On Saturday my wife Julie, daughter in law Sarah, and I watched my son Christopher receive his bachelor’s degree from St. Francis University. We all are very proud of him and I feel compelled to write down my thoughts regarding his accomplishment. He’s not going to like the fact that I’m writing this and recognizing him in public, but that’s okay, i’m doing it anyway. Some might ask why I’m so proud of him, since receiving a college degree is a relatively common occurrence these days and also due to the fact that it took him sixteen years to complete the task. But that’s just the point. Christopher has been a bit distracted over the past few years.
When Christopher was a sophomore in college, 9/11 happened and it wasn’t long afterward that he made a decision; fighting for his country was more important to him than completing his college education. He dropped out of school and joined another one; the Marines and Camp Pendleton. From there we watched him graduate from Marine boot camp and we were very proud.
Over the next seven years, Christopher would serve two tours of duty in Iraq and participate in many fire fights; enduring the worst that combat has to offer. After his experiences in war he came to us and said he was looking for a new challenge and had decided to become a Green Beret; and we weren’t surprised. I often wonder how getting blown up thirteen times in a Humvee isn’t challenging enough, but then again, I’m not wired like him.
Transferring from the Marines to Fr. Bragg, he spent the next two and a half years becoming a Green Beret, enduring grueling physical and mental test after test and finally graduating. And when Julie and I attended his graduation, we were proud.
Since then he has become a Joliet fireman/EMT, while at the same time serving the military in a reserve role, never knowing when his number will be called to go and serve his country again. I won’t even go into the many challenges he has faced in his personal life. We are and have been proud of and supportive of him in all his endeavors and accomplishments.
But something was bothering him. He felt he had unfinished business to attend. When the subject of his education was brought up, he would laugh with the rest as he was teased about being a lifetime college student. All of his friends had graduated from college long ago. And as far as most people are concerned, his accomplishments over the years speak for themselves. But Christopher loves a challenge and while serving as a fireman, a reserve in the special forces, a father and husband, he persevered and took class after class, continuing to pursue his degree. He took many online classes and would study every chance he got.
But he never gave up or quit. He continued to study and finally earn his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. And that’s why I am so proud of my son. Most people would rest on their laurels and not worry about having a piece of paper that in reality, doesn’t add to or detract in the least from all that he has accomplished and gone through. Christopher saw his bachelor’s degree as unfinished business and pursued it until it was obtained.
It may have taken him a little longer than most to finish school, but considering the numerous distractions he’s dealt with along the way, I have to say, “Good job son and I’m proud of you. For your grit and determination and perseverance.” What’s up next? Who knows? With him, whatever it is I won’t be surprised. And whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll be proud.