trip to the induction center in St. Louis. He was 18 and barely out of high school. My husband told me, “You know he won’t be the same when he gets back.” That was not encouraging at all. How not the same? I pictured dodging bullets, sloshing through jungles, and all the other images I had absorbed from too many movies.
He, of course, meant our son would be stronger both mentally and physically. He would be tested, and he would come through it “a man.” I don’t know all that my son went through in the four years he served. I know he was in Desert Storm and I remember how hard it was to have any communication with him. Packages and letters were often left in burning mail trucks alongside the road. I heard stories about gigantic sand spiders (and later jungle spiders). I knew sanitation and food weren’t always the best. When my mother-in-law died, my husband asked the Red Cross to have our son notified by a priest. We weren’t sure when he’d be given the news, but the Army finally got the message to his unit on the border. Later he would tell us, “Yes, they sent a chaplain, but it wasn’t a priest.” He smiled as he added, “They sent a rabbi.” When you serve, you learn to make do with what you have.
My youngest is currently serving with the National Guard. He didn’t enlist until he was older, married and with two children. His wide and kids have been troopers through all that full-time Guard service requires including two deployments. Everyone has strengthened, as a family and as individuals. My grandchildren have learned self-discipline and persistence and have gained a love of country that far exceeds any lesson in a history book.