Former curly headed boy is about to become a man

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 22, 2004

My how time flies. In less than a week, my "little" nephew is about to get a new name. Yes, that's right. For at least nine weeks, Matthew Christopher Cooper is about to get a new name.

Maybe it would be more accurate to say "several" names. I don't mean the name "Cheese Ball" which I affectionately tossed his way years ago - and occasionally today for old-time's sake.

Matthew will soon answer to "Maggot," "Scumbag," "Dirtball" and probably any number of other not-so-pleasant monikers by his new overlord - his drill sergeant.

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You see, my "little" nephew isn't so little any more. The 19-year-old man who bears a slight resemblance to the curly headed boy I remember throughout my teenage years, is going to boot camp.

By mid-week, Matthew will be among the newest residents of Fort Benning in Georgia. And while most of us in the family now read the international headlines with a grave new attention to detail, Matthew couldn't be more excited.

He has loved all things military for years. I remember when he was no more than 3 or 4 years old, he would sit and recite the history of his favorite Civil War book. Now granted, he couldn't read at that point, but that didn't stop him. He listened as others read the information and memorized all of the facts about significant battles and would recite them for any willing grown-up ear.

At the time, I found it amusing, but never dreamed those big brown eyes would wind up peering sternly out from beneath a military helmet.

Despite the fears that come with the possibility of Matthew ultimately winding up in harm's way, I can't help but get a smile when I hear him talk about the endless possibilities ahead for him.

He excitedly rattles off a litany of acronyms, spewing military abbreviations about the room like he once strew toys throughout our house.

The enthusiasm over becoming part of the military is lost on me. My parents will be the first to admit that I couldn't stand being told what to do growing up. I'm still that way.

The thought of having orders barked in my direction makes my blood boil.

But for Matthew, he doesn't focus on that. He sees the "full glass" of opportunity the military provides.

He is among thousands and thousands of American youth who are drawn to military service, including dozens and dozens from right here in Lawrence County.

And I, for one, am proud Matthew is among such amazingly fine company.

You've already made me proud, Matthew. Now you're about to make America proud. God bless and Godspeed, Cheese Ball.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to