This post will be a lengthy, laborious, blubbering, sniffling pity party for me. So let’s pretend like you are here with me. Just keep handing me kleenex and pat me on the back saying “he’ll be fine.” Thanks, I feel better already!
The Marine shipped off to boot camp yesterday. Last week on the Military Channel was Marines Week. One of the shows was “Making a Marine” and it chronicled boot camp from the moment the recruits stepped off the bus all the way through graduation day.
Watching that was like a double edged sword. It was nice to see what he would be experiencing but at the same time some of it scared me! And you know they did NOT show the really hairy stuff!!!
On the show, the bus load of recruits shows up at Camp Pendleton in the middle of the night, it is dark. An instructor gets on the bus and tells them to file off the bus
and go stand on the yellow footprints. When they step off the bus there is an instructor on either side of the bus door and as soon as a recruit steps on the ground those instructors go to yelling right in his ears. The recruits are all fumbling and their eyes are wide a saucers as they find where they are supposed to stand.
From there on out, it was all yelling as those kids attempted to walk heal toe with the person in front of them in a single file line.
Then they start to process them. They strip them of all individuality. They can bring nothing with them, the clothes on their backs are taken away and from underwear and socks out, it is all military issue. They shave their heads, fill out paperwork, get shots and heaven only knows what else. They can not speak in the first person. They are no longer an individual but a platoon. They have to say “this recruit is tired” or “this recruit is from Texas” or whatever. They cannot say “I” or “me” at any point for 13 weeks.
This is all going on in the middle of the night.
Then they get to make one phone call at some point during the night they arrive. And the script, while the drill instructor is hollering for them to get off the phone, is “I am here, I am OK, I have to go.” Click. And that is the only phone call for 13 weeks.
I am glad I watched it so I would have some small idea of what he is doing.
On Sunday we drove the recruit to Amarillo, 2 hours to the north of us, where the Military Entrance Processing (MEPS) building is located. We stayed overnight as he was to be sworn in at 8 am Monday.
The recruits got a wake up call at 3am Monday morning. They had breakfast at the hotel and they took them to MEPS at like 5am to do the final paperwork and medical checkup.
We got to MEPS at 7:45 am. As with all things government...he did not actually swear in until about 10:00am.
These are babies! That is what hit me while I was there, these babies are going to defend our country. And my “baby” is one of them now!!!
Here is the recruit at our wedding. He was 7 and completely adorable.
I of course fell in love with the little toot because he was 7, and all 7 year old boys are undeniably sweet. And the recruit was a sweet boy. I should say, had I processed then that he would not stay 7 and cute, but grow into a teenage boy, I probably would have run screaming from the altar!!!! I kid. I am proud of my gray hairs. I have earned them.
He came to live with us when he was 9. I loved the kid like my own, and somewhere deep down through all the knuckle headed teenage years I still loved him. He was still sweet but an idiot, as are 99.9% of all teenagers (myself included)!
Yesterday morning at 10:00 he quit being a knuckle head...and took an oath to defend our country.
After that, he signed a contract...
... agreeing to defend our country for 4 years as a Marine and go serve in Iraq. And I am proud...and scared shitless if you don’t mind me saying. And poor hubs, he is emotionally drained. Period.
After he signed the contract. They took them into a room and briefed them on their travel plans. Let them eat half a Subway sandwich. Had another briefing. They opened the door to that briefing room and those 6 boys filed out and went straight down the hall and out the door to the shuttle waiting to take them to the airport.
No joke. The Marine came out and said “I am leaving now” and gave each of us a hug. We told him we were proud and we loved him and he walked out the door. Like 15 seconds of a goodbye. I am sure they do that on purpose for both the recruits and the family members because it would be so much more painful to have a long sobbing goodbye.
Hubs, MIL and I were all sniffling and trying to maintain our composure. (Blonde rascal was with us too but he doesn’t really realize what the heck all of this means.)
I thought there goes that knuckle head teenager walking down that hall, with a little piece of my heart going with him. Bravely walking down that hall right into the unknown. He just made the biggest and most life changing decision of his life. The next time I see him, on June 6th when he graduates, the knuckle head punk will have been replaced with a man.
A man that will know how to fight for his life and his country. Which means he is going to fight for me...and you.
So here is his time line. He managed to sleep for 2 hours Sunday night. Was woken up at 3am Monday morning to begin the process, arrived in California sometime Monday, they took them to Camp Pendleton sometime after dark Monday night and they will not let them sleep until tonight, Tuesday.
Poor hubs tossed and turned last night and finally just got out of bed. We did not know when the one phone call would come. At 7:20 this morning the collect call came. And sure enough just like on “Making a Marine” the recruit said “Dad I am here, I am OK and I have to go now” and hubs said “I love you”. The recruit said “I love you too”...click. 6 seconds tops and that is the last phone call we will get for 13 weeks.
The Marine Recruiter did tell us that if his platoon won a challenge or something that sometimes they would reward them with a phone call, but not to count on it.
The parenting guide we got said it is all psychological. They have to break them down completely and then build them back up. It said “this is not the boy scouts nor summer camp”...oh geez don’t you know that is true. They can write home after like 2 weeks. It warned us that the 1st letter we get may say something like "get me out, call your congressman or someone and get me out!" Then it said you will get another letter at about 2 months that says it is the best thing they have ever done. The parent info also said “The drill instructors are VERY good at what they do. It is scary and painful...but it works!” Yikes.
On the treadmill this morning at the gym I was a big bundle of raw nerves. So I ran my heart out. Turmoil is good for runners, you can work things out in your head while the endorphins you are producing are busy releasing the negative energy in your body. At the last 2 minutes of my run all of my thoughts had bogged down my mind and I was spent.
I was thinking how proud I was of the recruit because he had bravely agreed to fight for his country, no doubt seeing horrible things along the way and possibly sacrificing his own life. That decision is to be respected. Then I thought about how scared I was. Then how sad I was that they were torturing him physically and mentally at that VERY moment!!!. And in a few days they will issue that boy a high powered rifle and train him how to defend his country.
A small sob escaped me at those last 2 minutes of my run this morning. If anyone around me had their headphones off they probably thought I was about to have a heart attack and get thrown off the back of the treadmill! I wanted to end the run then and start my cool down but with tears and sweat running down my face I pressed on, the recruit probably will have tears and sweat running down his face at some point today too. And the next day, and the next day, and.... So I finished my run just like he will, but there was no big scary man yelling at me like there will be at him. Thank God!
This is not about me so I have to get control of myself! I need to spend my time praying for his mental and physical endurance, writing him letters, sending care packages to soldiers.... or...hmmmm.... making quilts for the injured soldiers or families that have lost soldiers.
There, I am through being a ninny now. I do feel better getting all that off my chest. Phew, let me blow my nose. PSssssffffggggyyytttt. Thanks for listening, I feel so much better now!
There is a local Marine Parents group that I will join. I know there are thousands of “been there, done that” moms out there who will encourage me. It is the support group...or pot...or very large glasses of wine...or shots of whiskey. So I think I will start with the support group as it would probably be most profitable!