Tag Archives: Navy Mom

You’ll Hear From Me In A Month, Mom

As I write this, my 18-year-old son has been at Navy boot camp for about 10 hours. (Maybe 11 ”” I don’t do well with timezones.) I got the scripted phone call yesterday at 9:08 pm. “I’m supposed to tell you I got here, you’ll get a box from me next week, and you’ll hear from me again in about a month. And I love you.” He sounded confident and strong. Maybe a little nervous, but that could have just been my ear.

Because I’m a Navy mom veteran now, I know the box is what we call the “Kid in a Box.” It contains everything ”” down to his lucky boxers ”” that he had with him when he left home. I picture them standing inside the box, stripping down, then stepping out naked and shivering before they slip on their boot camp clothes.

He’ll be there for about two months before he graduates. After graduation, he’ll leave Chicago for San Antonio for a couple of months for his training to be a Master at Arms, a Navy cop. He’ll have so many options after that, from Counter Narcotics (which I don’t think has anything to do with retail sales) to K9 units to Counter Terrorism (again, nothing you can buy) to Fleet Protection Force. Very heady stuff for someone who just earned the right to buy a cigar.

We had dinner with him the night before he left and tried to cram in 18 years of advice we might have forgotten to tell him along the way.

He’s kinda following in the footsteps of his older brother Adam who has been in the Navy for a year-and-half, except he is a corpsman ”” Navy medic ”” stationed in Okinawa.

When Adam left, I was more afraid of the unknown, but with Jeff, I think I’m more nervous about what I DO know.

Some of the things I thought I knew about the Navy have proven to be untrue. For instance, I pictured the young enlisted guys as being in a protective bubble of Navyness. But the reality is that the Navy treats them as the young adults they actually are, free to make mistakes ”” big and small ”” and take unfortunate risks.

I probably wouldn’t know much about that part of Navy life except that Adam divides his time between working at a fire station on the ambulance crew and in the ER in one of the base hospitals.

He had a rough couple of shifts over the July 4th holiday. One of his patients was a fifteen year old who drank so much that “his brain forgot how to breathe.” I asked what they did and he said, “We tried to breathe for him.”

Another patient remembered driving himself to a bar, driving away from the bar, and being in the ambulance.

Two patients were ginormous, combative Marines who had to be chemically as well as physically restrained before they could be treated for their drunken injuries.

All of these young men will face severe consequences from the Navy and from their mothers. My heart breaks for everyone involved, but I’m so proud they had Adam to take care of them. I know it affects him, as it does all ER workers. How could it not? I hope he continues to share his work ”” the funny stuff as well as the tragic ”” with us and with other people and that he’s able to keep perspective.

He’s a confident, competent, generous and warm-hearted person, both with his patients and with his family. Especially his younger brother. Jeff is lucky to have him to answer his questions about boot camp, solicit his advice about Navy stuff, and as a confidante.

Honestly? I’m not sure how I feel right now. It’s hard to see the last little baby bird fly away, but I’m not exactly unhappy about it. I know he’s been looking forward to this adventure for a long time. Frankly, it will be nice to have only the two of us non-risk adults on the auto insurance. I can’t wait to buy half as many groceries every week and not have anyone say, “There’s nothing to eat around here ”” only ingredients.” I’m looking forward to not having to keep up-to-date on his constantly-changing social schedule. And the whole spare bedroom thing? I’m all over it.

I stood today in his newly emptied room. Bed made. Furniture dusty. Floor needing vacuuming. I looked at the things he left on a single shelf. Samurai sword his brother sent him from Japan. Obama button. Eagle Scout medals. Belt buckle collection. Bottle of Jones root beer specially labeled with a picture of his friends.

That was his life last week, but this week it’s altogether different. And so is mine. Neither of us will ever be the same.

I know I’ll miss the little boy who, while packing up his room, found a box of Star Wars action figures and played with them for two hours. He’d just seen Toy Story 3 and felt bad for them. And I’ll definitely miss the little boy who, just a few nights ago, wanted to watch a Disney movie to cleanse his palate after watching an über-scary one.

He’s a man and a child.

May God protect him out in the world.

Bravo Zulu, son. Be safe. Be smart. Bedazzle.

ps ””I’ve written lots about my older son’s experiences ”” and mine ”” as we started our Navy journey together. In the sidebar you’ll see a “Navy Bits” category with all the posts. Scroll to the very first page. Also, if we’re Facebook friends, you can read his letters home from boot camp in my “Notes” section. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll feel like hugging your children. Friend me but send a message with it that says something about the Navy. I don’t friend just anyone!

Holiday Mail for Heroes

For the third year, the American Red Cross has joined with Pitney Bowes and thousands of volunteers to deliver holiday mail to active duty service members, veterans and their families.

