Today is the day. The day I have thought about since we first said our goodbyes in the beginning of the year. The day I get to see my oldest son again after his transformation into an American soldier. Today is the day.
In the early morning hours of January 16, Zachary hugged us all goodbye. His recruiter had arrived to escort him to the airport in his first leg of the journey to basic training. It is something that my son had prepared months for and there was no turning back now, not that this thought had ever crossed his mind.
The time had come for him to experience the intensity of basic training. I peered out the window and caught a glimpse of them driving off, and a wave of thoughts rushed through my mind. I sure was going to miss this young man of ours whose company I got to enjoy in the weeks before his departure. As he was preparing to leave, I wondered, what might I miss most about him and how I would manage my mix of emotions? Though we were only at the beginning of our separation, I already found myself thinking about the reunion.
How does a recruit prepare for basic?
While Zachary was home on a university break – and before shipping off to Fort Jackson – I observed his perseverance and preparation. He had demonstrated that he was determined to be successful at this.
From the food he ate to the amount of exercise and physical strength training he completed each day, I was beyond impressed. I knew that as hardcore and challenging as boot camp appears to those on the outside looking in that he was going to make it through the next 10 grueling weeks of rough and tough. He had to if he was going to be a successful soldier. While thinking of him often and what he might be up to during each phase of training, I was reminded of the goals he shared with us: to embrace the suck, to challenge himself and to become a good soldier.
How does a family prepare for graduation?
Our plans to attend his graduation have been in motion for weeks, like carefully reviewing the specific instructions of how to enter the base successfully. Most importantly, I checked on our trusty digital camera and yes, it still works.
In the beginning, the date of March 28 seemed like such a long ways away but now it is fast approaching, our family is ready to pack our bags and celebrate our son and his platoon’s success!
During the long winter days of his absence, I wondered and worried. What helped? It was to write. I wrote to him and about him. As America’s newest soldier – and like all of the others– he is brave, determined, strong, confident and responsible. He is also kind and caring. His mission is to serve and protect and to lend his helping hands to people and places in need.
As his mother, I am extremely proud that he is a member of the Massachusetts National Guard. I reflect back on all her shared in his letters home about his experiences. As I think about his final phase before our reunion, I can’t help but smile and say, “oh ya, he did it!”
Giving the gift of ourselves
I’ve thought about what the appropriate gift is for a milestone like this, when a child of mine has taken on the awesome responsibility of becoming a part of America’s military. I have already shared with him a scrapbook I made detailing this new journey of his life, but the other gifts will be ones we cannot pack inside a suitcase.
Our gifts will be support and listening ears, or the embrace that will be different than any before because he is different. We are different now, too. It will be an embrace that allows each of us to wrap our arms around him, America’s newest soldier.
After we meander through those crowds and lock eyes with our oldest son, we pass to him the best gift we can give: the gift of listening to absorb what he chooses to share. Maybe what he shares will focus on the challenging situations he rose above and was successful in completing. Maybe he will want to take a break from the rough and tough and immerse himself in family updates and experience opportunities to laugh. As he talks my eyes will be focused solely on him. As the minutes turn into hours and the day into night, it will be difficult to say goodbye.
As I reach for our final embrace before he transitions to his advanced individual training site, a new countdown will begin. It will include a new series of letters, new dates highlighted on each of my calendars, a new set of emotions to work my way through and my arms longing for our next embrace.Read comments