You Betcha I'm a Proud Army Mom

Ramblings of an Army mom and probably some rants about the world at large. These are my ramblings and rants and no one else's. Just so you know...

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Location: California, United States

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Monday, November 07, 2005

Graduation Day

Ok, where was I? I'm always befuddled a bit after a day of flying and then being home again, trying to get back to this reality. I have a hard enough time being here in CA on a good day but that's a whole other post (one I'm sure I'll get to sooner than not!)
So, Graduation Day. I had no idea what to expect having never attended one before. We were told to make sure we left early enough to make it through the morning traffic onto the base. Well, coming from CA we took this to heart and arrived on base very early. Actually, I think we were the first parents to get there. Their idea of morning traffic is a wee bit different than ours. lol So we stopped and got some coffee as we had an hour to wait. Graduation was scheduled for 0800 and we left at o630. It takes about 15 minutes to get to the base from our hotel. Missouri is NOT California. ( I love Missouri...)
After we finished our coffee, we drove down to the field and parked the car (without having to circle four or five times!! What a concept!) and as we arrived the soldiers were just leaving the field after practice (is that the right word?) So we chose a spot on the bleachers (without having to hunt for an empty place! I was getting light headed from all this ease of movement here!) and proceeded to wait for the ceremony to begin. We watched all the little kids dressed in camoflage t-shirts ( they apparently had gone to the PX too!) running around the flags and having a great time.
Then a blue bus drove onto the field and the Band got off with their instuments all polished and gleaming. D~ was in the high school marching band for 4 years so I was excited to see this. N~ said, "D~'s HS band director could sure use a few pointers from them!" I laughed! We were always a bit disappointed in her laxness with the band and her choice of dirges, er, marches.
The Band got into formation and started to play! And they were incredible! The Drum Major had a step in his step!!
Then our Soldiers marched onto the field. What a sight! Four Platoons all in step and looking fine! I get goosebumps all over again as I type this. We stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star Spangled Banner. You could hear sniffing starting throughout the bleachers, of course, myself included. We sat down again and the ceremony began. An Officer (?) talked about the
1-48th IN and their time at FLW. More awards were then handed out to the top Soldiers from each platoon. Then the highest scoring Soldier came out of formation and said the Soldier's Creed. Well, actually he yelled it. At an amazing volume!
Next, the Drill Sgt that got the award for most effective DS of the cycle was introduced and he "yelled" out the Drill Sgt's Code. Then flowers were given to his wife (Hooah!).
The Battalion Commander spoke next. He talked about the Soldiers standing there who had just accomplished something few even think of doing and the respect he had for them doing this in time of war. He spoke of how they had finished the first stage in their becoming the finest Soldiers in the world. He spoke of the good we're doing in Iraq, in countries in need of aid. Then he introduced the new Soldiers. We all stood and clapped and clapped. I thought my heart was going to burst with it all. (Please, be proud of these young people! They are going to be doing things that few of us can even imagine and they chose to take this road in life. Be thankful, be appreciative and be in awe. Know that we are well protected through them and so pray for them, every day.)
After we sat down, the platoons, led by the Band, marched around the field in Review and then marched off. I still can't get over the sight of them all.
We were told that we could go and be at the buses to see them off after 10:00. So off we all went, smiling at each other yet noticing the pinched look behind the smiles as we realized that we had to say goodbye to our kids (or husbands or wives) again. I was hit with realization that this is so much more than just a Graduation. It is the turning point in the lives of our Soldiers, as well as our own. Nothing will ever be the same again for any of us.
So there we all are at the buses, looking through all the duffle bags to find our Soldier's bags. And we stood right next to them. Or some sat on them, like me, talking to each other and waiting. (seems like I type that word alot...)
D~ called me and said that they had to clean first before they would be down. Ah yes, the Army and the cleaning! So we waited some more. Finally, someone shouted, "here they come!" We all turned in one motion to get sight of our Soldier. And then the hugs began again. They were told to put their bags over there and then were released again to spend time with us. There was alot of joking and laughing and touching and picture taking. No one seemed to want to talk about the next hour. We had them to ourselves for a little over an hour and then the buses rolled in. The mood took a turn as we watched our Soldiers grab their bags and head over to the buses to stow their gear. Then it was last hugs time and those damn goodbyes. Tears on every face, little kids hugging their Moms or Dads necks, Moms and Dads hugging their kids, wives hugging their husbands and husbands hugging their wives, holding on to the last contact for awhile. N~ and I stood there after D~ got on the bus until we were sure she didn't notice us anymore and was busy going forward.
We slowly walked back to the car and didn't talk much, each in our own subdued feelings. Having not eaten at all, we decided to grab a bite of lunch and head back to the hotel for a rest. We slept for 3 hours! Seems like all our energy had gotten on the bus. We spent the evening getting our stuff ready to pack as we were leaving in the morning.
Too short a time spent with D~. But I'm so thankful we were able to be there. It's a time in our lives we will never forget. And it's intensity will never lessen in our hearts.