As a newly christened Navy Mom, this feels very personal to me. My son is not deployed to a war zone but he will be in Japan for at least two more years. It’ll be his first Christmas away ”” very far away ”” from his family. He has a big, loving family, but many do not.

Please consider taking ten minutes to write a card to someone in the military. As I write this, Veterans Day has just passed and many of us expressed the profound wish that our Armed Forces and those families who have sacrificed so much could be honored more often than one day a year. This would be another way for you and your family to express your good wishes and thanks to them.

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READ THIS FIRST because there are specifics you must comply with so your card gets delivered. And HURRY because you must get them your card by December 7th.

At the bottom of the Red Cross page is a “share” button. Please post to your social media sites too. Feel free to forward my blog post to your friends and family if that’s easier. The more the merrier!

The direct link to the Red Cross is … www.RedCross.org/holidaymail

And to this blog post is … https://beckyland.wordpress.com/2009/11/13/holiday-mail-for-heroes

Thank you!

Have any of you been offered something tangible like this or simply a kind word from a stranger that helped ease your burden?

Okinawa Bound

My son leaves today for Okinawa. Two years he’ll be gone.

He doesn’t know exactly what he’ll be doing but he’ll be working at the Naval Hospital there. He’s heard a rumor that because he has his EMT certificate, he may get to work in the emergency room for his regular job and when he gets assigned duty he might be driving an ambulance. That would ROCK!

Regardless of what he does, though, I know he’ll be an entirely different person when I see him next.

I got all maudlin when he left for boot camp and needed Abba to help me through.

Honestly? It might happen again. But I feel more under control now, stronger, smarter.

Why, you ask?

Boot camp, for one thing. I learned so much about the Navy while he was there. Corps School for another. I learned so much about him during the three months he was learning to be a corpsman. (I suspect he did too.) And as you know, knowledge is power.

There’s also the fact that my youngest has already sworn in on the Delayed Entry Program and will be joining the Navy too just as soon as he graduates from pesky ”˜ol high school.

So I feel very much the Navy Mom these days.

I think, too, that the unknowns are more known now and his real adventure is beginning. He gets to do a job he’s trained for and has been excited about for a long time.

It’s hard to feel sad when the baby bird flies away to do what he wants to do in an exotic, beautiful locale. As long as said baby bird remembers to email and Skype and help his mother plan her trip to Japan, that is.

Bravo Zulu, boy. Your life is really beginning. Be smart, be safe, bedazzle.

Okinawa Bound

Memorial Day

Monday is Memorial Day.

To tell you the truth, I never thought much about the meaning behind it. I don’t have any war heroes in my family to honor. To me, it was always a day off school or work to be filled with swimming pool openings, barbeques and other related activity kicking off the beginning of summer.

But now that I’m an Official Navy Mom, this year I’m thinking about it. And I realized I didn’t know much. So I found this history of Memorial Day,  which I’m posting here because maybe some of you find yourself with the same lack of information. And I’m wondering what I think about the question posed at the end, which is why I want to know what you think. Mulling ….

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.”

While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee.

In 1915, inspired by the poem “In Flanders Fields,” Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial Day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans.

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.

There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing. In 1951, the Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts of St. Louis began placing flags on the 150,000 graves at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery as an annual Good Turn, a practice that continues to this day. More recently, beginning in 1998, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, the Boys Scouts and Girl Scouts place a candle at each of approximately 15,300 grave sites of soldiers buried at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park on Marye’s Heights (the Luminaria Program). And in 2004, Washington D.C. held its first Memorial Day parade in over 60 years.

To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of Remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”

The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.

But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: “Changing the date merely to create a three-day weekend has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public’s nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”

On January 19, 1999 Senator Inouye introduced a bill to the Senate which proposes to restore the traditional day of observance of Memorial Day back to May 30th instead of “the last Monday in May.” On April 19, 1999 Representative Gibbons introduced the bill to the House. The bills were referred to the Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Government Reform.

To date, there have been no further developments on the bill.

So what do you think? Does taking a three-day weekend detract from the true meaning and spirit of Memorial Day? Should we observe Memorial Day on the original date of May 30th instead of the last Monday in May?

If you want to urge your Representatives or Senators to support these bills, there are links at Memorial Day History as well as a petition you can sign.

 

Slipping Through My Fingers

So many people have asked me about the song lyrics from yesterday’s blog about my son that I decided to post the video here. It’s a scene from the movie “Mamma Mia.”

You’ll note the stage is set differently. That’s Meryl Streep, not me. And it’s her daughter getting married, not her son going away.

