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.
While my son has been in training to lead a platoon, I’ve been studying about being an Army parent. Websites like goarmyparents.com 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.
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.
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.