Graduation 2015 Notes for Citadel Parents

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Gray Line.
Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Gray Line.

Graduation for The Citadel, Class of 2015 is just a few months away. The questions about graduation week are picking up on the Facebook groups and in my private inbox. Most of the questions parents have including the schedule, ticket information, etc., can be answered on the Commencement 2015 page of the school website.

A few important tips follow:

  • If you haven’t done so already secure your hotel or lodging accommodations ASAP.
  • The seniors have to be out of the barracks before Friday. Check with your cadet about  their plans to move out.
  • Events for graduating seniors begin Thursday before the Saturday graduation. See the Schedule of Events prior to arrival to plan your trip.
  • For Legacy graduates, Commissioning cadets and cadets who receive Lifetime Memberships to the Citadel Alumni Association, see the Special Events For Selected Groups schedule for important information.
  • Baccalaureate is Thursday, May 7.
  • General Information about dress, parking, accessibility, etc.
  • Some cadet companies have parties planned for graduation weekend. Check with your cadet and their friends to see if something is already planned. Some families rent beach houses and host a gathering too.

The cadets who will commission into a branch of the military traditionally give a silver dollar to the person who renders their first salute. You can find helpful information about that tradition on several web sites. Marlow White: The First Salute – the Silver Dollar Tradition, A site that sells coins for the first salute: First Salute You can also find them on and coin dealers.

In the next several months the commissioning seniors will also have to purchase their dress uniforms. My son handled this on his own. I’m sure if your cadet has questions they can get information from their ROTC office on campus.

The commissioning service for the Army is usually the largest group and they start off early Friday morning. Be sure to arrive up to an hour before the scheduled start time to get a seat. The chapel fills up early. The cadet and the two people who will pin their bars on sit in a designated area, the other guests sit behind the commissioning cadets. The services for Navy, Marine and Air Force cadets are not as crowded.

Previous blog posts about graduation:

Senior Parent Notes

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet



Gearing Up for the New School Year: Information for Citadel and LDAC Cadet Families

Cars begin to line up at the alumni center in the early morning hours of Matriculation Day.
Cars begin to line up at the alumni center in the early morning hours of Matriculation Day.

As the excitement and fun of the 4th of July holiday is winding down, I have observed an increase in search terms relating to Matriculation Day for the Class of 2018, Parents Weekend for the Class of 2015 and oddly enough LDAC information. The first two categories I expect each year at this time. What I have realized is the US Army moved their Leader Development and Assessment Course to Ft. Knox from Joint Base Lewis McChord and the way they are now delivering information to family and friends is not as easy to find or complete as in years past.

For the family and friends of cadets at LDAC I will include a few links I have found for current information. Be sure to click the links provided within these pages for more information:

On Facebook: U.S. Army ROTC Cadet Summer Training 

Leader Development and Assessment Course blog site

ROTC CST YouTube channel

LDAC photos

U.S.Army Cadet Command news

For the Class of 2018 and their parents: The school has now updated the Matriculation Day information on their website. Be sure to check out each and every link and entry on the list. Some, like the assessments link, include links to items you MUST act on by a particular date.

I’ve noted a few changes from years past. In the Success Packet they now ask that incoming knobs label their clothes. Bedding will be labeled by the laundry service. In years past this was part of the first week experience. See page 7 of the Success Packet for the complete instructions. Tips for the items on the Success Packet required list and the Citadel Family Associations “Nice to Have List” can be found on this previous blog post, Welcome to the Class of 2018.

A knob checks in at the table in the sallyport (entrance) of the barracks.
A knob checks in at the table in the sallyport (entrance) of the barracks.

Another large change is the school will not be mailing a copy of the Guidon, the book that knobs MUST learn and memorize parts of this year. It is available online. They suggest incoming knobs begin to memorize the knob knowledge prior to Matriculation Day. The  List of Knob Knowledge and where to find the information is on page 55 of the Guidon available online.

A few helpful links for the Class of 2018 follow. I suggest taking time and reading through the previous posts about knob year too:

The Admission’s office Matriculation Day Headquarters page

The Office of the Commandant‘s Matriculation Information page

For an over view of Parents Weekend see the entries at the end of the post.

The Facebook group for parents, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018
( please request to join and also send me a note on Facebook or an email, found in the About Dorie section of this blog, to verify you are the parent of a cadet. Extended family members and friends are not allowed in the group)

Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.
Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.


