I HAD experience
Military service runs deep throughout my family and has since WWII. Off the top of my head I can think of at least 8-10 family members who have served. I had prior experience. Lots of it.
My youngest son decided that he wanted to join the military in 10th grade or so. He first wanted to go to the Coast Guard and then decided that he would join the Army. He enlisted in August 2015 at 17 years old.
This required (as many of you know) that his father and I sign him in. This was an unsettling experience for me to undertake and I had reservations. I pondered how would his life be impacted if he had to wait an additional 8-10 weeks to initiate the process after his 18th birthday? With that in mind I asked him “Are you sure that this is what you want to do, and are you ready now?” He said that he was ready and his father and I signed on the dotted line. Just like that our 17 year old baby was a man and enlisted in the US ARMY.
I made sure that I poured as much information about signs and symptoms of depression, hearing loss, PTSD, etc., into my son prior to him leaving for boot camp. I did so based on my experience as a VA therapist and seeing my young and old patients struggle to get what they need. I encouraged him to advocate for himself, and stand tall walking in the word of God as he served our country. Most of all I reiterated to him that I would be here no matter the situation good or bad, and that it is ok to ask for help.
Finding Support online
While he was at Basic, I found Facebook groups for guidance regarding what I’d experience as an Army mom. I am familiar with military life in a sense my husband is a DOD employee for 25+ years. We have lived near several military bases and my children became accustomed to friends leaving every three years. I found several groups some specific to the location of my child at the time, and then I found Military Mama Network. MMN resonated with me because of the service that it provides to all of the branches of the military. MMN inspired me to send care packages to my son’s battery at Camp Casey for Veterans Day. The process of making all of the heartfelt cards with my then 4 year old daughter allowed here to connect with the important work that her big brother is doing.
Lessons Learned Waiting
In recent months there have been ups and downs as to the emotions that I have felt. To date it has been 15 months and 2 days since I have hugged my son! I can proudly say that he is back on US soil but has not been home yet due to training. I completely understand that and I patiently await him coming home for Christmas. Today, I am not stronger because my son serves but I am stronger because his service has solidified my faith. His service has caused me to remain calm in the face of the unknown. I’ve learned to stand steadfast when I wanted to be a puddle on the floor, so I can encourage him.
His service has taught me to embrace the moment, realizing that before we know it this moment becomes a memory. Through his service has I have gained a large community of brothers and sisters to lean on. I never worry about the inevitable time that will occur when I cannot be right there if something happens. I know that if I put the word out for help for my son that a Military Mama, Poppa, etc., will come to the rescue. Until I can make it to him.
In closing, I would like to offer the words that his recruiter offered to me prior to his departure “No news is good news”.
Submitted by Cherain