ROBBINSTON, Maine — Thousands of American soldiers and sailors headed home this past week to spend Christmas with their families.
Zane Clossey, 19, was just one.
He flew into Bangor International Airport at 2 a.m. Dec. 19, landing in the loving arms of his family.
But for his mom, who lives just across the border in St. John, New Brunswick, and his dad, of Robbinston, getting to know the new Zane over the past week was a shocker and an eye-opener.
“He has changed so much in the past four months,” Harold Clossey said of his son as they relaxed together at home Sunday.
Oh, the shy smile is still there, the quick way he rubs his eyes when he’s nervous, the constant checking of his cell phone. He still holds the door to the refrigerator open to see what goodies it holds, and he continues to be one of the Montreal Canadiens’ biggest hockey fans.
But there are other, newer traits that the new Army private exhibits.
“He hugged his younger sister at the airport,” Harold Clossey said, laughing. “That was a first.”
“He is more patient, more interested in the world around him rather than just himself,” his mother, Trish Hopkins, said.
Clossey’s parents said they can see that their son’s mind and thoughts are becoming more organized, that he stands taller and appears more self-reliant and proud of himself.
Clossey said some of his friends questioned his sanity when he enlisted in the Army during wartime.
“‘Aren’t you afraid you’ll die?’ they asked me,” he said.
But for Clossey, a U.S. resident with Canadian citizenship, military service was just the anchor he needed.
By his own admission, Clossey was a bit lost when he decided to enlist. He was a weekend party guy, often disappearing for a couple of days with friends, and he had just been asked to leave a Canadian community college.
He was confused, he said, and had no direction. The military seemed a last option, and for Clossey, it was the perfect solution.
“It was a great decision,” Clossey said. “I wasn’t really doing anything productive here. I had tried school. It didn’t work. I tried sitting around with no job. That didn’t work.”
He reported to Fort Knox in Kentucky for basic training on Sept. 11, 2009, and said he immediately knew the military was right for him.
“The way you think is different — there is more attention to detail and I’m more observant. I don’t take for granted the things and people I have here anymore,” he said.
As he was traveling home, he said, many people saw his uniform and thanked him for his service.
“I really haven’t done anything yet,” he said, but added he was humbled that so many thought his service was important.
Clossey said he now realizes he is part of a bigger picture, that there is more to life than just himself. He didn’t feel it when he enlisted, but over the past few months he has become more connected to his family members who served their countries: A great-grandfather was with Canadian forces in World War I, a grandfather served in the Canadian Army, his father was in the U.S. Navy, and his uncle was in the U.S. Army.
“Once I joined, I began to feel that I was carrying on a family tradition,” he said.
Clossey said he will report to Fort Knox and then head to Fort Benning in Georgia for airborne school. From there, he expects to be sent overseas.
Harold Clossey said it is scary to think of his son in harm’s way but it is a strong, well-trained man that he sees when he looks at his son now.
“There are a lot of unknowns in his world right now and he’s taking it all in stride,” Harold Clossey said.
“Now he talks about the future,” Hopkins said. “Before it was all about his immediate needs. When I see him so proud of himself, it makes me proud.”