After the gates close the knobs line up in their company to prepare to march to lunch.
After the gates close the knobs line up in their company to prepare to march to lunch.

For the parents of the Class of 2015:

Congratulations!! You are about to enter one of the most fun years at The Citadel. Ring Weekend will be here before you know it, October 10 – 12, 2014. If you haven’t done so already be sure to book your accommodations for the weekend. Be ready to see your cadet smile like you haven’t seen them smile on campus before.

The activities begin Friday with the ring presentation around noon. If you can get there early enough to watch them march into the field house as the knobs cheer them on. It is open seating for this event and there are no limits to the number of people who can attend. You will see all types of dress on the people attending. It is an important event. The cadets will be in there most formal uniform. Families should dress comfortably but appropriately for the occasion.

The Class of 2011 runs to the chapel after receiving their rings.
The Class of 2011 runs to the chapel after receiving their rings.
Bravo '11 members run through the sword arch.
Bravo ’11 members run through the sword arch.
Bravo '11 members show off their rings.
Bravo ’11 members show off their rings.

After they receive their rings the seniors RUN out of the field house and knock their rings on the chapel, a nod to the days they received them in the chapel in a ceremony just for cadets. They then Run back into their barracks for a toast at the company letter. Station yourself at a sallyport with a view of the company letter and have a zoom lens for great photos. Our son’s senior year his TAC allowed my husband and a few others into the battalion to take photos. You should not assume permission will be granted. Check with the TAC Friday morning to see the current policy.

The afternoon, from about 2:00 until it is your cadet’s company designated time to go through the ring, is free time. The Cadet Activities office posts the Ring Ceremony information sometime in September. Check their website.

Each company is assigned a time to go through the ring by the Cadet Activities office. It is really just a photo opportunity for the cadet and their family. Whomever will walk through the ring with their senior cadet needs to arrive 15 minutes before their designated time. The wait can take up to an hour, so be sure you have on comfortable shoes for standing. You will be instructed on where to look as you walk through the ring and the sword arch. If you have a high-end camera your family member or friend may be able to get a good photo without a flash. Anyone not going through the ring can watch from the stands. There is no dress code to sit and watch. Anyone walking through the ring should dress appropriately for this formal occasion. It is tradition for women to wear a formal gown, but in recent years many have worn cocktail length dresses, or a dressy skirt and blouse. Like most everything else on campus, you will see a little of everything.

Dinner reservations should be made around the time the company’s designated time to go through the ring. Our year Bravo Company went through after 8:00, so a group of us met for an early dinner. Our cadets then went out together, without parents afterward.

The Junior Sword Arch opens the presentation around 6:00, see the official schedule this fall for exact times. Anyone can attend and see this performance.

After the Friday festivities the rest of the weekend is like every other Parents Weekend, open barracks Saturday, a concert on the parade field, parade lunch on your own and the football game.

A few members of Bravo Company and their dates pose by the company letter before they walk through the ring.
A few members of Bravo Company and their dates pose by the company letter before they walk through the ring.

You can see photos of dresses worn in previous years on the blog entries listed here:

The Citadel Parents/Ring Weekend 2012 + Hotel Info

The Citadel Parents Weekend Ring Weekend Tips

The Citadel: Parent Weekend Tips for the Class of 2014 and 2017

The Citadel: Tips for Commencement Week 2014

2013 Long Gray Line
2013 Long Gray Line

It may only be January, but it is time to plan for graduation in May. It may even be a little late to start if you plan on renting a home for the week. Links to hotel information and other places to stay are in this previous post. It is always a good idea to call the area hotels directly and ask if they offer a special rate for Citadel families.

The schedule for the week is available on the school website under Commencement 2014. Many families come into town Wednesday or earlier and make a week of it. The seniors are out of the barracks before the other cadets so count on them staying with you. Graduates who are commissioning and/or who are Legacies should see this link for their special schedule.

As every other cadet event, the cadets have practice during the days for all the events from the commissioning ceremonies for military contract graduates, to the long grey line, legacies, and commencement. Their evenings are free.

A friend gave me a heads up about graduation week. While we all want to spend time with our soon to be graduate, it hits the seniors sometime leading up to graduation that they will no longer be able to see their buddies by walking out of their room in the barracks. They try to get as much time with their friends as possible before they spread across the globe in their various new roles.

