Before my son Thomas started school, I dropped him off at my mom's house on my way to work, and he spent the day with her. My mom's recounting of their day varied, depending on what she and Thomas did, but the one thing that seldom changed was that it began with him standing at attention with his hand over his heart when he heard the national anthem or "God Bless the USA" on the radio.

The pride in my mom's voice was obvious as she told about how Thomas would be in the middle of eating breakfast or playing with his toys and stop and run over to the radio as soon as he heard the DJ start his talk show with one of the two songs.

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Thomas' pride in, and respect for, his country continued when he started school, and he often played the Lee Greenwood CD I bought him for one of his birthdays. He also enjoyed the outdoors, hunting and competing in individual sports such as wrestling, so I wasn't too surprised when he told me, as a junior in high school, he wanted to join the military after graduation. Not being surprised, though, did not translate into approval. I quickly told him I didn't think that was a good career choice. My reaction wasn't the result of having any philosophical problem with the military but because I was worried about Thomas' safety, knowing that in these uncertain times he could be in dangerous situations if he was in the service.

The Corps

Thomas didn't say much after I told him no, and he didn't bring it up again until after graduation from high school when he told Brian and me that he wanted to join the military. This time, I swallowed my fear and Brian and I told him that, if that's what he wanted to do, we supported him. I knew that it was unfair to Thomas to keep him from doing what he felt called to do just because it would be difficult for me. Thomas said he wanted to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps, and, within a few hours of telling me, had done so.

On Nov. 5, 2018, we dropped Thomas off at the airport for his flight to San Diego where he joined about 350 other young men for 13 weeks of boot camp. During those 13 weeks, Thomas' letters home demonstrated to us that enlisting in the Marines was the right choice for him. He sounded upbeat, enthusiastic and determined, despite what we knew from following his training matrix, was a rigorous, intense and challenging time for him.

Our family was privileged to watch Thomas graduate from the U.S. Marine Corps on Feb. 1. The young civilian we watched walk through the airport gate on Nov. 5 was gone and Pvt. Thomas Gregoire, a mature, strong and disciplined man was in his place. Yes, I'm still fearful for Thomas' safety, but even more, I am filled with pride that he has chosen to defend his country. It is my honor to be the mother of a U.S. Marine.