His exact words,
This is what I’m most proud of…
We followed him to the little corner of his room where his desk was positioned; he pulled out 2 brass belt buckles – one shiny, one dull. He continued,
If I use this tube and squirt about this much, then rub the buckle like this… sometimes I have to use this thing to get out some of the bumps, then I can get it shiny just like the day I got it.
We stood frozen, watching every swipe of his towel. Our eyes mesmerized by the shine glistening from the buckle. Then swiftly, he walked around us; we were captivated by every move he made. He directed us to another little corner of the room, his closet. He began to pull out 3 outfits one by one, holding each up for us to see.
These are my greens… These are my summer blues, and I’ll wear these in the parade today…
In our state of wonderment and marvel we clung to every word, and watched him as he pulled his camouflaged shirt over his head. He said we could take his picture if we wanted. (Never have I heard him offer to pose unless it involved something like a bullfrog in his hands, a bucket filled with tadpoles, or a fish at the end of his string.) As he spoke about the different uniforms, he interjected little stories about his fellow cadets,
…he just returned from Iraq…he doesn’t like to talk about it too much… and …he’s a Falcon…he’s trying to get into the Air Force Academy…and …he is strong, he’s Samoan…
I remember seeing his shoes lined up neatly under his perfectly made bed. I remember that he had one thing taped to his walls – a letter from home. I remember the way his little closet neatly held his few outfits, and how he explained the purpose of each outfit.
And I remember the way he introduced us to Second Lieutenant S. I treasure the image in my head of the way M stood proudly and smiled broadly while his second lieutenant summarized for us,
…Your son is a good kid, he’s gotten off track a couple times, but he’s a good cadet and a good kid.
Less than an hour into our visit and our secret glances to one another were already saying, “Could this be working?”