Each Memorial Day since my son was deployed I remember the families of the fallen soldiers from his unit. Today as I was posting a photo of Sgt. Aaron Wittman’s tree from the Warrior’s Walk at Ft Stewart a private message showed up in my Facebook inbox.
For several years now I’ve administered Facebook groups for new parents of cadets at The Citadel. I am Facebook friends with many of the parents. The note I received today was from a mom of a rising senior. We are Facebook friends, but I don’t know that we have met in person. The last private note we exchanged was her son’s knob year.
The note I received this morning follows. It serves as a reminder that we are all connected in ways we may not fully understand. I do believe that God gives us these encounters as a way to remind us we are not alone. I do not believe this was sheer chance. There are too many connections that brought strangers together for it to be sheer luck.
Military families, especially on this weekend, share a special bond. I asked Melanie for her permission to share her touching story here and she agreed. I post this story today to honor these families and others who are grieving, especially this weekend.
From Melanie Cannon, Citadel mom and Gold Star wife of SMSGT. Robert Cannon:
“I’m in DC this week for Memorial Day and while we were at Arlington Cemetery noticed the marker beside my husbands is for Aaron Wittman. That blew me away since there are over 400,000 markers there and the Citadel grad that you share info about/scholarship, etc. is buried next to my husband. What are the chances of knowing or knowing about another person buried right beside your loved one at Arlington? I think they call those type of things God winks? Just thought I would share. It was the first time we had visited Arlington since my husbands marker was erected. There was a young man from Virginia that came up, while we were there, and laid a coin on Aaron’s grave and we spoke to him about it.”
A little about Robert Cannon:
“My husband was a flight engineer, Senior Master Sergeant in the Air National Guard- from Charlotte NC. He was killed in an aviation accident. They were conducting a MAFFS mission in South Dakota July 1,2012.”
This Memorial Day by all means enjoy time with your family and friends, but I do hope in the midst of your time together you would take at least a few minutes to remember the people who gave everything so that we may freely gather.
My thoughts and prayers are with all the Gold Star families who are missing their loved one this weekend.
It is high school graduation time. Parents of graduates who will be attending The Citadel in the fall are turning their attention to the various lists of items their son or daughter will need when they report to the school on Matriculation Day.
There are now close to 200 Class of 2020 parents in the Facebook group The Citadel Parents of the Class of 2020 right now and more requesting to join each day. (If you want to join please go to the page request to join then send me an email, email@example.com, letting me know you are the parent of an incoming knob. The group is only for new parents, not extended family.) The questions asked in the group at this time of year revolve around shoes, boots, socks, and other required items.
That will sound odd to parents and others who have no experience with a military school.
When a student attends a military school they are given a list of items to bring with them. Most of their clothes will be provided to them by the school since they wear uniforms every day, including the weekends. The cadets also have very strict rules about what they can and cannot have in their rooms.
This is a stressful time for many families. The process of sending a child to a military school can bring on a mixture of feelings. Some of these feelings are shared by all parents of college bound freshman. Some are unique to the parents of military college students.
I thought it would be helpful to the parents of The Citadel, Class of 2020 to include a list of advantages of being the parent of a cadet at The Citadel.
When retail stores begin their sales pitch to college students in the summer, touting their dorm room decorations and bedding, families of cadets at The Citadel can ignore the ads.
When other families have to caravan to get their student to college in order to bring all the things for their dorm, Citadel families can fit everyone, and the incoming knob’s required items, in the family car.
Unlike parents of other college students on move in day, you won’t have to decorate and unpack your cadet recruit’s things. On Matriculation Day, the day first year cadets report, families carry the things in, with the help of the Citadel Family Association volunteers, and your son or daughter will unpack after you leave. Parents do not stay and unpack and decorate the room. You can go into town and enjoy the many wonderful restaurants and toast your success as parents.
When other parents are worried about the decisions their college student is making with all their new found freedom, Citadel parents know exactly where their knob is by midnight each night of first semester, right in their barracks room.
The “freshman 15” usually refers to the weight college students gain when they are away at college. Thanks to the physical training Citadel knobs go through, they usually lose weight and gain muscle. Your knob will end the year in the best physical shape of their lives.
