I held it together last weekend before he went away to "Uncle Sam's Extended Summer Camp" even though SF troops were killed just being transported from Point A to Point B. I can actually imagine what those families are going through. I watched my parents deal with the loss of my sister 27 years, and that is something that they have never gotten over.
I held it together when the reports of additional casualties came in later in the week. It was a bloody week in the Middle East, and that meant more grieving families.
I held it together when the reports on suicide rates in the Army came out. The debate goes on about the cause of the increase - is it related to PTSD, is it this, is it that ... does it even matter?
Then I realized: I won't get through 6 years of this BS. I have to pull it together and be Army strong because I'm the parent of a soldier, I've never been a wuss, and I've never wussified my children, damnit. We've faced some pretty major stuff over the years, so it's time to buck up.
Okay, so here I am with my proverbial "shit" together.
I got my call from my soldier. It lasted 8 minutes, 7 seconds.
The gist of the call: He's still going through in-processing or onboarding. He gets his ACUs tomorrow. His battalion is the only one that's finished all their processing so far. He's kind of on the young end of the spectrum - the age range seems to be 21-27, and he's 20. They're doing certain drills now, but not the kind of PT they'll be doing when they get to basic because they're still not officially there on base yet. Out of 220 recruits, he was ranked 3rd this week. I could hear the pride in his voice.
My big brother overheard part of our conversation and wanted me to ask him how the room service was. (Humor is a valuable resource.) My son said the beds aren't too bad, but the pillows are plastic. From a hygiene standpoint, I'm sure that cuts down on the potential for head lice. Yep, I went there.
I apparently have a letter forthcoming. There will be no return address yet, but in a few weeks I'll know where I'll be able to write to him. In the mean time, we'll be writing notes in anticipation of being able to mail them. I don't know yet if I'll send him any printouts of this blog. I may only send newsy, family gossipy-type stuff to just let him know we love him. His brothers will write and send updates on their doings. I've asked my mom to write when she feels like it and we'll include it in the package we'll send.
I learned that reveille is 0500 on weekdays with toes on the line at 0530. Weekends he gets to sleep in till 0600. At one point, I heard a voice in the background shouting something like "time to get in formation NOW", and I knew our time was up.
I have a major parenting job to continue. It will always be my job to let my son know how much I love and support him. He has made his choices in life, and he alone has to ultimately deal with any consequences. I will only be on the periphery going forward.
Though it may be difficult at times to watch what he goes through, I know who he is as a person, what motivates him, and how strong he is because of what we've all dealt with in the past. He's an amazing human being. I have been blessed beyond belief.
I have to stop now. This is going to be hard, no matter what. He will always be my baby.
This is going to suck.