The past two months have been filled with activity, some good some difficult. My health and the demands of my chaplain residency have kept me from writing as often. I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule with the start of 2015.
The Monday before Thanksgiving while at work at the VA hospital I began to feel funny. To make a long story a bit shorter, it turns out I was experiencing atrial fibrillation. My heart raced up to 160+ beats per minute and stayed that way for 4 hours. Since that day I’ve had a few other trips to the emergency room, several tests and I meet with the cardiologist this coming Tuesday, which also happens to be our 19th anniversary. While I am still learning what all this means, it does appear that it is a fairly commonly condition. One that can be managed fairly easily.
I am now looking to the next six months and starting to explore what will be next for me when I complete this residency. The path for many people after finishing a year of clinical pastoral education is to become staff of a congregation or to go into full-time chaplaincy. My stated goal at the beginning of this year was to start a nonprofit and continue my call to be a supportive presence for journalists and also for parents of cadets at The Citadel. I am not ordained, and do not plan to pursue ordination, in any denomination so full-time chaplaincy with an established organization is not a possibility.
The first step in starting a nonprofit is to find who else is meeting a need. There are several organizations that provide training and professional support for journalists. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma being the leader in that area, and the Ochberg Society provides peer-to-peer support. I’d like to see a network of clergy, all faiths, and therapists, who are trained in the particularities of the world of journalism so that they can be an effective, caring presence, when a journalist needs support. I’m not sure how that will pan out. I’ve learned that by me stating an intention or an idea, it may spark an idea in someone else and before you know it, a team is formed. I may end up pursuing guest lecturing to journalism programs and newsrooms.
The same idea applies supporting new parents at The Citadel. This next academic year will be my 8th year of supporting a new class of parents of knobs. The first three years I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and also the Cadet Retention and Recruitment Chair for the Citadel Family Association. Since my son graduated in 2011 I’ve continued to help new parents, but not as a CFA volunteer. Once your cadet graduates you are no longer a CFA member. I posted the information I shared with parents in Georgia to this blog site the fall of 2011. I began getting a lot of emails with questions and decided to start a Facebook group for the Class of 2016 parents to make it easy to answer questions in one place. Three years and three Facebook groups later, for the Classes of 2017 and 2018, I’ve just added one for the parents of the class of 2019.
While I do feel a call to do this type of support for new parents, it is very time-consuming and completely unpaid. I’ve begun to wonder if I could make this a nonprofit venture and ask for some financial support from the parents who join the groups. Since I am still in the investigative stage I welcome any feedback my readers have on this matter. I’m not looking to make tons of money from this venture, but at least enough to make it a part-time venture and cover some of my expenses. In simple terms if each member of the Facebook groups donates $10, I’d have a decent part-time income. Let me know what you think in the comments section or send me an email with your thoughts on starting a nonprofit. If I do go the nonprofit route, I will be looking for potential board members with expertise in nonprofit law, fundraising, and other areas.
Please join me the next several months as I explore the next steps in my journey. I’ll continue to post helpful tips for parents of cadets at The Citadel, but will add entries about my own journey as well.
Each year about this time the stats for this blog go a bit nuts as anxious family and friends search for information on their Citadel knob, a first year cadet recruit at The Citadel. I am not a graduate of the school and cannot speak to what the 4th Class System is like from a cadet perspective. I can however tell you about what it is like to be a concerned parent.
On my personal Facebook page I will post the blog search terms of the day when something strikes me as particularly funny or unique. One term that makes me laugh is “Dorie Citadel,” especially since I was so anxious about the whole 4th Class System when my son was going through it in 2007. Some of the search terms make me wish I could reach out to the person searching for information to tell them it will be OK. My email address is in the About Dorie section if you would like to ask a questions to me directly.
This week, the first week knobs are on campus, I give new parent a few tips on navigating the school web site. For instance, everything they do is outlined on the Office of the Commandant page under the Operations and Training section, then click on Training Schedules. Just scroll down and look for the current week. This week the schedule is broken down by company. After this week you’ll know your knobs class schedule and will see the general schedule for the Corps of Cadets.