First year cadets really appreciate visits from family and friends. They love to get off campus to sleep, eat what they’d like, and take long hot showers. When your friends with college students complain that their student doesn’t want them around, you can brag about how happy your knob is to see you.
The first year knobs are not in control of their time. This means when families visit they end up waiting outside the barracks for their cadets. Life long friendships are made among families as they wait for their knob to exit the barracks.
Parents of the Class of 2020, there are plenty of other reasons to be proud and happy your child has chosen “the road less traveled,” for their college experience. Try to focus on the positives right now.
You’ve given them a firm foundation. Now sit back and watch them soar!
Photos clockwise from top left: Dorie with her son, daughter and a high school friend and fellow knob enjoying dinner out in Charleston in September knob year. Parents Weekend promotion ceremony. Cadet Lalli and his senior mentor, Carrying the guidon on Recognition Day, Graduation Day, Ring Ceremony, He wears the Ring.
Across the country high school seniors are graduating. In the South the graduations have already begun. In the North June tends to be graduation month. That means families getting their students ready for Matriculation Day at The Citadel are turning their focus to getting things for their soon-to-be Knob.
The school will post an updated list of items the new students are required to have. (you can view the previous year’s information on page 6 of this document. it changes very little from year to year.) The Citadel Family Association also has a list of items that families have found helpful to have. It is called the “Nice to Have List.” You do not need everything on the Nice to Have List. Parents should ask their student what they would like from that list since they will be the ones to go through the 4th Class System.
I will pause here to give a word of advice to parents. Your student will be attending a leadership school. I’ve written previously about what I learned about what that means. The hardest, but most regarding lesson for parents of cadets is this, your student will have to be the one to navigate the rules and regulations of the school. You can help them get ready to report, but once they are on campus the students are the ones who must take control of their process. Your role will move from one of guiding and teaching your child, to the role of encourager and support person. You WILL NOT be able to navigate the system for them day to day.
This first year is a rollercoaster of emotions for the knobs. My advice to parents is to avoid getting on that rollercoaster with your student. Obviously you will be concerned, but try to remember that the challenges your student will encounter are learning experiences for them. You will be the only one they can confide in and vent to this next year. Often times the knobs will vent to a parent, leaving the parent worried, while the knob moves on and never tells the parent they’ve resolved the issue.
In the next several months local alumni groups sponsor “Send Off events” for incoming knobs and their families. You can check with the Citadel Alumni Association to see if the club in your area will host an event. The Citadel Family Association also has area reps who are current parents who volunteer to help the new parents. you can find a list of the Area Reps here. The Atlanta Citadel Club has asked me to serve as the chair of the new Parent Committee. We will have a parent orientation meeting in June then the club will host a send off event August 4. Contact me if you’d like additional information.
There are three things an incoming knob can do NOW to prepare for the next year: (The office of the Associate Provost for Academic Affairs also has a good list for incoming knobs. You can access the link HERE.)
Begin to memorize the Knob Knowledge in the Guidon. It is available online or in the bookstore. You’ll get a copy when you report.
Parents often wonder about company assignments and roommates. The majority of cadets will find out their company and roommate on Matriculation Day. The athletes who report in July will all stay in the same barracks then move to their regular company assignments in August when the Corps of Cadets report. Unlike other colleges cadets will change rooms through out the year. The moves can be for a variety of reasons.
If you live out of state and don’t want to ship the items to campus, you can order times from Bed, Bath and Beyond or Wal-Mart and pick them up from the stores in Charleston. If you choose this option you will have to arrive in town before Matriculation Day. If you ship items to campus it is a good idea to arrive Friday morning to retrieve them from the warehouse on campus. Contact the warehouse directly with any questions about shipping items in advance.
I know it is a very stressful time for parents who do not have a military background or do not have a history with The Citadel. I was in your place in 2007. Much of what happens seems really strange. As my son would tell me every time I would question something, “There is a reason behind everything we do.” It is the knobs challenge to learn these reasons. A parent needs to encourage and support them in the process.