If you don’t cry when you watch this, you’ve never left home, or you’ve never had a mommy, or you’ve never had a child leave, or you are carved out of stone and aluminum with a heart fashioned from wrought iron. You know who you are.

One thing I forgot to mention yesterday was that before we left home, my son wandered through the whole house, telling me he just wanted to take it all in and remember it.

It was then that I realized he’d be just fine. He had already balanced on that teeter totter inside himself between knowing he wanted to leave but that leaving changed everything.

Something I couldn’t teach him.

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If you can’t make the video work, here’s the link straight to YouTube.

The Navy Owns My Son Now

The phone rang at 11:18 last night. I told the operator I’d accept the charges then heard the quiet, composed voice of my nineteen-year-old son. He said, reading from a script, “I have to tell you three things. I arrived safely at Great Lakes. You’ll be getting a package from me in a few days. You’ll hear from me again in about a month. Now I’m supposed to say my goodbyes and I-love-yous. So goodbye and I love you.”

It’s official. He’s begun Navy boot camp.

It feels very indulgent to worry about him when other mothers are sending their kids off to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hotspots around the globe. I’m only sending mine to Illinois ”” for now ”” but I’ve heard it’s a strange and often inhospitable place. Could be they’re only talking about the weather or the Statehouse (it is where Rod Blagojevich hails from, after all), but still.

It’s a bit surreal that my son is actually leaving. He’s been on the Delayed Entry Program since August so he’s been counting down the days. I’ve been counting the days, too, but probably for different reasons.

I don’t come from a military family so this is all very unfamiliar turf for me. New lingo, new protocol, new clothes. The lingo and the protocol I’ll leave to him, but I am looking forward to seeing him in clothes that fit. I’m expecting the Navy to finally get his pants to stay up over his skinny butt. Levi’s and Dockers haven’t been able to lo, these many years, so it’s obviously time for the government to step in.

People have been giving me well-meaning advice about his upcoming departure. One soul, bless her heart, tried to tell me it was no different than when I sent my older daughter off to college clear across the country. I smiled, nodded, accepted her advice in the spirit it was intended. But inside? Disputing her logic with every synapse firing in my brain.

First, I drove my daughter to college and we had a sparkly good road trip. I didn’t offer her up to strangers in front of a hotel at 4:30 am.

Second, I could call her whenever I wanted to hear her voice or give her some last minute advice or ask if she stole my favorite sweater. My son, on the other hand, won’t have regular access to a phone for ten weeks or so. The ten weeks, coincidentally, that he might need to hear friendly voices the most. But I’m fairly certain he didn’t take any of my clothes with him. In fact, he barely took any of his own clothes, and those he’ll ship back home in a few days.

Third, she had 24-hour access to the computer lab ”” even when she studied in London. We were only a couple clicks away from each other. Son? No internet, no computers, no mouse clicks.

Fourth, after she graduates she probably won’t be shot at by snipers or have to dodge laser-guided missiles. And the only pirate she’s likely to see is Johnny Depp as Cap’n Jack Sparrow.

After boot camp he’ll go to school to train as a corpsman, the Navy’s medics. I thought that sounded pretty safe … until I learned that Navy corpsmen follow the Marines. Wherever Marines are deployed, so are corpsmen.

I’m not complaining, though, really I’m not. I’m just pointing out that sending a loved one off to defend our country isn’t the easiest thing to do. In fact, it might be the hardest. So far. For me.

For his part, he’s excited and thrilled by his decision. He’ll get to see the world, he’ll learn real-life skillz, he’ll meet fascinating people, he’ll do honorable work, he’ll become a man.

I know he’s enlisting with mindfulness. He’s hip to what he’s agreed to. I just hope the government keeps their end of the bargain.

For every situation, and because this is BeckyLand, there are appropriate song lyrics, probably many, but these words from ABBA have been twirling around my brain lately. I’ve also posted the video of the song.

Schoolbag in hand
He leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye
With an absent-minded smile
I watch him go
With a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I’m losing him forever
And without really entering his world
I’m glad whenever I can share his laughter
That funny little boy

Slipping through my fingers all the time
I try to capture every minute
The feeling in it
Slipping through my fingers all the time
Do I really see what’s in his mind
Each time I think I’m close to knowing
He keeps on growing
Slipping through my fingers all the time

Sleep in our eyes
Him and me at the breakfast table
Barely awake
I let precious time go by
Then when he’s gone
There’s that old melancholy feeling
And a sense of guilt
I can’t deny
What happened to the wonderful adventures
The places I had planned for us to go
Well some of that we did
But most we didn’t
And why I just don’t know

Sometimes I wish that I could freeze the picture
And save it from the funny tricks of time
Slipping through my fingers

Godspeed, my love.