Every Tuesday I think about all the young men and women who are about to leave their families and head off to Boot Camp or Basic Training at one of our military installations. I also think and pray for the family members they leave behind, especially the Moms. Yes, Dads, Brothers and Sisters will also miss their sons and siblings, but Moms take it the hardest. It’s so difficult to see one of your ‘chicks’ leave the nest, especially when they are heading off to the military.
Some families are able to accompany their sons and daughters to the nearest MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations to witness the taking of the oath of allegiance and service to our country and to say their goodbyes. Others continue on to the airport to spend their final moments together. Many simply say their goodbyes the night before…one last hug until they see their loved one at the completion of training…graduation day.
I’ll always remember that afternoon in March 2010, when our local Air Force Recruiter, SSgt. came to pick up my son to bring him to the hotel the evening before his trip to MEPS ( Military Entrance Processing Station) in downtown Boston. In the Boston area, new recruits for all branches of the armed services Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard are brought to a central hotel the night before they are about to enter the military. I believe this to prevent ‘one last night of partying’ that might result in the young man or woman arriving at MEPS late, hung over or worse, but this wouldn’t have been an issue for our son, who had been training for Basic Training for months while a member of his DEP.
Anyway it was a gray, rainy day as our family gathered for the last time in our normally sunny living room, spending our last minutes together; taking family photos which of course included our black Labrador, Jewel. Our family would be forever changed! We would never take for granted seeing each other and talking to one another on a daily basis.
The next day we (now this meant just my husband, daughter and myself) piled into the car to head down to MEPS to spend our last hours with Andrew before he headed off to Air Force Basic Military Training at Lackland AFB in Texas.
As our son went from one meeting to another, receiving and signing his ‘contract’ for his military service, we sat anxiously waiting in a room that had at one time been a cafeteria. Throughout the large room filled with rows of long tables with uncomfortable chairs, we watched other families huddled together; some quietly talking, others reading, while others simply stared into space. I think this was the longest morning of my life and I am sure that other families were feeling the same way.
Finally, all of the recruits had signed their contracts and been processed. The final and most important step was the administration of the Oath of Service, pledging to protect our country from all enemies both foreign and domestic. I remember the announcement that we should all proceed to the conference room where all of the recruits were standing in formation in the center. The Naval Officer who was to administer the oath urged us all to come in and line the walls of the room and be ready to take photos. Her warmth and kind words made us all feel welcome and very proud of the committment that our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters were about to make. It was extremely moving to hear these young adults repeat the words of the Oath of Service. Those that choose to serve are a very special breed.
After the ceremony, it was a quick hug and kiss goodbye for us and off he went to the airport for the flight to San Antonio. While the ceremony may have only lasted 15 minutes, the memories of that moment are still with me today.
On the way home from MEPS in between the wiping my eyes and blowing my nose, I was thinking about how could I easily stay in touch with my son during Basic Training and as importantly how I could encourage friends and family members to write to him…and that the hatched idea for Write2Them.