Sunday, March 2, 2014

JP3 – For Fathers, Sons, Brothers of the Air Force and Military

JP3 is my nephew, the only son of my sister, and I coined the nick name JP3 because my father had the initials, his father has the initials and to be honest I think I’m the only one who uses it, so the significance of JP3 is that it means something to him and I and it makes a great title to this blog. JP3 was born when I was 16 and he was the first grandchild making his birth a huge event for our family. I remember the day like it was yesterday; spending hours in my sister’s hospital room, watching her suffer through the contractions until the epidural was administered; and then waiting for my brother-in-law to emerge from the delivery room to adorn us with the new addition to our family. The first thing to come out of my 16 year old mouth was “Does he look like me?” because like all of us in our small family I wanted to have an immediate connection with him. 
The first time I babysat JP3 he was only a couple of months old when my mom and sister went shopping for a few hours. It sounds like I’m about to set up a horror story, but nothing horrible happened. When my mom and sis returned, JP3 was asleep on my belly, to their dismay. My wife says I have a magic belly because my three children go to sleep as soon as they hit the belly, so I guess I have had the magic all my life. The babysitting story is just one example of how good JP3 was as a child. I was once stopped by a nice lady at James Coney Island hot dog joint, where I had taken JP3 to have one of our beloved hotdogs, to tell me what an incredibly well-mannered little brother I had. I didn’t see that coming and I don’t know if JP3 came out that way or he was just scared to death of my sister; nevertheless he has always felt more like a little brother to me than a nephew, so I didn’t correct the observant lady at Coney Island. I was blessed to be able to spend a lot of time with JP3 when he was small before job opportunities took my sister and family to Saudi Arabia where JP3 spent the most of his childhood.
While in Saudi, my sister was diagnosed with MS, and at the time, it was devastating to the family not knowing what the outcome would be. Ultimately she has learned to live with the disease quite well for over 20 years. I mention this because I was always amazed at how well JP3 handled this at such a young age. On their trips home to visit I noticed he was always attentive and quick to help his mom, as if he knew what she needed before she needed it. JP3 was exposed to a wide range of cultures and made lifelong friendships. There were no reported misbehaviors during their 10+ year stay, but with kids in an expat compound in Saudi Arabia with golf carts as their transportation something bad, I mean fun, must have happened.
High school wasn’t available for expats at the time in Saudi so my sister and her husband had to make the difficult decision to send their 14 year old boy to prep school in the states. They chose a great school in Massachusetts where JP3 had to continue to grow up fast. From all accounts JP3 had incredible high school experience and in four years, he only had one incident of poor judgment with plenty of bad influences surrounding him, like in most high schools. Our family is not rich and we are definitely not famous but JP3 went to high school with some of the richest and most famous children in the United States and he took it in stride knowing they put their uniform on the same way he did ever morning. My father passed away of cancer while JP3 was in high school and that was one of the only times I have seen him cry. We were in the elevator of the hospital after a visit where my father was suffering and scared. JP3 couldn’t hold in the pain he was feeling for his grandfather who he loved so much. My mom pass away several years later. JP3 and his Gramms were inseparable when he was young and she was always happiest when she was spending time with her grandson, JP3. 
JP3 came home to Texas after prep school and blew through college, if I remember correctly, in less than four years. You know what that means? He wasn’t smoking weed and drunk off his ass engaging in the 6 year plan; instead he was engaging his brain. After college JP3 fought his mom and won for the first time in his life. He enlisted in the United States Air Force. After passing the entrance exam JP3 was accepted to the Defense Language Institute. He studied Arabic and graduated a Cryptic Linguist. All of his work is classified so I don’t know exactly what he does or sometimes where he is. He just tells me “We are doing good things Uncle Matt” and I believe him. He recently returned from Afghanistan and I was honored to receive the flag flown on his last mission. Whether you agree with the US foreign policy or not you must praise the great, compassionate, noble duties performed by the individuals in the military every day. If you are walking and see someone in uniform, stop and shake their hand. If you are in your car and you see someone in uniform, stop your car, cross the street and shake their hand. They deserve it. 
JP3 has been on this earth for 30 years and has only made a few poor judgments. He has dealt with those poor judgments with dignity and faced his fears. That is the test of a great man. If you have someone in your family that has lived an exemplary life you should let them know. I have 3 heroes in my life, my father, my brother, and my brother-in-law. These three men shaped my life by example. JP3 will most certainly shape my children’s life and already has as my son Max sees his picture most every day and proudly says “That’s my cousin, he’s a soldier, and he’s my hero”.

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