On the Facebook groups for parents, here is the link for the 2018 parent group, you can find previous posts and topics by entering a search term into the search window function. Look for the magnifying glass icon on the upper right side of a group page under the cover photo. Click on the icon and the search window appears. Enter your search term and press enter. Previous posts on that term will appear. A photo of the icon is on this page.
A caution about Facebook and social media for this first year, knobs want to keep a low profile. While as parents we are proud of the decision our son or daughter made in attending The Citadel, tagging them on public pages or using a hashtag to ID them as being a knob at The Citadel will raise the profile of a knob and therefore may bring more attention to a knob.
A word of caution about the various YouTube videos out there. If you are struggling with not speaking to your student this first week, wait to view the videos. There are some really fun and inspiring videos, but there are also quite a few out there of the cadre yelling at the knobs. You will note in the recent ones that the TAC officers, staff who oversee the barracks, are seen observing the cadets. It is still hard to watch knowing your student will be the one getting yelled at this year. If you don’t mind seeing knobs get yelled at see this video of the knobs returning form the beach in 2011.
Each company determines when the knobs get their phone and computer privileges. Usually it is by the start of classes. Please know that knobs have no control over their time and cannot pick up the call or answer a text at will. This is hard on parents but really difficult for some girlfriends to understand. If a knob hangs up quickly it is because someone entered the room. Do not call them back. Wait for them to call you when they can.
Do send goodies to them each cadet has their own preference. My son preferred healthy food. Another Citadel Mom wrote a great blog post about care packages and how to save money on postage. You can read it here. You can order boxes through the US Post Office free online. The box #1096L is the largest small box that fits in their boxes. The box will fit in a flat rate envelope saving you postage. You can save money of postage by using the Click-N-Ship option.
Many parents ask when they can see their knob for the first time. This year August 31 is the day they will first be able to get off campus for the afternoon. If you can’t wait to see them until parents Weekend, which is October 10 – 12, 2014, the best time to see them is on what is called an open weekend on the Yearly Planning Calendar. Open and Closed weekends don’t mean too much for knobs since they cannot have an overnight this first semester. On an Open weekend there are no mandatory Saturday Morning Inspections (SMI) and upperclass cadets can request leave for the weekend. For knobs it means they can go off campus Friday night, Saturday from about 7:00 am – 11:30 pm and Sunday from after chapel or Ethics seminar (10:00am) until 7:00pm or so.
Each year the Corps of Cadets participate in a few special events. You can read about them on the website by clicking here. Parents Weekend is a big occasion for knobs. It is during a ceremony Saturday of Parents Weekend that they are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. During the ceremony the cadre and knobs do a class set of pushups and the knobs receive the company letter which is worn on their uniform. For more information on Parents Weekend schedule watch the school web site and the Cadet Activities page. You can also read previous posts by putting “Parents Weekend” in the search window of this site.
The Cadet Activities office has a program where they will quietly deliver cookies to cadets for special occasions. You can read about it here. They also handle the order forms for the school newspaper The Brigadier, a good way fro families to keep up with the happenings on campus.
The football games are fun to attend. For tickets and information on all the athletic events visit the web site Citadel Sports. They also have a Facebook page, The Citadel Sports. The Citadel Brigadier Foundation is another good page to follow. The foundation raises funds to
support the athletic program and scholarships.
If you are more into the arts, you’ll be thrilled to learn about Fine Arts at The Citadel. A terrific program that last year brought in the author of the book Monuments Men to campus for a book signing and talk. The program is headed by Professor Tiffany Silverman and offers a variety of classes to cadets, including a Fine Arts minor.
Welcome to The Citadel parent family!
I am sure Matriculation Day was a mixed bag of emotions for you. The Citadel Family Association volunteers do a terrific job of helping ease what is usually a very stressful day for families. The real tough time for parents begins today.
