The Citadel: Helping Parents Cope with Matriculation Day Anxiety.

Bravo Company during the Corps Day weekend parade.

Matriculation Day at The Citadel is just over 2 weeks away. If I didn’t have a calendar I could tell you it was getting close by the search terms used to find this blog. One search in particular tugged at my heart today. One person searched for “how to cope with your son going to the citadel.” When I read search terms like that I wish I could reach out to the person to give them in the information they are searching for directly.

I would let them know they aren’t alone. So many parents feel totally alone in their feelings when sending a cadet off to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. It IS a scary process, especially if you have no knowledge of the school or military. That is one reason I posted this blog, to help new parents navigate what seems like a totally different culture with its own language and traditions. Just look to the navigation topics to the left of this entry to find helpful links and advice.

Bravo Company knobs face the Company Commander during the promotion ceremony, 2007.

When a cadet enters The Citadel they not only will get a great college education, but they will learn to take charge of their actions. It is a leadership school. One of the hardest thing for the families to learn is that once you drop a cadet off at the school the cadet is then the one expected to handle their affairs. Of course if the family is paying the bills there are certain expectations that should be met by the cadet. The cadet does need to be the lead in all their affairs and will be the only one to be recognized for accomplishments, or their mix ups once on campus. You may find this entry and the links in it helpful: The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

Early this spring I started a Facebook group for the parents of cadets entering the Class of 2016. The group is for new parents only. I invited a few friends who are also parents of graduates as well so they can help answer the varied questions of new parents. The Files section of the page includes advice and tips for new parents. The questions asked by the new parents are ones that all of us asked when we sent our students to the school.

This type of support wasn’t available in 2007 when my son matriculated. I did find the email of the chair couple of The Citadel Family Association and sent them a note with my questions. At the annual Send Off dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club I met a mom of an upperclassmen who was particularly helpful. Not every parent has that opportunity because not all areas of the country host a send off event.

It is my belief that sending a child to a military college is scary enough. When helping get your child ready to report I don’t believe you should feel isolated. I’m an Army mom now. In the Army they have Family Readiness Groups (FRG) to help family members navigate the preparations for deployment. The military has found if the family members are familiar with the deployment process they will be less anxious and more able to support their soldier. That is how I feel The Citadel Family Association and the various parent Facebook groups work as well.

Members of the Regimental Band during a parade on Corps Day Weekend.

Attending The Citadel is tough for the cadets going through the fourth class system. I don’t believe it should be as tough for the parents. I encourage all new parents to make contact with the CFA area rep and/or join the Facebook group for new parents. Once your cadet is on campus you can join the Facebook group for your Battalion and/or contact the CFA Battalion and Company representative. Some companies have Facebook groups as well. Look over the links on this entry for other Facebook groups related to the school. They are a great resource for information and support.

I do recommend that you join the groups, but only post general questions to the parent groups. Ask specific questions in private messages to a CFA rep or other  parent. If you have specific questions about policy or other official school business call the appropriate office on campus. Learn to use the search window on the schools web site to find the answers to your questions. They also have an A – Z site map. I’ve compiled a list of Helpful Web Links for frequently called departments.

Learn to read the Office of the Commandant page. The weekly training schedules are posted there. When you can’t be in touch with your cadet, you can see the overall schedule for the Corps of Cadets.

One word of caution, years ago before cell phones, email, and Skype, parents would drop their cadets off in August and not see them until parents Weekend or Thanksgiving. The cadets could only call from pay phones once a week. If you talk to an alumnus who went through during that time period, don’t expect a lot of sympathy if you complain about the lack of communication.

If you have friends with children who enlisted in the military, realize that they don’t hear from the soldier much at all during boot camp. It can be 10 weeks with only an occasional 3 – 5 minute call or regular letter. If you meet the parent of a soldier in boot camp or deployed know that they too are going through a stressful time.

We are all proud of our children. We also owe it to them to learn what we can about their process, not to intervene, but to support them.

Remember you are not alone. There are many Citadel parents who are available to answer your questions. My biggest surprise of my son’s four years at The Citadel was that I gained life long friends as well.

We call ourselves The Citadel Ya Ya’s. We had a little reunion at Vendue Rooftop in 2010.

To read more about my process of sending a cadet to The Citadel visit this blog entry:

Blog Posts about being the mom of an Army ROTC cadet at The Citadel

An Army Family Prepares for Deployment

My oldest son graduated from The Citadel in May of 2011. He entered Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC) training shortly after graduation.  The past year has felt a little like limbo. He is mostly in training and is enjoying his time as a young single officer. He has a nice condo near his base, plenty of friends to get together with on whatever free time he has. All that will change in a few months if his orders to deploy in the fall are carried out. I’ve been told by friends in the military that deployment orders can change at the last-minute so I shouldn’t  focus on the deployment date, but I should remain prepared.

