On June 27, 2016 my first born son left home to start his journey of becoming a United States Marine. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t one of the most challenging days of my life. I have always been a supporter of our military, and consider myself to be a patriot, saying goodbye was much more difficult than I was prepared for. As parents, we spend 18 years preparing our children to follow their dreams, fulfill their destiny, become responsible adults, etc. No one prepares us.
Over the last few months, we have received several letters from him. I have learned that “no news is good news” and to trust in him, his drill instructors, and God that he will conquer. Boot camp for the Marine Corps is divided into three phases, I believe that to be true for each recruit as well as their loved one’s. I cannot speak to what my son and his fellow recruits have endured throughout the first two Phases, but I’m sure there is enough information on the internet for you to get the point. As each phase unfolded, so did my emotions.
After the goodbyes were said and tears dried, he was gone. For the next 36 hours I waited impatiently for “the call”. “The Call” is simply a call home to reassure loved ones that they have arrived safely to their destination. “The Call” lasts no longer than 20 seconds, is scripted, and leaves no room for any additional communication. I literally collapsed after receiving that call. It was like someone ripped my heart out. In 20 seconds or less several things were made very clear: 1. My son was no longer in the care and control of the the home and upbringing I held so dear; 2. The transformation had begun, quickly; 3. The next time I saw him he would be a Marine, not a civilian.
The first phase was challenging, anxiously awaiting a letter, learning to not wait up…he wasn’t coming home, wondering what he was doing, worrying-constantly, questioning everything-why did I sign those papers? did I prepare him? was this the right decision? Our family dynamic needed to adjust and change, we now have two kids at home, not three. We had to adjust everything from the chore list to meal planning, to grocery shopping. There was a void in our home, and nothing was going to fill it.
We learned to settle into our new situation. We struggled at times. We cried, we fought, and most importantly we persevered. We started sending and receiving letters. We learned to trust in something out of our control. I read each letter a minimum of 100 times. I sent letters much more often than I received them. I learned that it was more important for him to have motivation and support from me than it was for me to hear from him. Just like him, we made it through.