I am not a graduate of The Citadel so I cannot speak to the cadet experience, but I can relate to how a parent feels when they send their student off to knob year. If you are a parent of a knob, please join the Facebook group I moderate, The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2018. I will not accept requests to join from extended family members or friends. It is very time consuming volunteer work to keep the parent groups going. I cannot extend an invitation to extra people. Please send me an email before you request to join to verify you are the parent of a knob send me their name and company. My email can be found in the “About Dorie” section of this blog site.
This first week without contact from your knob is tough. Each year parents find some measure of comfort by visiting the various school Facebook groups to find photos and videos of the week. I’ll post a few links to helpful Facebook groups at the end of this entry.
A note about Facebook and social media this first year. Facebook groups can be a great way to connect with other parents. It can also cause trouble among parents and cadets when too much is shared to a group wall, or when parents think they should know everything that is going on every minute of every day.
Please limit your posts to general questions. If you have specific questions pertaining to your cadet you send private messages to a trusted friend or CFA volunteer. Do not post specifics about your knob or any cadet to a Facebook group or page.
Know that the groups were established to answer general questions, not to give a full accounting of everything a cadet will do each day. The Citadel is a leadership school. The knobs will learn to take control of their process and learn to navigate the 4th Class System. You can be an encouraging presence. You cannot do this for them.
Related to Facebook is the tagging of your knob in photos. It is best not to tag photos you see on public sites. When you tag your knob the photo is then visible to their friends and family and they begin to post comments. The comments will be visible to the public. Most knobs want to keep a low profile. If you see a photo of your knob, download it and repost to your own page for your family and friends to see.
If at any time you have a concern, I encourage you to address the appropriate department on campus. If the question pertains to something in the company or barracks contact the TAC officer for the company or battalion. A confidential resource on campus is the ombudsperson’s office. They will take your calls or emails an answer your questions confidentially. You can find their contact information and other resources on the web page named H.E.L.P.
On Monday night the school will have a live stream presentation of the Oath Ceremony. You can find the details linked to the home page of the school web site or click here.
Starting this week and throughout the year you can see the schedule for the Corps of Cadets on the Office of the Commandant page. Once on the page click on Operations and Training, then Training Schedules , then look for the week you are interested in reading about. The schedule for this first week is titled, “August 16 – 24, 2014 (Company rotation schedule).” You will see the knobs are kept VERY busy in meetings all week.
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:
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
You can see photos of dresses worn in previous years on the blog entries listed here:
For as long as I can remember I’ve had a vague idea that my life purpose is to help people. Just how that should play out was not very clear for a very long time.
After college I worked in sports PR and then the hotel business. I was able to do small acts of kindness in those positions. Years later when I started a position at a United Methodist Church retreat center a tug to go to learn more about my faith grew stronger.
I entered Columbia Theological Seminary in 1995. At the time I was divorced with two small boys. I worked full-time and went to school full-time and had to squeeze in work-study hours too. The boys and I lived on campus in an apartment, but they remained in the school they attended 20 miles away.
It was a chaotic time to say the least. It was also a time of great growth and change.
Early on I felt God had led me to Columbia, not to do something different, but to enhance the work I was already doing in a ministry of hospitality.
Some where along the way as I struggled to discern where God was calling me, a thought came to me. My husband, who is a photographer, was a member of a group called Christians in Photojournalism. I began pondering what it would look like to be a caring presence for all journalists.
Early in my sports PR career I learned about the difficulties in being a journalist from a videographer friend. He worked for a local news station in Richmond, VA. He told me back in 1981 that when lists of most dangerous jobs come out, photojournalists/videographers are usually at the top. That thought haunted me for years. I met reporters who covered breaking news who would recount assignments where the area was cleared for them to enter and they stepped on a body part. What do you do with that experience?
In the middle of my long tenure in seminary, it took 7 years to finish what is usually a three-year full-time program, I began to investigate what was out there as far as support for journalists. One summer I spent time researching the topic. I would Google terms like “journalists ministry,” “reporters chaplain.” Not much showed up in these searches back in 2000. Then one day I found a group, not a faith-based organization, that seemed to understand what I knew inside. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma had articles on how to sensitively cover victims of violence, but they also offered tips for journalists to take care of them self after covering a traumatic event like war, natural disasters, and violent crimes. I began corresponding with the executive director and also the founder of the Dart Center.