Some families get together with others and host parties for companies. Others have small family gatherings. It is totally up to the individual families. I wrote about the little things i did graduation week to say thank you to various people on campus that I came to call friends.

If you are just getting started on your plans, a place to stay should be at the top of your list. Meal planning is next, especially if you will have a large group dining out. For help in finding facilities the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau is a great resource. The area hotels have restaurants and meeting facilities, but they can also offer suggestions.

The attire for the baccalaureate ceremony, commissioning ceremony, the parade and garden party is listed as casual, but many families dress a little nicer than just casual. Of course you need to dress for the weather too. In 2011 it rained for the Friday afternoon long grey line parade. We ended up so soaked we skipped the reception at the President’s home.  In all the photos I’ve seen from other years the ladies wear light sun dresses, nice slacks and similar outfits. For the commissioning ceremony many wear jacket and tie as would match the attire the new officers will be wearing. Most people don’t have the time to change between events so they wear something comfortable, but nice for all the events.

You will want to plan on dinner Friday, and a late lunch Saturday after graduation. Dinner Saturday night is another opportunity to plan a gathering. The recent graduates may also have various parties they will want to visit. Like everything else over the four years, the events outside of the planned school functions, will vary with each graduate. A good resource, in addition to the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau, for restaurants is Zagat’s.

Gifts ideas for graduates are infinite. Some families give gifts to their cadet’s friends. Some knobs families give senior mentors gifts. It is totally up to the individual as to what you give or if you give a gift. A nice card is always appropriate. The Citadel Alumni Association also has some nice gifts available through their site.

The Citadel Bookstore sells diploma frames. Blazer buttons, and various jewelry items are also a nice gift.

The Citadel Alumni Association offers a steep discount on their Lifetime Memberships for junior and senior cadets. It makes a terrific graduation present. They host a special luncheon/presentation gathering Thursday afternoon. The new Lifetime members are presented with their plaque during the event.

A nice gift for a graduate to give their mother is the special miniature Citadel ring or pendant. It is pricey so they may need help from dad to purchase it for their mom.

I’ll include a few links below to previous posts that include other gift ideas and links.

The cadets spend four years waiting to graduate, then spend the rest of their lives trying to get back. Enjoy the week of events and take lots of photos!

If you would like to get together with other families in your cadets family and hire a photographer, I happen to be married to a very good one, Stanley Leary.  You can see some of his Citadel photos here. Of course there are others in the area too.

Other posts about graduation:

The Citadel: Tips from One Parent for Graduation Weekend

The Citadel Recognition Day and Graduation Gift Ideas

Finding Gifts for Your Citadel Cadet

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

Updated Hotel Information

The Citadel: Plan Ahead for the End of the School Year

McAlister Fieldhouse fills up quickly on graduation day. photo by Stanley Leary
McAlister Fieldhouse fills up quickly on graduation day. photo by Stanley Leary

Thanksgiving furlough at The Citadel is still a week away, so it may seem a bit early to post about the last week of the school year. As parents of upperclassmen know, the hotel rooms and rental homes book up quickly that week. Graduation is May 10, 2014. The College of Charleston also has their graduation the same week.

Make your hotel reservations early.

For parents of the Class of 2017 you need to pay attention to this advice too since freshman – junior cadets stay on campus until graduation day.

The undergraduate cadets who do not have prior approval to leave early, stay in the barracks until 7:00 AM at the latest the day of graduation. Some cadets have duties graduation day and have to stay longer. Your cadet will have to let you know if they have a duty, but they won’t know until closer to May. Cadets with parents who arrive Friday can load some of their belongings Friday.

If you arrive by 2:00 in the afternoon you will be able to see the 2015 Summerall Guards perform and then watch the Long Gray Line parade.

I am mentioning this now because last year quite a few parents were surprised about this schedule.

The Class of 2008 joins the Long Gray Line of graduates.
The Class of 2008 joins the Long Gray Line of graduates.

For parents of graduating seniors:

The seniors move out of the barracks before Friday so they need a place to stay Wednesday – Friday nights.

The events for graduation begin the Thursday before graduation. The school has posted a planning sheet and a schedule of events for graduation. The more extended information page for 2014 is not posted yet. You can read through the page still available from May 2013 to get an idea of what to expect. In our case my son did not participate it eh THursday Award ceremony and did not want to attend the baccalaureate service.

