The path to manhood isn't always known, but the destination can be crystal clear.
A boy became a man today. According to the calendar, he'd been one for a number of months, but folks still treated him like a kid - an older teenager, anyway - and he didn't really feel any different in himself. Lately, though, he'd noticed that he found himself thinking about things he hadn't really considered before.
He'd be sitting out on the porch, just enjoying the evening, and suddenly realize he was thinking about one of America's past wars - the Vietnam War, the Civil War, or even the Revolutionary War. He would find himself remembering snippets of lectures from long-forgotten American History classes, or scenes from a documentary or a Hollywood movie from the Forties or Fifties.
He found himself noticing the lapel pins on the old men negotiating the aisles at the store or sipping coffee at McDonald's. He soon started sitting in an adjacent booth, so he could listen to their stories. He found that he felt strangely proud, whenever he saw a group of them on their way to or from a parade or funeral. When it was the latter, even though it was never someone he actually knew, he was as sad as if he'd lost one of his own friends.
One day, it finally dawned on him - he was being called to serve. The best friends a man could have - friends he didn't even know yet - wore his country's uniform. He went down to the mall for reasons completely different than at any other time in his life. He walked through the Food Court, past the electronics and jewelry stores, and turned into a small office space whose entryway was flanked by a pair of U.S. flags.
Walking to the closest desk, he stuck out his hand and said, "Hi, I'm John. I want to join."
The man in uniform took the offered hand, measured the boy's resolve through his grip and the look in his eye, and replied, "Glad to have you, son."