Where I come from, the army was a punishment. As in “if you don’t do your homework, you’ll end up in the army”. Or “watch out, if you continue this behavior, your only option will be the army”. The Soviet army was obligatory for all boys over 18 who couldn’t for one reason or another get into college. All I knew about the army since my early childhood in Soviet Russia was that it was dangerous, undesirable, and for underachievers. Stories of hazing, poor conditions, and lost young lives is all I remember from that time. 
So when my oldest son, a bright, American-born professional race car driver announced that he was enlisting, I was in shock. I knew nothing about the US Army. I had no clue if it was any different from the one I heard so much about growing up. I was scared for my son and upset that he was ruining his life and any prospects for a bright future. 
When he left for basic training, I was a nervous wreck. I was crying non stop. I kept having vivid images of him getting hazed, getting hurt, suffering. Lack of communication those first few weeks didn’t help either. 
And then I discovered Facebook support groups. The information I got there calmed me somehow, and led me to start reading about the army, and the profession my son chose. Army medics are a special breed. It takes a lot of stamina and perseverance to complete their training, and to perform the job afterwards. Saving lives while keeping yourself alive cannot be accomplished by all. It takes a very special person, and I am proud of my son for choosing and excelling at this noble army profession. Slowly but surely, I learned so much about their training that I was able to answer questions in groups. 
And thus an idea was born. Prompted by another army mom and group admin, my support group was created. It caters to families of soldiers training in all army medical professions. 
I suddenly realized that I wasn’t the only nervous wreck. My feelings and emotions were shared by a multitude of new army families, even those whose perceptions were not tainted by a childhood in the former Soviet Union. 
I am good at research. I can provide information. I know how to get it. I’ve read everything there is available about my son’s army training. I’ve been through everything these other new families are going through. Let’s do it. 
And I am doing it. I am fortunate to have a lot of time available for it. So I research, answer questions, chat with group members when they don’t want to post something private in the group. I provide a virtual shoulder to cry on when their soldiers are not doing well. I rejoice with them when they are happy. 
My son is way beyond his initial entry training and very satisfied with his job and his army medical career. I am still a nervous wreck. I worry about him every waking second. But I can’t dwell on my worries and emotions. There are questions and messages to answer. There are over a thousand people who rely on me for information about training, graduations, privileges, addresses. There are new families joining the group every week – nervous, anxious, looking for information and support. 
I will never stop worrying about my son. But I know I can make so many people worry less. That gives me a purpose and a great feeling of accomplishment. 

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