Friday: Friday is the day the military commissioning services take place. TheArmy commissioning service is usually the largest group and they go first. You’ll need to get to the chapel early Friday morning to find a seat. Two people can pin the bars onto the shoulder of the newly commissioned officer. They sit with the graduating senior. All others sit behind the seniors.

A note about commissioning: It is customary for the new officer to receive their first salute to an NCO or enlisted soldier. In turn the new officer gives a silver dollar to the the person who rendered the salute. Finding a silver dollar can be tricky for some.

The Citadel Alumni Association hosts a nice gathering at lunchtime Friday for the graduates who are new Lifetime members of the CAA. The Lifetime membership makes a great graduation gift. Up to 4 people, including the graduate can attend this luncheon.

There are special events for legacy graduates and their families.

The 2015 Summerall Guards will perform in the afternoon.

The Long Gray Line graduation parade takes place Friday afternoon.

Saturday: For the last few years each cadet is given 8 tickets. In 2013 the seating was not assigned. Arrive early for the best seats.

If you need more than 8 tickets, ask your cadet to network with his classmates.

Graduation for the Corps of Cadets begins about 9:00 AM each year and is over around 12 noon. If young children will be with you, bring a “distraction bag” with quiet activities.

Previous posts on graduation week may be of help in your planning:

Senior Parent Notes

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Gray Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual


Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Graduation Gift Ideas

The Citadel: Tips From One Parent for Graduation Weekend

Gift Ideas for Citadel Cadets and Graduates


SkinnyScoop Nomination for Top 25 Military Mom Blogs!

I don’t find myself speechless very often, but an email I received today left me with no words.

The email follows.

Please take a minute to vote.

Thank you.


I’m Joanne, and I handle community outreach at in San Francisco.  I’m writing to let you know that your blog has been nominated to our ‘Top 25 Military Mom Blogs’ contest!  It’s been great learning more about your blog and I wanted to be sure that you knew you were in the running.
If you’d like to share your nomination with your readers, you can find the contest here –  There are more than 40 blogs nominated so you may need to scroll down to find your nomination(s).

To vote, your readers just have to go to the contest page, find your nomination, and click “Like”.  The Top 25 blogs will be decided by the highest number of votes (“likes”), and announced during the last week of September.

You can also post the attached badge on your sidebar or in a blog post and link to  Alternatively you can use our sharing functionality to post the contest to Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.


You can see the joy and relief on all our faces. Photo by Sarah Kohut Harrell
You can see the joy and relief on all our faces.
Photo by Sarah Kohut Harrell

Toilet Paper, Underwear,Technology, and an Army Mom

And I thought knob year at The Citadel was stressful.Senior cadet and mentor, "Mr. Mason" addresses Cadet Lalli during the promotion ceremony. Parents Weekend, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary
And I thought knob year at The Citadel was stressful.
Senior cadet and mentor, “Mr. Mason” addresses Cadet Lalli during the promotion ceremony. Parents Weekend, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary

This afternoon I went to our local barbecue restaurant for lunch. Not usually anything to write about. Today was special though. Right before I went into the restaurant I checked my messages. There was a quick message from my deployed son letting me know he received a couple of boxes I had sent two weeks before. The boxes included food and some boxer briefs in various sizes for his platoon members. Most of my boxes take over 3 weeks to reach him so I was surprised that they arrived so quickly.

He let me know the guys appreciated the boxers. Usually that would be the end of our correspondence. He tends to write a short note and that is it. In my reply I told him that I continue to cover their a$$es whether it is toilet paper or underwear.

Apparently my wit won him over. After going in to order my lunch, I checked the messages and found another one. Our conversation continued for a few more volleys. Nothing earth shattering. His birthday is coming up and I asked what he’d like. He never asks for anything so I am left to guess at what may be appreciated.

The conversation was short. Sitting there in the middle of Slope’s BBQ in Roswell, Georgia it struck me. I am using my Droid HD to have a conversation with my son in Afghanistan, something I would have thought inconceivable just a few years ago. A rather surreal feeling.

One of the ladies who works there asked me if I was alright. I know she was asking about my tray and wondering if I needed anything else, but for some reason her question got to me. Sitting there thinking of my son and his birthday in a few weeks, and knowing he is in a difficult place I realized, no, I am not OK. I miss my son and I worry. I told her I was corresponding with my deployed son. The tears began to well up. I tried to clear my table and go outside before I made a spectacle of myself.