If you are the parent of an incoming knob, please join the group for 2020 parents on Facebook to meet fellow parents and to have a safe place to ask questions. Go to the page and request to join, then end me an email to confirm you are the parent of an incoming knob. firstname.lastname@example.org
High school graduation season is upon us here in the South. For families with a student who will attend The Citadel in the Fall that means the annual scavenger hunt for items on the Success Packet “Clothing /Personal Items” list is about to begin. As of this writing the list for the Class of 2020 is not available. The list for the Class of 2019 is still on the school website. The basic items like underwear, socks, flat white sheets have not changed in years. For tips on these items you can see my previous post here. The Freshman Assessments and Placements link is updated for the Class of 2020.
Preparing for knob year to begin is different than other college freshman, for both the student and the parents. Since I’ve never been a cadet, but I am the parent of a graduate, I can best speak to what it’s like for parents.
The transition from high school to college is a big step for any family. Sending a child to a military college feels more like a HUGE leap, especially if you are not familiar with the military. I learned early in the process that The Citadel is a Leadership College. That means the students are expected to take responsibility for their actions/in action.
For parents it means learning to let go and let them take control of their life. With the advent of electronic media, cell phones, Skype, Facetime, texting families are more connected than ever. When I went off to college in the summer of 1977 I was 7 hours from home and shared a land line with my roommates. I spoke to my parents once a week on average. I’ve heard stories from graduates of The Citadel from that same time period who talked of waiting in long lines to make a call home on a pay phone then only have a few minutes to talk. While cadets can now have cell phones and have computers in their rooms, the first year knobs cannot use their phones and computers at will. This is a major adjustment for many families.
For parents of incoming knobs if you are used to constant communication with your student begin cutting back on the daily communication now. If you don’t already, allow your son or daughter to take control of the decisions that impact them directly. When Matriculation Day arrives you will not hear from your knob for at least a week. Keep in mind that parents who send their child off to enlist in the Army don’t hear from their son or daughter for weeks.
A couple of things you can do now to ease your anxiety over this transition is to join a couple of parent Facebook groups. I administer a group for Parents of the Class of 2020. Go to the page and request to join, then send me an email to let me know you are the parent of a cadet. Only new parents are approved to the group. No cadets, extended family, or parents of upperclass cadets are admitted in. It is a safe place to meet other new parents and ask questions. I’ve invited some trusted friends who are parents of graduates to help answer questions. Once you are in the group for 2020 parents, join the Citadel Family Association (CFA) page. They will post helpful information throughout the year. The Citadel and Citadel Photography are good pages for you and extended family members to follow for photos and campus news.
The tendency for most parents is to obsess over the list of required items and the “Nice to Have List” in the months leading up to Matriculation Day. When I asked the Parents of the Class of 2019 to pass along their advice to new parents many of then said, do not let yourself get stressed. While I agree with that advice, I have observed over the past eight years since my son was a knob that parents seem to NEED to obsess over the lists. It is far less stressful than focusing on sending your child off to a scary new adventure. So if it helps you to have that list and focus on getting everything (you do not need to get everything on the Nice to have list) go for it. I do encourage you to involve your student in getting the items. If you have a question of whether they want something, ask your student. They are the ones who will have to live through the 4th Class System when you drop them off. Examples of optional items are coffee makers and printers. If you ask five cadets at The Citadel about them you’ll get five different answers. Some like to have a coffee maker or hot pot. Others do not want them. Begin letting go now by asking your son or daughter what they want to do.
While I cannot advise on getting through knob year from personal experience, I have listened to enough send off speeches by alumni to give you a few pointers to pass to your son or daughter. These are basically the same things I’ve written about in previous blog posts. I’ll include a list of links to knob year related blog posts below too.
Break in your shoes. That includes the plain toe black Oxfords, the boots and athletic shoes. The largest single cause of knobs going to the infirmary at the beginning of the year are complications from blisters. Get the shoes now and wear them every day.
Physical Training In addition to breaking in shoes an incoming knob should report being able to meet or exceed the physical training standards. The Physical Fitness web page has very helpful information including the standards the cadets are expected to meet or exceed for weight and physical training. A knob should be able to meet or exceed the number of push ups, sit ups, and run 2 miles in the times listed for their gender and age. Males / Females
Since we have a few months before Matriculation Day this is enough advice for now. In the weeks and months ahead I will share other tips. If you are the parent of an incoming knob, please join the Facebook group for Parents of the Class of 2020. We answer questions daily there. The links below include helpful information for this first year. Read at your own pace. Please remember to always refer to the school web site for the most up to date information.