Today brings yet another New Year’s Eve, but in our family December 31st means something more special: our youngest son’s birthday.
This year, it’s extra special: Jordan Emilio Rede is turning 30 years old.
Hardly seems possible but, yes, our little guy is saying adiós to his 20s.
Distance prevents Lori and I from celebrating with him in person, as he’s now living two time zones away. But that doesn’t lessen our pride and joy as his parents. And I’m sure Nathan and Simone would agree that their little brother has developed into quite a guy.
Over the years, Jordan has transformed himself from an energetic, physically active, risk-taking adolescent into a solid, responsible young husband and father with a bright future ahead of him.
His trajectory in the last few years has been breathtaking. But let’s not get ahead of the story.
Growing up, Jordan was the most physically active of our three. No surprise, considering he started walking at 10 months, well before either of his siblings. He’d climb trees, skateboard and break dance. In high school, he played coed soccer, took up snowboarding and Shaolin kung fu, and wrestled.
When he joined the Army at 21, he took it to another level during basic training. I’ll never forget how trim and deeply tanned he looked when we traveled to Fort Benning, Georgia, in the summer of 2009 to see him graduate and become an active duty soldier.
Joining the military isn’t what we had in mind for Jordan, but he was intent on becoming an infantryman and seizing the opportunity to challenge himself and be part of a team in service to his country. Of course, we worried when he was deployed to Afghanistan for a 12-month tour ending in December 2012 — five years ago this month.
That day he returned to Joint Base Lewis McChord, safe and sound with hundreds of other troops, stands out as one of the most emotional days of our lives.
Read “A soldier’s return” here
Jordan completed his four-year enlistment the following year and since then, the years seem to have passed in a blur.
Using his G.I. Bill benefits, he enrolled at St. Martin’s University, a small school with a veteran-friendly reputation, and plowed through four years of undergraduate study in the sciences. From their home near Tacoma, he endured a daily 50-mile round-trip commute to attend classes.
In May of this year, at age 29, he graduated magna cum laude in biology. Along the way, he won a National Science Foundation summer fellowship to study at Marquette University, an experience that piqued his interest in science research as a career.
Read “Jordan’s Journey” here
Immediately after graduation, he and his wife and their young daughter packed up and moved to Columbia, Missouri, home of the state’s flagship university, where he began a one-year fellowship aimed at giving post-baccalaureate students more experience in the lab in preparation for graduate school.
When we visited Jordan, Jamie and Emalyn earlier this month, we was just hearing back from the first of several top-notch universities he’s applied to in hopes of pursuing a Ph.D in genetics and microbiology. Early next year, if the best-case scenario plays out, he’ll have a choice of where to go. (No specifics here, but we’re talking about Ivy League-caliber public and private schools.)
During our visit, I had a chance to see the lab where Jordan works on the Mizzou campus. Impressive.
In spite of all his academic accomplishments, nothing makes us prouder than seeing Jordan in his element as a husband and young dad.
He and Jamie, sweethearts since he was in high school, have been married eight years now. She has been the wind beneath his wings, offering love and support from Day One.
They were married eight years ago on a crisp fall day in southern Oregon, not far from where Jamie grew up on a ranch. She worked as a licensed veterinary technician for several years but has shelved that for now to focus on being a stay-at-home mom.
Their daughter, Emalyn, was born in July 2016 and we were privileged to be the first ones (other than Jamie and Jordan) to see and hold her as an infant, within hours of her birth. Seeing the three of them together, whether in their cozy townhouse or out and about on a holiday outing, brought smiles to our faces.
So much has happened in the nine years since Jordan enlisted. That was a turning point in his life, for sure, as it gave him purpose while testing him physically and mentally. I would have never imagined he’d follow a path leading from the military to the college classroom to a university lab, but I’m damn proud that he has.
Today stands as a major milestone in his young life. I can’t wait to see what comes next.