The plan almost worked until the nice lady asked me for my son’s name so she could pray for him. That did it. The tears filled my eyes. She gave me a big hug right there in the middle of the restaurant. I drove home with my heart in my throat.

Some days I am pretty good at pretending that I am not worried. Today is not one of those days.

An Army Mom's Field Trip to Fort Stewart

I visited another culture yesterday, Fort Stewart. Since I did not grow up around the military that is how I felt when I entered the base. It wasn’t that the language or  people were different, but how to navigate the different rules and culture came crashing together for me while shopping in the Exchange.

The Exchange

I met the Family Readiness Group leader at the Exchange. The first sign that I was out of my element happened pretty quickly. I was sitting outside the Exchange in what I thought was the front entrance. A few minutes later my contact walked up and said, “I thought I should check over here. I was waiting on the other side, the front of the building.” Oops.

This was my first visit to an Exchange on a military base. It was like a mini mall. My shopping companion knew exactly where to go once we were inside. We passed kiosk shops with framed sports photos, ladies wigs and other items. We arrived at our destination, a store filled with uniforms and supplies for soldiers.

Before my trip to Fort Stewart scores of friends and people I have never met sent me checks to go toward supplies for the soldiers of the 3-69 AR. Many of the soldiers are in remote areas without access to the internet or a PX. Getting needed supplies is difficult, so are showers. We were told before they left that our soldiers will need us to send items like soap, deodorant, etc. more than snacks and goodies. When I heard there were some soldiers who needed socks and underwear, etc. I put the word out and people responded. To date I have received $1,310 for this project.

Once inside the Exchange I handed over the cash, holding some back to go toward shipping. Since I do not have a military ID all the goods needed to be purchased by my contact. We decided shopping at the Exchange was better than ordering online with free shipping. The prices are so much better on base we could send more to the soldiers this way. We are buying for two platoons, about thirty men.

socks in the cart

We started in the underwear and sock section. Standing in front of a wall of socks we began to read labels. We settled on one style labeled “Military Fatigue Fighter” and features “Graduated Compression” and is made with “Wick  Dry & Scentry Technologies.” While neither of us really knew what “Scentry Technologies” actually means after reading the description of the sock we decided on this style. We opted for a mix of large and extra-large socks. It was on to t-shirts and underwear.

Standing in front of the t-shirts we had fewer decisions to make. There was only one choice in the type of shirt to make, cotton or polyester. Then it was a decision about the size mix. After getting enough for two per men, it was on to the underwear.

The standard issue briefs were only $2.05 a piece. While most of the guys we knew prefer boxer briefs we opted to go with the standard issue because the boxer briefs were over four times the price.

By this time our two shopping carts were pretty full. My shopping partner was keeping a running total on her smart phone.

We turned to the cold weather gear. Because the soldiers are in an area that is very cold now we opted for the “ThermaForm Neck Gator.” The label touts, ” A unique construction of layered fibers that create a body-conforming climate capsule to keep your neck and face warm and protected from winter weather,” Plus it had moisture control. I am learning that wicking and moisture control are important features for soldiers.

After a quick check of our running total we had enough money to buy something in the three dollar range. We opted for foot powder and were on our way to check out.

I made a slight detour to look at the Teddy Bears dressed in uniform. Our 14-year-old daughter came to mind. She misses her oldest brother and would love one of these bears. I settled on one with its cover pulled down to cover its eyes, the same way our soldier wore his cover at The Citadel, plus it had a distinctive nose like our guy.

On to the register. The ladies were very nice. One rang us up while the other bagged the items. To our surprise we came in at $995, not the $1,100 we thought we had. It was on to the PX to buy breakfast bars and oatmeal. The MRE’s provided the needed calories, but we thought the soldiers would appreciate something that doesn’t come from a standard issue box.

loaded carts

The PX was a big grocery store with great prices. We made quick work of the breakfast aisle loading up our large cart with boxes of nutritious bars and oatmeal. A little girl about 4 years old just stared at our cart as we walked down the aisle.

The check out line was like any other store. The lady working check out reminded me I was not at home in an off base grocery store. As she was ringing us up she asked if we needed custom forms for the USPS. We didn’t tell her why we were buying such a huge amount of bars and oatmeal, she just knew. It turns put she receive the stop mail notice for her son and had a stack of forms in her car. She gave the young guy bagging our groceries her car keys to retrieve the forms she no longer needed. One Army mom helping another.

