No one could have prepared me for the flood of emotions that would follow after sending our oldest child and only son off to Basic Training. I had not done my homework to learn the military acronyms or research the phases, ranks, etc. I just knew our son wanted to join the military, and it was evident that would be his path forward. (thank you Robin M. for sharing your story).
Perhaps I was in denial leading up to his departure as I intentionally practiced the supportive mother role rather than forcing my will upon him. Our relationship started to suffer at the onset of Covid in 2020. He was beginning to find his independence and hitting a stride in his teen years, and then boom, lockdown.
My ever-constant presence at home with three kids was wearing on everyone, especially him. During that time, it didn’t matter what the topic of conversation was, but if I pushed, coached, suggested, or anything of the like, he just pushed back harder. We dug our heels in deep, and ultimately, neither of us won.
In June 2022, our son was flip-flopping regularly on what military branch he wanted to join. College was also still on the table; if I’m honest, that was my preference. However, his lifelong dream of being a soldier persevered, and he signed with the Army on his 18th birthday, June 23.
We coasted through the next month while he met regularly with his Army recruiter, and they mapped out the plan moving forward. Ship dates changed several times, and ultimately he left for MEPS in New Orleans on August 1, 2022. His flight to Georgia was the following day, where he would be picked up and taken to Fort Benning. It all happened so fast. I wasn’t ready. Ready or not, here we were.
Days went by with no news from him. I was worried sick and found tears running down my face and didn’t even realize I was crying. Finally, that first call came, and he was okay. Bored, exhausted, and just sitting in reception while waiting for a BCT start date. A few days later, my phone rang with his name across the screen, and I frantically answered.
The call immediately launched into him, stating his name and a bunch of other information that didn’t mean anything to me at the time. It was short and rushed. I tried to talk back with him, but he wasn’t responding. That’s when I realized it was a recording.
The first few weeks of Basic were excruciating as we heard nothing! Knowing enough to know he was in the early phases of training and being “Broken Down,” my heart ached like it never had before. I wanted to protect him, I wanted to take it all away, but I was helpless.
At some point, we got word of a Facebook page specific to his troop and scoured every post and picture to see if we could spot our guy. That provided some reassurance that he was okay.
We settled into our weekly routines and stood guard by the phone on Sundays, anticipating his call. His voice was always scratchy from utter exhaustion. While I knew he was doing exceptionally well with the training, the emotion and homesickness bubbling up in his throat made it hard for him to speak at times. “Trust The Process” was all I could mutter on many of those calls. That became my daily mantra.
The days were long, but in hindsight the weeks flew by. Before we knew it we were making hotel reservations for a turning green celebration and family weekend at Fort Benning. We arrived on base early as we heard and read multiple tales of long lines and checkpoints and knew we could not be late for a first glimpse of our soldier.
That first glimpse did not disappoint. Sitting in the bleacher stands at Brave Rifle Field on a crisp fall morning I experienced one of the most patriotic moments of my life. His squadron came marching across the field in perfect order chanting cadences that could be heard a mile away. There he was. Front and center and just a few feet away. My boy was now a man. I could see it with my own eyes. I could feel it as I wrapped my arms around his neck. Life would never be the same and I wouldn’t want it any other way.