During the 2001-2002 school year, my final year at Columbia, I was admitted to a clinical pastoral education (CPE) group. My context for ministry was working with journalists in the press room at. Georgia Tech football and basketball games as well as the Men’s Final Four. While the journalists weren’t covering trauma, the access to reporters and photojournalists led to incredible conversations. It was the year of 9/11. It was also the hear the head football coach at GT left for a head position at Notre Dame, his dream job, only to lose the job when discrepancies in his resume came to light.
The year ended with me feeling affirmed that what I knew inside was true, journalist do benefit from having a caring presence in their midst. My CPE supervisor affirmed that call in our final meeting. She also told me that my journey could be very lonely and suggested I build my own support network.
The years after graduation were filled with wonderful opportunities to grow and meet journalists. I worked for a program called Faith And The City that helped clergy in formation (seminarians) learn to be actively involved in civic affairs in their towns. I produced an interfaith dialogue cable television program called Faith And The City Forum: Interfaith Dialogue on Civic Issues. It was an exciting time.
During my first year at Faith And The City I attended my first meeting of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies where the Dart Center also brought their fellows for a time of intense learning. It was wonderful to finally meet the people I had only exchanged emails with up to that point. They welcomed me in and introduced me to their fellows, journalists from around the world who covered war, disasters, and other traumatic stories.
During the lead up to the war in Iraq I began a prayer list for journalists who were covering the conflict. many of whom were embedded with troops. The list grew and eventually my husband helped me put it on my website. Soon the National Press Photographers Association posted a link to the list and emails began coming in thanking me for my efforts. Some asked for their names to be added to the list. After receiving these emails and after developing regular communications with journalists in war zones, I knew this is what God called me to do.
Unfortunately my path with the organized church was not so clear. While I knew I was called to be a caring presence for journalists, finding a way to be ordained to that ministry was not in the cards. It was not the fault of the organized church and the committees. Deep down I knew I did not want to serve in an ordained position. It was only after the conversation with the father of a journalist friend that I had the courage to claim my call and leave the formal ordination process.
He had started a Bible study on the PGA golf tour in the 1960’s. He told me, “You might need to do what I have done. I’ve modeled my ministry on Paul. He was a tentmaker by trade, but he also had a very important ministry.” Since I did not feel called to traditional ministry being able to administer the sacraments was not a motivator for me to be ordained. From that day forward I claimed my call and left the ordination process.
Since that time I’ve had the privilege to be present for scores of journalists as they wrestled with the news stories they have covered. I’ve learned things about their work things like, in a situation where the smell of decaying bodies is overwhelming, using Vick’s vapor rub under your nose while wearing a bandana over your nose is one way to mask the smell. I was in a film called, War and Truth, about journalists in Iraq. During the taping of the film I had the opportunity to meet a reporter I know I had added to the prayer list the year before. It was a powerful moment when we met and I told him he had been in my prayers for over a year.
I was interviewed on the local NBC station about my work. During a Workplace Chaplaincy conference at the Yale Center for Faith and Life I led a break out session on the need to provide pastoral care for journalists. The following year I led a similar break out session for the Association of Professional Chaplains. All these opportunities presented them self to me even though I was not in a tradition ministry position.
I experienced a shift in my focus when my oldest son decided to attend The Citadel on a four-year Army ROTC scholarship. By this time I knew quite a bit about the type of experiences our soldiers are exposed to. It was hard to be excited about his choice of career and school because of my fears for his safety. I eventually learned to respect a process I know I would not have succeeded in. It became evident to me that there are many people, like my son, who are competitive, and driven to do well in intense situations. I learned how to be a supportive parent in a very tough environment.
My participation in the Citadel Family Association led to many conversations and emails from anxious parents. By my son’s junior year I realized that I was using what I had learned in pastoral care classes to help be a listening presence to parents. Not everyone who attends The Citadel will go on to serve in the military, about a third do.
