Marching Orders

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"You don't mind me applying to West Point Military Academy, mom, do you?"

West Point? I thought. It seemed so far.

But it was fall. Graduation was light years away.

"Go ahead," I said, "Let me know if you need anything."

My son, Ohr, thanked me politely and told me he'd do this by himself.


A little over 1,000 candidates are accepted out of 15,000 applicants nationally, I told myself, perhaps as my way of trying to console either one of us. I backed up and watched him fill long applications, write essays, get recommendations and train regularly.

Hesitating, I asked if he was sure about this.

"Everyone should serve their country," he showed me the commendation letter he just got from Congresswoman Doris Matsui. "You did that, mom, didn't you?"

Growing up in Israel, I was drafted when I was 18. Thirty years earlier, my mom was a medic in the same army. Her father, 30 years earlier yet, was an officer in WWI. Others in our family did the same, and yet... this was mandatory in countries far away. And none of them were my kid.

When the letter of appointment arrived, titled "On behalf of the President of the United States..." it started feeling more real. College admittance letters don't look quite like this.

Some of my friends told me to be proud. Others rolled their eyes in dismay. I just smiled half way. We had things to do, like book our tickets for R Day -- that's Army for Reception Day. And go to get some gear, like heavy army boots for the cute little toes I tickled when my baby nursed.

Then came awards night at his high school. A West Point Colonel came to congratulate Ohr as the crowd gave him a standing ovation. His classmates cheered. My co-moms wiped tears. One of the parents tapped my shoulder: great accomplishment, he said, shaking my hand. He tells me you're his inspiration.

Me? I swallowed hard.

Last fall looks like light years away. Of course we're heading to the Academy in upstate New York. They say summer is humid there. I'm packing plenty of tissues.

With a Perspective, I'm Michal Kohane.

Michal Kohane works for the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation and is the mother of six children.