With my little Toyota Corolla now filled up with items to ship to Afghanistan, we drove to the battalion headquarters office to see the Family Readiness Group Support office. I wanted to stop in to say hello and to express my condolences to the rear detachment staff after the death of Sgt. Wittman of the 3-69 just a week before.

After a quick visit and a few photos, I was on my way off base. I took a little time before I pulled out to reflect on the day. I only spent a few hours on base, but I had learned so much. I had to let it sink in a bit.

As I approached the Main Gate, I saw the “Warriors Walk” a tribute to Fort Stewart soldiers who lost their life in during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. I had to pull over to pay my respects. I’ll write about that experience in my next entry.

Dorie visits with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader and the FRSA.
Dorie visits with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader and the FRSA.


An Army Mom Reflects and Gives Thanks

We made it through our first Christmas with our soldier deployed. While we missed him, we did manage to have a very nice holiday with friends and family. Like many people I tend to become reflective this time of year. I thought I’d share some rambling thoughts and reflection about this past Christmas.

Two years ago Christmas day the first blog post I wrote for the military blog site Off the Base was published. The Making of a Military Mom started me on a journey I could never have imagined. When Bobbie O’Brien first asked me to contribute to the blog as the mom of an Army ROTC cadet soon to be officer my first response was, “Thank you, but I am not a writer.” Little did I know when I finally agreed to give it a try that my entries about our experience at The Citadel would be so well received. Eventually I posted my own blog. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this blog either in person, on Facebook, or through email. We have a very supportive community.

This Christmas a group of friends joined me and donated items to be sent to my son’s platoon for Christmas. We heard via Facebook the gift bags arrived right before Christmas. I was thrilled to hear all the boxes we had sent finally arrived. When I asked for photos he told me they would be coming. I checked email and Facebook several times a day hoping to see photos of our guy. A few days before Christmas our daughter asked me what I wanted most for Christmas. I told her, “I’d like a picture of soldiers in Afghanistan.” What a wonderful gift to receive Christmas morning in my stocking. While it wasn’t the picture I expected, it was one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever received.

This picture was in my stocking Christmas morning. A gift from my daughter.
This picture was in my stocking Christmas morning. A gift from my daughter.

She also gave me a t-shirt with the little blue fish, Dory, from Finding Nemo. (In case I forget my name I can look at the shirt.)

In case I ever forget my name, I can look at my shirt. A gift from our daughter.
In case I ever forget my name, I can look at my shirt. A gift from our daughter.

A few days after Christmas an email arrived with three photos. Two of the platoon with the gift bags we sent and one of our guy in a hat we sent to him as a present. It made for a great start to the New Year. The guys look good and we could make out a few of the children’s Christmas pictures in the bags we sent.

Delta Company Christmas photo.
Delta Company Christmas photo.
Delta Company Christmas photo #2
Delta Company Christmas photo #2

New Year’s Eve 2012 marked the 19th year of working in the press box as a volunteer for what is now called the Chick-fil-A Bowl. No matter what changes I am going through in a given year the one constant for 19 years has been this activity. It is like a family reunion each year. My favorite person to catch up with is a gentleman our daughter calls Mr. Walter. He works for the Georgia Dome security during the bowl and his station is right next to the information table in the press box where I work. He is a wonderful, caring, man who is a wiz with statistics of all kinds. He was profiled in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in the past few years. He is an Atlanta celebrity among event goers since he works at multiple venues. I always enjoy our time catching up together at the Bowl. It is also fun to see the various reporters and others who attend the game.

Dorie and Walter catching up during their annual reunion.
Dorie and Walter catching up during their annual reunion.
Members of the press getting ready for the start of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Members of the press getting ready for the start of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Before Christmas I put word out that the soldiers in our son’s battalion needed some basic supplies. While they had the basic necessities some are stationed in remote areas and could use a few more basics. The response has been amazing! Checks began to arrive right away. I am told more are in the mail now. To date I have received $1,200 to go toward supplies. Several other people said checks are on the way. I am working with the family readiness group to determine what is needed and the items should be on their way next week. An initial shipment of military cold weather socks are on their way to our son’s platoon along with another shipment of the coveted soft toilet paper.

