After 22 years in the same home, we moved six weeks ago. Unpacking, we are finding “lost treasures” even from the move prior to this one. One of these was a set of cassette tapes with inspirational voice recordings I used with slides for opening Scout ceremonies.

Wondering if I should hang on to these any longer, I searched YouTube for the answer. The one I was looking for was there in several forms: “An American Boy Grows Up, narrated by John Wayne.

In 1973, Wayne recorded an album entitled “America, Why I Love Her,” where he included John Mitchum’s  poem “An American Boy Grows Up,” which went on to be nominated for a Grammy®.  Like me, you can dig out old pictures and set them to this narration, or just enjoy this version published by Leonard Fish on May 26, 2013 on YouTube:

Mitchum’s touching, heartfelt poem shows his love for country, God and our American way of life:

Our son was born so long ago,
Yet it seems like yesterday
That I stood in awe before his crib
And heard that doctor say,
“You’ve quite a boy there, Mister Jones.”
I could only answer with a nod
I saw the miracle of God.

Later, in his high chair,
In a manner I deplore,
I saw that “miracle of God”
Throw his oatmeal on the floor.
Well, I fixed him something different,
For I felt he must be fed,
But when I turned around again,
That bowl was on his head!

A few more years rolled along
And he didn’t spill things anymore.
But his granddad sent a big bass drum,
And once more I deplored
The fact that my miracle of God
Had a lusty taste for noise.
When he’d boom! boom! boom!
On that big bass drum,
I questioned, “Boys must be boys?”

I asked his whereabouts one day.
His mom said, “He’s got a paper route.
Said he’d help to earn his way
As he became an Eagle Scout.”
When they pinned that medal on him,
Tears welled in my eyes,
Then I gripped his mother’s hand…
Our boy had earned his prize.

I won’t forget that September day
When he entered senior high.
He had an air of great excitement,
But he left home with a sigh.
He came back that afternoon
And gave us some puzzled looks.
“Wow!” he said, “This school is tough—
Look at all these books!”

“The choice is yours,” his mother said;
“You can pick the easy way.
What you put into life
You’ll get out of it.
Each man pays his price one day.”
He looked up…and then he smiled,
And I saw he’d lost his gloom.
He said, “I’d better look at these,”
And he headed for his room.

My son came home late one day.
He seemed all worn out.
I asked a little sharply
What this was all about.
He spoke proudly and threw his shoulders back,
And in his eyes I caught a gleam.
“I wanted to surprise you, Dad:
I’m on the football team!”

They won most of their games…lost a few…
It was a thrill to watch him play.
And when they didn’t win, we knew
He’d met the challenge anyway.
He didn’t know it at the time,
But it was a stepping-stone…
Solid footing for the climb
To face life on his own.

How those three years flew past!
When graduation came,
We saw our boy grown up at last.
Our lives will never be the same.
I guess we’ve known all along
What his goal would be…
From that time three years ago
When he chose responsibility.

He stood in the doorway yesterday,
Put out a strong right hand.
I held back tears at the uniform
He wore to protect his land.
I shook his hand. His mother cried,
“Son, why couldn’t you wait?”
Embracing her, he softly said,
“Mom, if we all did, it would be too late.

“I promise I’ll go back to school
When I’ve met my obligation
To you—my friends-my girl—my school—
And most of all, this nation.
I’ll do all I can out there,
For I know you’ll both be trying
To make everyone you know aware
We’ve gotta keep Old Glory flying.”

And then his mother straightened up.
With a smile to hide a tear,
She said, “We’re both so proud of you!
We’ll feel lost without you here.
Someday, you’ll know what this moment means,
When your boy shakes your hand…
And you watch him as he walks away…
The day he becomes a man.”

This Independence Day, celebrate boyhood, manhood and freedom by thanking a vet you know for what he has done for our country.

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Darryl Alder
Darryl is a retired career Scouter with more than 30 years of service. These days he is a Scouting Ambassador and serves on the Council Membership and Marketing Committee. However, his pride in Scouting is his volunteer service as an Associate Advisor, Varsity Scout Coach, Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, Chartered Organization Representative, and Commissioner.

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