My son serves in the U.S. Army. I have no background in the military. That means for the last several years I’ve been on a steep learning curve. I guess I really didn’t HAVE to learn the terms and different stages a Army ROTC cadet goes through in their training, but if I didn’t I’m not sure how well I’d be able to communicate with my son.
Learning about his process also has helped me reach a level of understand about this very demanding job. To help in this learning curve I have read a lot, but I have also resourced with people who are far more knowledgable than I am when it comes to the military and the Army specifically. One of my best resources is a mom I met during Matriculation Day. The day her son reported to The Citadel. That year my son was a sophomore. This new friend of mine always made a point to tell me that my son was a good officer, tough but fair. I appreciated the kind words about my son from another mom. It wasn’t until later that I learned this mom was a graduate of West Point. She really knew what this process was about. She has become one of my teachers on this journey. Quite a few Citadel alums have been and are my mentors on this journey as well. I have learned quite a bit the past 5+ years and continue to learn something new everyday.
Leading up to our son’s deployment I created and joined a couple of Facebook groups for military parents. I joined the Army Officers Friends and Family Support page. It was started the summer of 2010 when a group of mostly moms met via the LDAC Facebook page. The group now includes others who find us. We all share what we are learning. Each year the Public Affairs Office at Joint Base Lewis-McCord post a new Facebook group for that year’s class of cadets and their families. They also have a blog called Warrior Forge and photo sites. Right now the LDAC 2012 group is still active
The summer of 2010, thanks to a Citadel mom I learned about goarmyparents.com website. It is a terrific spot to visit when you start hearing a bunch of abbreviations that appear to be an alphabet soup. Right after graduation I started the Military Parents of The Citadel group with the hope parents with knowledge and experience about the military would help those of us who know nothing about the process.
The Army Moms Facebook group is a good one to join to ask questions and gain support from other moms. The majority of moms on this site appear to join when their child enlists and heads to boot camp, but many have deployed soldiers as well. The Files section of the site has very helpful information. The Army Moms page is where I learned that the term Green Dot will bring joy to a family member. It refers to the green dot that appears when a loved one is on Facebook. Just seeing the Green Dot is a sign that they are alright.
Once my son deployed I was invited to join the Parents of Deployed Soldiers Facebook group. The group is several years old. They have a group of volunteers to monitor the site 24/7. Before posting to the group you are asked to read and agree with the OPSEC policy.
Today we have far more ways to learn and gain support than in previous conflicts. many soldiers have ready access to computers and can Skype, email and Facebook with family and friends. That isn’t the case for everyone though. The battalion commander of my son’s battalion has encouraged family members to write letters and send boxes. Not everyone has ready access to electricity much less computers.
Our guy has been deployed for a few months now. The months leading up to his departure we experienced a real roller coaster of emotions. We have found a new normal in our daily routines now, but it isn’t always easy. I guess we have learned to live with a level of stress any family who has gone through deployment will understand it. Others try to understand but really can’t.
In the last month I have heard from our son more than I have in the last year combined. It isn’t much, one time I received a short one word reply. That one word was enough to know he was OK.
The most comforting experience is when I send off a note just because I am thinking of him, and he replied right back. At first I thought, “What a coincidence.” It has happened so many times now I have to believe the mother/son connection is alive and well even though we are a half a world away.