I am overwhelmed with these gifts in addition to the many people who have sent boxes to our son and his platoon. Many of these people I have only met a few times, or only know through online networks like Citadel parent Facebook groups. Some are teachers and have sent boxes of goodies and needed items along with letters from children. My son tells me the guys really like the boxes I send the best. I really think he means the boxes of items I and our friends send. In a very real way I feel we are a small part of a huge family that includes: Citadel families, Army families, childhood friends, college friends, church friends, and a few caring people who read the blog and I have never met.

This past week a package arrived from a Citadel mom. It included a card and check and a very special gift for my daughter and me. A picture frame with two patriotic angel pins. Tears came to my eyes when I read the card. The sender is a military spouse. She has a first year knob at The Citadel and has given me some very helpful tips the past few months. She told me that while the Citadel parents are like family that the military family is even larger.

A beautiful gift from a Citadel mom who is also a military spouse. She is also our angel.
A beautiful gift from a Citadel mom who is also a military spouse. She is also our angel.

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful and supportive friends. I am beginning 2013 with the firm knowledge that our family is blessed to have such a wonderful group of people surrounding us with their care and their prayers.

Reaching Out to Military Families Helps

Family Day at Fort Stewart, Oct. 2012
photo by Stanley Leary

It’s been a busy month for me. Most of it related to things other than The Citadel or Army mom involvement.We are very close to the deployment date of my oldest son so staying busy is a good thing. I find I am choking up or tearing up at odd times throughout the week.

We did attend his going away party in early October and then visited Fort Stewart for the Casing of the Colors ceremony and family day. I wrote about that experience for the military blog site Off the Base.

Some fun with family at the pre-deployment party. Quite a contrast to the photo at the top of the entry.

There are so many thoughts going through my mind it is hard to decide what to write about now. So much of it is extremely personal. I am an extrovert so many times what is in my head pops out of my mouth with very little screening. In this situation, however, I am more guarded about what I share with a nameless faceless readership.

Fortunately I can channel my anxiety into projects that help not only my son and his battalion but other military families and military families in training at The Citadel.

For the senior Army ROTC cadets at The Citadel it is a time of anticipation. They received their branch notices at a meeting recently. Their parents are now researching the next steps, including what BOLC means. The training for young officers is called Basic Officer Leadership Course or BOLC and is pronounced bullock. Our son attended Armor BOLC at Ft. Benning. The courses for the various branches of service are taught at bases throughout the country. If you have a cadet at The Citadel you can resource with other military parents through the Facebook group, Military parents of The Citadel. Most likely someone there will know something about the BOLC your cadet will go to after graduation.

If you or someone you know is a cadet or graduate of The Citadel and is currently deployed, make sure The Citadel Heroes Project has their APO/FPO address. You can contact Susie Maghakian with the name and address. Her contact information is below. This group of volunteers sends care packages to deployed cadets and grads a few times a year. They rely on the families to send the addresses. They have an immediate need for personal care items, including items for female soldiers, for the boxes that will be packed November 10 and financial support to cover postage. Items received after November 10 will still be sent out to the soldiers. Make checks payable to: The Citadel Heroes Project

Please send your donations to:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 171 Moultrie Street, The Citadel Station, Charleston, SC  29409

or if you are sending items via UPS or other carrier use the physical address on campus:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 201 Richardson Ave, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409

[email protected]

Phone: 843-953-5815

Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.
There are many nonprofit organizations that support the troops throughout the year. One organization I volunteer with is the Military Families Ministry. Co-founder, Tracie Ciambotti, is also a contributor to the blog Off the Base. She wrote a book called Battles of The Heart for new Army families.
This past August I enrolled in the Level II Comedy Writing Class taught by Jeff Justice. It was just one more way for me to stay busy and positive as we face the first deployment of our oldest son. In the routine I joked about Army Moms and their cell phones. During a deployment they keep them on their person at all times. Just today I was reflecting on how our life will be the next nine months. I imagine there will be times when I tick someone off on line at the grocery store or at an event when I answer my phone at an inappropriate time. I will not apologize if this happens.
The Family Readiness Group leadership at Ft. Stewart will send the contact information soon for anyone who would like to support our battalion while they are deployed. We already know they will need hand warmers, packets of hot chocolate and instant coffee, protein foods, and baby wipes. I’ll post the address to send donations when they send it to us.
Remember, if you are the parents of a deployed soldier it is completely normal and expected to be more emotional while they are deployed. If you do not have a family member in the military, but know someone who does, remember to check in with them and ask how they would like to be supported during this time.


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.