Parents' Stories

A Dual Transformation

A father and son both learn what it means to be in the Military.

Darrell Harper had a post-high-school dream for his son D’Angelo: enroll in college and further his education. D’Angelo was a good student and a successful athlete. To Darrell, having his son stay close to home and continue his education seemed like the obvious choice.

But Darrell soon learned that his own dreams were not the same as his son’s.

“Well, when he first came to me and told me that he was considering going into the Army,” confided Darrell, “I was totally against it. It’s wartime, and he was my oldest child. I really wanted him to be home with me – not to leave and go off, and who knows what would happen.”

D’Angelo, however, had done his research and spoken to a recruiter several times. The Military’s extensive educational programs and career preparation were a primary reason for his interest, and he was prepared to answer his father’s tough questions. So one afternoon, D’Angelo and Darrell had a frank discussion.

”[D’Angelo] said he knew that I didn’t want him [going into the Military], but he felt like he really needed it,” said Darrell. “He would say ‘Dad, I still can go to school – I’m going to go to school in the Service, and they’re going to pay for it.’ ”

D’Angelo also went on to mention the Military’s excellent compensation packages, and how being in the Service would help him take care of his own child. It was then that Darrell realized, “I had to let him be his own man.”

D’Angelo enlisted in the Army, started running and working out in preparation for the physical aspects of the Military and left for Basic Training four months later.

Everyone felt D’Angelo’s absence during his time away – Darrell and the family wrote him letters and talked to him frequently on the phone – but it was D’Angelo’s return from Basic Training that made the most significant impression on his father and family.

“When he first left, I could see a 19-year-old teenager. But [after Basic Training] I could see a 19-year-old man,” stated Darrell. “I had never seen him so proud and so happy of himself. He was a different individual, and he was happy. And that made all the difference in the world.”

During the months that followed, D’Angelo would report back his success in engineering studies and military sports. It was then that Darrell underwent a transformation of his own.

“I used to want him to hurry up, get his time over with and get out. But now I lean toward if he would love to stay in there and make a career out of it, then I would love for him to do that. I am so proud of him.”

D’Angelo is now married and the proud father of a healthy baby boy. Currently stationed in Oklahoma, D’Angelo recently received his Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a certification that allows him to drive trucks and trailers, which he can use both in and out of the Military. Darrell, meanwhile, likes to hang out with his new grandchild, D’Angelo’s son, and bestow good advice.

“If he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps,” Darrell said of his new grandson. “Those are great steps to take.”