Entering the Military ….Going off to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations)

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.

Last family photo until graduation from Air Force Basic Training

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.

My son who normally wore his hair cut short in military style enjoyed growing it out in the months before heading off to Basic Training at Lackland AFB.

4 thoughts on “Entering the Military ….Going off to MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Stations)

  1. Helen, as I was browsing this site, I just could not believe it when I read the post from Greg Minner. I just dropped my daughter off at the Sheraton in Pittsburgh, PA the day for her last MEPS meeting. Her ship date was Wednesday, April 29, 2015. She called me when she arrived at the airport in Chicago and then again when she arrived at Great Lakes. The conversations were very brief but I was so thankful to hear her voice and know that she had arrived safely. I know what the Minners are going through. Although we knew several months in advance of Kaitlyn’s leaving, the last couple of weeks before she left were difficult anticipating what was to come. Now that the time has arrived, I am feeling a flood of emotions. I am praying daily for God’s comfort and protection for Kaitlyn. I am waiting to get the address so I can start writing to her but have written a letter each day since I dropped her off so she will receive 1 letter for each day she spends at basic training. I have talked to several people who have demonstrated to me the importance of our recruits/enlisted both in and out of basic. Stories of how much those letters meant to them.

    • Hi Lisa,
      Hang in there! Those first few weeks are especially tough on us, Moms. Writing those letters are such a wonderful way to stay connected to her and I know that she’ll enjoy reading them and will treasure them.
      I can’t believe how fast the time passes. We will be recognizing the 5th anniversary of our son’s graduation from basic training in just a couple of weeks. Still miss him lots…
      Good luck to your daughter!
      Best regards,
      Helen

  2. Helen, I am a Dad that is dealing with a Mom that is heart broken over our son joining. He was suppose to leave in September. He just announced on Easter Sunday that he received a call and is now going in on May 14. He has given us few details and doesn’t talk much about it. He is going to the Great Lakes Navy Training Center. Can you help me find the mailing address for the Center? Can we send letters for him to receive the day after he arrives?

    • Greg,
      This must be so difficult for you all! It is very hard when our children turn 18 and then we suddenly get shut out of getting important information because of HIPPA and other privacy regulations such as the military’s policy regarding PII (Personal Identifiable Information).
      My advice (and I know you didn’t ask for it) is to try to be supportive of your son’s decision because it’s hard ‘mend fences’ when there are miles between you. Also, the day he actually reports at MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station), the military holds a swearing in ceremony of all the new recruits going off to boot camp or basic training across all the military branches. It is a special time and if you can attend, you and your son will not forget the experience.
      Now to answer your actual question, unfortunately, the post office at the Great Lakes gets so much mail for the sailor in training; they are unable to process mail without the correct address. As you probably already know, when recruits first arrive at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, they are allowed to make a ‘safe arrival’ phone call home. They are assigned to a “ship and division” and will then have a mailing address that you can use. Your son’s recruiter should have his address information shortly after your son arrives at boot camp and should be able to give this information to you. Here is the link on the Navy Training Command website that gives you the correct format and addresses for all ships http://www.bootcamp.navy.mil/. In addition to our website Write2Them, I would suggest that you sign up for Navy For Moms website http://www.navyformoms.com and the National Association of Military Moms and Spouses website http://nammas.org; both offer families great support and resources.

      I know that May 14th is coming up too fast for you and your family and I hope that you are able to enjoy these special last days at home. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
      Best regards,
      Helen

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