Shawn Singleton

It’s ironic I’m writing this 28 years ago to the day I stood on the gold-painted footprints welcoming me to hell, I mean, Marine Corps Recruit Depot – Parris Island.

Though it was less than three hours from my hometown, it might have been three worlds away from anything I had ever known before.

I had worked out for months preparing for this moment: running, cycling, weightlifting, pushups, etc. I had even broken up with my girlfriend a few weeks before.

I didn’t want the insane thought of someone cheating on me back home creeping into my mind to deter me from my singular mission.

No attachments! No problem!

I never really planned on having a 20-year military career. I just wanted to do my four, come home and go to college – as my family and I originally discussed. However, I was injured around a year sooner than that, so I came back to South Carolina – and the path to my current life was blazed.

This segues a conversation I had with my 11-year-old niece Langston a few days before.            

Laney told me she had written a paper – on of all people – yours truly, and my military service.

WHAT THE…

Why couldn’t she have picked her uncle Brandon in Los Angeles? His life is considerably more exciting than mine, because he’s in L.A.!

Or how about either of her grandfathers? Granddads are always cool.

Anyone could have been better – or a hell of a lot more interesting - than a broken-down former serviceman who currently works in arguably the most hated profession next to working for the Internal Revenue Service.

Did I skip the part she was born in December of 2009, almost 15 years AFTER my military career ended?

Everyone here knows I am not embarrassed in any way by my service. I never talked about it with the little goofball because I was never around the little goofball much, except when I was home reading books to her, which might explain her vocabulary (a little bit).

It’s not a subject you bring up much at the dinner table, especially when you aren’t home for dinner. 

It turned out my parents told little Laney everything about her uncle, from the beginning to the injury. 

I hope they didn’t show her the letters home! I wasn’t a very good writer then!     

I really don’t know what to think about all of it. Honestly, I would have wanted to be that person to talk to her about it.

Then again, would I have wanted to talk? How do you frame that conversation to a sixth-grader?

It would probably be easier for me to have “the talk,” and I don’t even have kids!       

Mom, of course, said she is more like me than she’s like her own mother. That isn’t even possible.

Courtney gave birth to her, but Mom and Dad says she’s developing has my sense of humor, and she loves reptiles like her uncle.

Quelle horreur! That’s already not good for the rest of the world!

I did promise her a snake when she turns 16.

Face it family. Laney’s getting the snake!

Now that I think about it, I’m starting to understand why Langston chose me for her paper.

Twenty-eight years after taking the oath of service to my country, I’m still proud of that decision – and I’m proud (and a little scared) of my niece for choosing me and that decision as the subject of her paper.

When I come home, maybe we can have that talk a little more often.