Monday, April 05, 2004

Nothing Half-assed

Immediately after graduation this past June, a favorite student of mine, Allan Cooper, left for Paris Island. He promised that he would come back to visit me in his dress blues, right out of boot camp.

At first glance, Allan seemed an unlikely candidate for the Marines. Blue-green hair, pierced tongue, x-rated tee-shirt, and skate pants so wide I teased him about hiding a couple of girlfriends in there with him... He was way more punk than platoon. His career choice didn't surprise me though. Nothing about Allan was half-assed. This young man worked as hard as he played.

As a ninth grader Allan took my Art 1 class, and although he was no great artist, managed to earn an "A". Senior year he walked through the door of my classroom and announced that he didn't need an elective credit, there were no study halls for seniors, and he was already enlisted in the Marine Corps. I should plan on giving him an "F" because he was not going to do any work. He was only signed up for my class because he had to be someplace, and he liked the atmosphere in the art studio. We had a great year. He made me laugh every day, and I was able to cajole enough work out of him to pass him with a "C".

My favorite part of teaching high school is when former students come back to visit me. Often the kids who go to college come back to school during winter or spring break. Sometimes students come back and tell me about their jobs. Sometimes they come back with their babies. But it's the kids who come back in uniform that make me gasp with pride and delight. They are always the ones who seem to have matured the most.

Allan came to visit me in October. The classic Marine. Starched, pressed, shoes gleaming, white hat in hand. In love with the Marine Corps. We talked about the war in Iraq. He wasn't worried.
I was.

After Christmas he stopped in to see me again. This time he was dressed in civilian clothes, and he came by with a classmate of his, on winter break from college.
"Guess what?" he asked when he walked in the door. "I got a new tattoo."
"Show me." I said, always eager to check out new body art.
"You don't want to see it." his friend grimaced, shaking his head.
Allan smiled, "I got my balls tattooed...Cherries!"
I see some things never change.

Allan was leaving in a couple of days for a few more weeks of training, before receiving his next assignment. He had not yet been told where he would be going.

The Iraqi war rages on.
Each day I read about more casualties, more American soldiers dying. Today I finally got word....Allan is stationed in Japan.