Editor's Note: On July 3, Jon Scott — anchor of weekday's FOX News Live — wrote about the heartwrenching experience of dropping off his oldest son at West Point. Today, he reflects on the reaction the article has received in the past few weeks.
Is this a great country, or what?
I am absolutely overwhelmed at the response to my posting on July 3, the day after we delivered our oldest son to West Point. I've received hundreds of e-mails from FOX Fans, many of them either West Point graduates or the parents of graduates and current cadets. Each e-mail was generous in so many ways — passing on thanks for Josh's service, providing advice on negotiating the difficult years ahead, telling stories of their cadets and how they managed the rigors of this most difficult program. I've even received congratulatory letters from families whose loyalties lie not with that gray stone institution on the banks of the Hudson, but with Annapolis and the Air Force and Coast Guard Academies — imagine that! (I have taken the liberty of correcting the mistakes a few of you made when you accidentally transposed the words on anything you sent me that read, "Go Navy! Beat Army!")
Seriously, I am trying to respond to each of you. I figure if our son can shoulder a 30-pound ruck and march in the often-oppressive heat of a New York summer, I can sit in my air-conditioned office and type a few hundred e-mails. Unfortunately, I do have a couple of other responsibilities around FOX News so it's taking me awhile to get through the e-mail pile — and the week off we took after R-Day (Reception Day, when the new cadets are delivered to West Point) slowed down my response time as well. But I'm working on it — I promise!
Whether to write that piece in the first place was a quandary I considered for some time. I've chosen a career that involves a degree of public visibility; my children have not. Putting Josh front and center in an article about the rigors of West Point, I knew, involved the risk of making him seem somehow more important than the 1,300 other “new cadets.” He's not. Nor did I want to put a big target on his back just as he jumps into what undoubtedly will be the most stressful situation he's encountered in his life.
One father of an upperclassmen e-mailed me that, alas, my worry is, in fact, justified — that the Firsties and Cows (Seniors and Juniors) are passing around the piece I wrote, prepared to torment unsuspecting Josh because of it when they arrive on campus in a few weeks. (This gentleman also explained that upperclassmen find ANY issue to torment the poor Plebes, and if it hadn't been this one, they'd have found another. I guess that's supposed to make me feel better.)
If I thought I might post a little article (my first) on the FOX site and have it slide under the radar without drawing much attention, I was fooling myself. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to the official West Point Web site set up for parents of this year's Plebes, a place where we can play "Where's Waldo?" and search for photos of our new cadets as they undergo basic training — and there was a link to my article on the homepage. So much for letting Josh soldier on in anonymity.
Still, I'm grateful for the responses I've received. Many letters of thanks came from the parents of other new cadets. They lined up that morning just like we did outside Eisenhower Hall, in a fog of confusion and trepidation, to give their fine sons and daughters to West Point. They too are dealing with the sudden uncomfortable vacuum of not having these accomplished teens around the house.
Other mail came from parents who've done the same drill in recent years and wrote to assure me that there IS light at the end of the tunnel:
"We really enjoyed your words. Thank you for putting what we also thought onto paper! Hang in there, it really is the roller coaster they tell you it is, and best of luck to you all."— Lynn
I wrote that we wouldn't hear much from our son, and so far, that's been true — but what we HAVE heard was less than comforting. Josh made a surprise phone call home after the first week of Beast Barracks: "Did you get my letters?" he asked. I told him we hadn't. "Well, I'm doing better now."
I went to the mailbox and found we'd left the mail uncollected on Saturday as we returned from vacation. The letters were there, two of them. I won't quote from them directly, but suffice it to say, their tone was unexpectedly bleak. Beast was tough and Josh was re-thinking everything. I mentioned his morose outlook to some, who've e-mailed me and wound up chuckling at the responses from those who've been there, done that:
"... Reminds me of a framed letter on my bookshelf here in my office. It is the letter I wrote home my first night of Beast Barracks. It says, 'Get me the hell outta here.' My Mom cried for days about it! I didn’t know that she saved it. But she gave it to me on graduation day!" — Lynn
"Don’t worry — we all write that letter." — Todd
"I think I wanted to quit every day my first year, especially during Beast. However, I never did." —Scott
"My daughter even said, 'Gosh, Mom, I remember feeling that I would never smile again. REALLY … that I would never be happy again. It was THAT awful.' Then she erupted into a belly laugh. — Judi
My natural sadness at seeing a son cut the apron strings and leave home didn't exactly come across to every reader; some saw it as my remorse over the mission he's chosen for himself:
"I can't help detect from your story that you might harbor the feeling that your son is making a tragic mistake, that he will be sacrificed for political grandstanding. Maybe I'm wrong and I'm just reading too much into your story. Everyone wants freedom but nobody wants to pay the bill ..." — Dave
Others saw my pride shining through:
"I cannot say that I have felt the feelings that you, and your wife are feeling right now, nor will I feel them, but I can say that I as an American am very proud that your son has chosen to serve this GREAT NATION in its time of need ... " — Larry
Perhaps the most gratifying — and heartbreaking — response is this one:
“I just read your blog about dropping your son at West Point. I lost my fiancé (a Marine Cpt. and USNA graduate who piloted CH-46 helos) in Iraq four years ago, and I wanted to thank you for raising your son to be the kind of man who is willing to volunteer to serve our country. I know how it is to give someone you love to the military, and Josh and your whole family will remain in my thoughts and prayers." — Sandy
Sandy, it is YOU who should be in OUR thoughts and prayers! So many wonderful people in our Armed Forces in these United States of America; so many who will give of themselves, even giving their lives, to help and protect others. I am truly humbled — and I am VERY proud of our son.
I can only end this note as I began it — Is this a great country, or what?
Jon Scott is anchor of "FOX News Live" weekdays at 12pm ET. Click here to e-mail him!