Nelson received the Ironman Award from Georgia Governor Nathan Deal at the Armor BOLC graduation.

While my son has been in training to lead a platoon, I’ve been studying about being an Army parent. Websites like and the Facebook group, Army Moms, have been very helpful with my preparation. I recently ordered two books. The first is by a fellow contributor to the Off the Base blog, and founder of the nonprofit, Military Families Ministry, Tracie Ciambotti. Battles of the Heart. Tracie’s book is an honest look at what being the mother of a soldier is like.

The second book I recently ordered is A Handbook for Family & Friends of Service Members: Before, During and After Deployment published by  THe Defense Centers of Excellence and Vulcan Productions. The book addresses the various stages of preparation family and friends of a member of the service may go through when a loved one is in the service. The book has a number of resources for families listed including the Real Warriors website. I found their information for families section very helpful.

Our new ACU bags from Hero On My Arm.

Reading and research are very good tools to help with any change. For me I also need to develop my own rituals to help with the transition. This year for Mother’s Day I asked for a bag made from an ACU (Army Combat Uniform). I researched the various web sites and decided Hero On My Arm offered the largest number of choices, and had an easy to navigate website. My bag is a custom-made Elizabeth bag. I ordered a Premade Bag for our daughter. The pre-made bags are up to 50% off what a customized bag costs.

The owner and CEO of Hero On My Arm, Seneca Hart, was very helpful when I spoke to her by phone about how I’d like the bag to be customized. She suggested a section be added for my iPad.  We are very pleased with the customer service and the workmanship. The bags arrived about 8 weeks after I placed the order.

I added two name tags and a yellow ribbon patch for each bag at an additional charge. You can select the color and type style of patch you would like. Since I ordered at Mother’s Day they offered a free key chain with the order.

My customized keychain.
The “Elizabeth” messenger bag was customized with a section for my iPad.

Our preparation process began when our son was in high school and decided the military was the career for him. It is a process the entire family moves through. Reading books and web sites are helpful, but I find the best resources are finding friends who have been through it and are willing to share their tips. While he hasn’t deployed yet I know it will be an emotional roller coaster. One military wife put her advice to others into a blog post. One I think anyone in touch with the family of a deployed  soldier should read, Things I Wish I Had The Courage To Say During Deployment.

We are all a bit nervous, but push on with our day-to-day lives. Creating small rituals to help us get ready. I didn’t pay much attention to how my daughter, 12 years old at the time, was processing the fact that her big brother was graduating and being commissioned. Then one day for a language arts class she had an assignment to pick an inspirational person then find a song that reminds you of that person. She wrote about her brother. When she couldn’t find a song to match how she felt about him she composed and wrote a song for NaNa, a name she gave him when she was a toddler. I get a bit teary when I hear it, Brother’s Love.

Welcome to the Parents of the Class of 2016

In less than a month The Citadel Class of 2016 will report for Matriculation Day. If I didn’t own a calendar I could tell the day was approaching by the search terms used to find this blog. Various takes on knob year populate the search terms. The questions asked by parents of the Class of 2016 are becoming more focused as the big day approaches.

Matriculation Day, 2010. The Bravo Company cadre lead the knobs to lunch.

A few parents of graduates started a Facebook group to support new families. Only parents of graduates are on the group page along with parents of the entering class. The group is a great resource for new parents. Some of the new parents are graduates of The Citadel, some of the parents of graduates are alums too.

One of my big frustrations was finding out basic information about the school because my son rarely told me much and my ex-husband was the one who received official information from the school. This blog is the result of  years of research and study of both The Citadel and the 4th Class System. My hope is that new families will feel just a little better prepare than I was to send my son off to this leadership school.

I’ve written about this before, but one of the biggest surprises for me in the whole experiences was that ended up with many very good friends. These friends are now helping me as I learn about being the mom of an officer in the U.S. Army.

Recently, through a connection made through an alum of The Citadel, I began a correspondence with a 1LT in the Army who is now serving in Afghanistan. When I asked him if I could send anything he replied, “We need sunscreen, hard to come by. I have about 15 soldiers who pull 12 hr. shifts in the sun. If it could be sent to me I’ll distribute out.”

Walgreen’s in Roswell gave me a 25% discount on sunscreen. We also purchased some from Dollar Tree and Big Lots.

I promptly posted a note to my Facebook page asking if anyone would like to help out by either purchasing sunscreen or sending funds to defray the postage. Within a few minutes one Facebook friend who is a military reporter sent $25. A high school friend sent a generous check as did several Citadel parents and a few church friends. Right now I have $105 in checks. A few Citadel parents are sending boxes directly to the 1LT. A few of these parents have children who haven’t even started their first year as a cadet.

The first boxes of sunscreen are in the mail. A few more will go out this week.

To the parents of the Class of 2016 WELCOME. You are about to join a tremendously supportive group of people.