Once my son graduated I posted everything I used to share with the Georgia Citadel Parents Group to this blog site so anyone searching for information on preparing for knob year could find it. I remember thinking at the time that it would help parents be able to help their soon to be knob prepare to report and at the same time help lower the big unknown for the parents. Information has the power to lower anxiety. If the parents are less anxious my theory was that they would not bother their son or daughter with as many questions. It would leave the cadet to focus on surviving that very difficult knob year.
For the most part I believe it has helped. I will say that each family, each parent and each cadet is different. The parents have far more access to information now than in 2007 when my son started. Instead of being at home isolated without much information, except what ever is posted to the school website, parents can now join any number of Facebook groups just for parents. I still believe the best course of action is to learn what you need to in order to be supportive, but let the cadet navigate the system on their own.
I continue to stay in touch with quite a few journalists while I keep up this blog site geared toward Citadel families as well as several Facebook groups for Citadel parents.
I didn’t realize until now just how many people outside of these circles have taken note of my outreach.
This past Tuesday Columbia Theological Seminary hosted the annual Alumni/Alumnae luncheon. During the luncheon I was presented with the 2014 Pioneer In Ministry Award. Two of my former classmates nominated me for the work with journalists, but also for the support I’ve given to parents of cadets at The Citadel. It is a tremendous honor to be recognized in this way. It is particularly meaningful to me because CTS is a very traditional educational environment that prepares students to become pastors of congregations or chaplains. I do serve in a ministry, but I do not work for a church or church organization and I am not ordained. The way we “do church” is shifting to an outward focus. Being given this award at this time is affirmation to me that yes, I am exactly where God wants me. I am helping people but in a non traditional, but very ancient ministry of presence.
As a nice foot note to the event on Tuesday an attendee approached me outside the building after the luncheon to say congratulations. He then told me he was a chaplain on the PGA golf tour in the 1960’s. It turned out he is a very good friend of the father of my friend who encouraged me to view my ministry as a tentmaker, like Paul.
Beginning June 2 I will begin a year-long Clinical Pastoral Education residency at the VA hospital in Decatur, GA. I will have 3 other classmates along with a few interns who will join us during a few semesters. We will learn as we provide pastoral care for the patients of the hospital, mental health department and the long-term care facility. I look forward to this next adventure. I will continue to be present on the Facebook groups, but not throughout the work day.
There are times when I am positive my parents are watching me from heaven just laughing away, now especially. My oldest is out of the house on his own, my middle son is beginning a career in the hospitality industry and my youngest is in high school.
My parents have been gone for a while now. Mom died when I was pregnant with my oldest so she never had the chance to hold my children and see them grow. Dad died five years later after a battle with Alzheimer’s and cancer. He met the oldest two, but didn’t really know who they were.
I’m at that interesting time in life when we aren’t quite empty nesters, but I can see it on the horizon. When my oldest left to study at The Citadel I knew he was where he wanted to be. It was the best experience for him. As he spread his wings and began to spend less and less time at home I began channelling my mother.
“We’d love to see you.” “Are you sure you can’t make it home over spring break?” “Oh, you won’t be home for the holidays?”
You see, when I was in college I worked in the athletic department at the University of Richmond. First I was a manager of the men’s basketball team. We had abbreviated Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks. In the summers I worked in the sports information office and with the marketing office. I made it home for short little vacations here and there. When I left home in New Jersey for college at 17, I never returned to live there again.
When I find myself lamenting at the lack of time with my oldest son, I look back remember how I felt as a young adult. I loved my parents, but I was making my way in the world as an adult. I did call pretty often and wrote once in a while, but we really didn’t have time together. To me I was doing what they raised me to do, be on my own.
So today, as I find myself wondering where the time has gone and how much I miss talking with my oldest, I know my parents are smiling and saying to me, “See? Now you know how it feels!”
