We are old hands at Navy boot camp graduation (technically called Pass In Review) so we knew to get there at the crack of early. When our older son graduated there were eight Divisions, but with this one, there were twelve so we knew it would be even more crowded.
So much was different this time, though. The traffic, for one thing. Even though it was only 6 a.m. and the ceremony didn’t start till 9, we got stuck in traffic for 30 minutes. But when we got in there was nobody checking our parking pass or our IDs, no police dogs sniffing our car, no scary M16s pointed at us.
In the building I was pulled aside for a random search. Did I look dangerous? Were they just trying to get me to stop with the Happy Dance already? Were they worried that all my giddiness would ooze out my pores and make dangerous puddles that people would slip in? Dunno.
I’ve written about the actual ceremony before and here’s a video of it. Not ours, but you get the idea. Within the first minute the garage door – you know, the one I talk about all the time – goes up, in case you’ve been wondering what that’s like. (Fair warning … I mute this one because I can’t stand this song.)
Lots of tears, lots of excitement and pride … especially when they welcomed “1,098 of the newest and sharpest sailors in the US Navy!”
When they gave the liberty call, all hell broke loose in the ceremony hall, and I’m constantly amazed how quickly everyone finds their sailor. They do, after all, look exactly the same! Our son found us and said he saw us as soon as he marched in. Too funny.
I saw him when he marched in and I kinda wished I hadn’t. It made me very nervous to know which one he was waaaaay in the back while so many sailors were wobbly and going down. Every time his head moved (since that was all I could see of him) my stomach lurched. Of course everything was fine, but can we all agree it was fine specifically because I worried about it? Thank you.
We had him from after graduation until about 7 p.m. It started raining lightly so he was required to wear his raincoat. You can’t just put ON a Navy raincoat. You must become one with the coat, buttoning every button. But because he hoofed it from the barracks back to where we waited, he was hot, so he unbuttoned in the car. We only drove a few miles to get lunch but to walk from the parking lot into the restaurant required him to re-button, walk ten steps, then undo it all again.
It made me laugh. It was also fun for this mom to see him worrying about spilling food on his dress whites. Glad I’m not the only worried one now.
As we drove off base, he marveled. “I’m moving forward without walking with 80 guys! Wow … I’d forgotten what that was like!” He hadn’t been in any kind of vehicle for over two months.
We hung out in the hotel all afternoon, catching up, letting him play with his electronics we brought from home, and he quite enjoyed the very long shower he took all by himself. I hear there’s nothing quite so spectacular as that first shower you don’t have to share with 80 other guys.
While at the hotel he made a call back to base to clarify the time he had to be back. It was fascinating to hear him say, “Yes, Master Chief … thank you, Master Chief.”
What happened to my boy??
We went out to dinner where he continued to regale us with boot camp stories. Often he’d stop mid-sentence, though, so I knew a waitress had walked by. “Sight for sore eyes,” he’d say.
Ah, there’s my boy!
He had to muster at 1:30 a.m. for a 2:00 a.m. bus to the airport for his 5:30 p. m. flight. (Yes, p.m.) And, of course, they went from Chicago to Texas via Atlanta.
We knew we could hand off his backpack of electronics and civilian skivvies at the airport so we met him there around 9 a.m. after a rollicking trip through the heart of Bad Driver Land. (Not to worry, you’ll hear more about that!) The nice people at the airline gave us a gate pass so we hung out with him until mid-afternoon when he started to get antsy.
I knew it was time to say goodbye.
It’s always hard to send your kids off someplace unfamiliar, but he was so excited and not at all nervous so I didn’t even cry.
That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.