This past Sunday the members of Prayers and Squares and the Military Ministry of Roswell Presbyterian Church joined together in an outreach project. Joyce Pettit a member of Prayers and Squares used her time during the recent ice storm to sew 67 prayers squares for military members. She then called me as the chair of the military ministry to discuss how we would get members and guest of our church together to pray over the squares and to tie knots in them. THe project was well received by the congregation.
Prayer and Squares is a nationwide interfaith organization that promotes prayer through the use of quilts. You can read more about their outreach through this link.
We passed an anniversary last week. It was one of great emotional significance to our family. On this Veterans Day I thought I’d share these reflections from my Army mom perspective.
Last week marked the anniversary of my oldest son’s first deployment to Afghanistan. He is home, safe, and awaiting his orders for the next stage in his Army career.
Even though he is stateside, and I know he is just fine, I wrestle with the emotions of the past year. When I hear the National Anthem played or watch a patriotic video I relive the emotions I felt during my son’s deployment. Especially today as images of our veterans are flashed on television, and written about in the newspapers and social media, my emotions are right at the surface.
Being the family member of a combat veteran brings with it a unique set of emotions. We are proud of our soldier, but anxious for their safety. A huge part of me hopes he will never be deployed again. But my wishes are secondary to my son’s desire to do what he has trained years to do, defend our country.
I watched a beautifully done piece by Brian Storm. It is about Starbucks effort to hire veterans. It isn’t really a piece that would bring other non-military people to tears. This morning, sitting at my kitchen table watching that 13 minute piece, I had a lump in my throat.
At one point in the video was a clip of a returning group of soldiers. I was immediate brought back to a day this passed July when our family and a few friends waited anxiously for our soldier and the rest of his battalion to return from their nine month deployment.
I had never experienced such a mixture of emotions before that day in July. I wanted to laugh, but my throat was too tight. Tears formed as they marched in, but then we had to wait for a series of addresses, songs and rituals.
My stomach did somersaults as the General spoke a few words before the crowd was unleashed to rush toward their soldier. Then, then came the moment when my daughter and I sprinted to our soldier for the BEST HUG EVER.
The mind is a funny thing. In the simple act of remembering that moment I am brought to tears.
So today, Veterans Day, 2013, I will honor our veterans, but in my own quiet way. This year, and probably for the next several years, my emotions are too close to the surface to attend public events.
I don’t mind people seeing me tear up in public. I know my tears honor the brave men and women who serve. I also know my emotions are not necessarily the same as another military mom.
But for today, I need to take care of myself and not dwell in that dark scary place family members dwell in when their loved one is in harm’s way.
We are approaching Thanksgiving time, and the time to send care packages to troops for the holidays.
At The Citadel a great volunteer effort was started several years ago to send boxes to deployed cadets and graduates, The Citadel Heroes Project.
I’ve written about this effort before. The time to send donations for their holiday mailing is now. Susie Maghakian of the Krause Leadership Center on campus is the staff coordinator for the project. Theresa Chamberlain is the parent of a graduate and is the current volunteer coordinator of the program.
People always ask what should be included in care packages. A general rule is not to send items that have a short shelf life. Mail can be delayed and items like home-baked good soften arrived spoiled.
If you Google “what to send a deployed soldier” quite a few sites with suggestions will pop up. Give 2 the Troops is one of many sites you will find that offer a list of items. I’ll include a few suggestions here, but please note this list is not exhaustive. If you know the person you are sending items to, ask them what they would like and would appreciate. Some units have ready access to day to day items, others do not.
Saran Wrap: I have recently learned that including a roll of saran wrap in a care package could help save a soldier’s life. In a recent email from a Citadel grad who is working as a contractor in Afghanistan he wrote: “Its use would be as an emergency field medical expedient dressing to wrap hastily around the chest of a torso-wounded teammate to prevent death by ‘sucking chest wound.’ Some SF medics I work with have recommended this technique. I’m sure it would have other practical uses as well.”
Snacks: Individual packets of trail mix and nuts, granola bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, fruit leather, jerky, hard candy, chewing gum, small packets of cookies, individual serving containers of noodles. If they have access to a microwave the individual meals are great.
Beverage powder: Individual drink packets to be added to water – all flavors; hot chocolate packets; instant coffee; powdered creamer
Sauces: Dipping sauces from your local fast food store; hot sauces
Non food items: soft toilet paper, baby wipes, Q-Tips, in the winter month hand warmers, disposable razors, feminine hygiene products-if you know there are women in the unit
Personal care items (do not include in the same box as food): shampoo, shaving cream in squeeze tubes, liquid body soap, deodorant, sun screen
Other items: School supplies, like pencils, paper, crayons. These items are given to the local school children; wrapped candies
Socks, Underwear, T-Shirts : If you know the soldier and their sizes these items are appreciated. Covert Threads is a great resource for good socks for soldiers. THey have a buy 10 get three free policy which makes the socks even more affordable. It is a great option for groups sending items out.
Take items and individual packets out of the box they came in and put them in a zip lock bag. You can fit more in a care package this way and the ziplock bag can be used for other things once the solder has the box. Plus, they have to burn their trash.
Do not mix scented items with food items.
If you try to send home-baked goods vacuum pack them.
Add some fun items like a deck of cards, photos of friends and family, letters and drawings from children, fun toys from the dollar store to blow off steam
I am an outgoing person and try to stay in touch with the friends I make so it isn’t surprising that I will run into acquaintances as our family travels. Since my son graduated from The Citadel I now find the connections I made through his time at the school adds an additional layer to these small world meetings. A chance meeting this past weekend brought this to mind.
A little background. . . . During my son’s deployment a friend in my church, who is a graduate of The Citadel, sent an email of introduction to his former classmate, a 1972 graduate. This gentleman has been a tremendous source of support and encouragement to me while my son was deployed. He keeps track of the graduates, cadets and some parents of cadets who are in Afghanistan serving our country.
On occasion I will ask my contact for names of deployed soldiers who would like a care package. My contact then sends a note to his list asking for the soldiers to respond to me with their requests.
In response to one of these emails I received a surprise note from a Captain asking for something I never thought about. He asked for American flags. He and his Apache crew fly the flags then send them to people as a thank you for their support. He and his crew were buying them out of their own pockets. He asked if we could find people who would send them a dozen. Together with another Citadel mom we quickly asked the moms of Citadel Cadets to contact us if they would like to contribute to the cause. Within a day or so we had enough money to purchase more than the amount requested. After calling a few flag makers I found one who gave us a good discount which enabled us to factor the postage in as well.
When I saw the Captain’s name I knew it sounded familiar. Sure enough, he is the same Timothy Devine who is from our home town, who graduated from the same high school as my son, then went on to The Citadel and his senior year, Class of 2007, was the Regimental Commander. I had heard his mother worked for a local school, so I called her.
As both an Army mom and the mom of a Citadel graduate I would want to know if someone reached out to my son, so I called Captain Devine’s mom, Karen, to tell her about the flags. We talked and shared some emotional deployment stories. It was nice to know that there was another mom near by who I share quite a bit with even though we had never met.
Last week a box arrived in the mail from deployed the Captain! He sent a nice certificate and one of the 3′ x 5′ flags that had flown aboard an AH – 64D Apache Helicopter over the provinces of Afghanistan on a combat mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I had offered to send the flags to a few individuals for the Captain. He included a flag for me, one for my friend, Sarah Lancaster. I was able to deliver one directly to a Citadel mom who is a teacher. Her class sent drawings and notes to soldiers. I asked the recipients to take a photos with their flag so Captain Devine would see them.
With the flags off to their recipients I thought the chapter on flags was shut. Until I went to the garden nursery this weekend.
As I walked to my car another vehicle pulled in. On the back of the car was a Blue Star sticker and a sticker for The Citadel. When the driver got out I asked if he is a graduate. Just as I gave my name his wife came around the car and said, “I am Karen Devine!” What a wonderful surprise.
We hugged and, of course, I asked if we could get a photo taken of the two of us. We both happened to be wearing Citadel blue too!