Thursday, October 28, 2010


So then, after we saw Blake's platoon march past us we had some time to kill; so we headed over to the courtyard to explore the different buildings and await further instructions.

Most people entered the small Marine Corps museum and gift shop, which is why we did NOT enter the Marine Corps museum and gift shop. It was very crowded.

After that, I'm not sure what we be totally honest.

I do remember that at one point we heard somebody make an announcement over the loud speaker - an announcement that asked us to please move into the courtyard so that we could hear further announcements.

So we headed into the courtyard where the drill instructor (who evidently spends his weekend working comedy clubs) told us he was not happy with the way we moved so we were to exit the courtyard and re-enter.


This is when we were informed that we were about to get a taste of what our boys had been enduring for the previous 13 weeks.

So the DI continued making us repeat the same thing over and over again - louder and louder. And when I say "us" I mean all the other parents.

Because I didn't like this game.

I did not like it one bit.

And here's why. If I had just sent my son to college, I would have educated myself about the school he had chosen. Because I had sent my son to the Marine Corps, I had educated myself, as much as possible, about the Corps.

For instance I already knew that when the DI yelled "EARS!" recruits were to scream "OPEN, SIR!" And when the DI yelled "EYEBALLS!!" recruits were to scream "CLICK, SIR!!"

And I knew that when a DI started counting down from ten, recruits better be moving, and moving QUICKLY!

I surprised myself at my own reaction to this hazing because I think I have a pretty good sense of humor. I think I can take as well as I give. I can handle being verbally zapped and zinged.

But this? I didn't appreciate it at all.

(And on a side note: Blake later told us that he was in one of the buildings listening to all of this and he told his buddies "Dudes. My mom is not liking this at all." He's always been so astute)

Now where was I?

Oh, yeah - being treated like a new recruit simply was not for me. I had already sent the Marine Corps half of my best; therefore, I kind of expected to be treated with a little reverence.

And believe me, I was not the only mother who felt this way, there were some that were downright pouting. I was at least going through the motions and pretending to be excited.

Finally, we were dismissed to the parking lot and allowed to line up by platoon number so we could watch our sons run by on their final run through base. Of course, we didn't do this right either so we had to go back and do it all over again.


I am also not kidding when I say I didn't go back. No sir, I did not. I stayed where I was. I mean what are they gonna do, fire my son? Draft me? Nope.

Besides I had found a spot right on the edge of the viewing area - right inside the cones - and I didn't want to lose it.

Turns out I lost it anyway.

Yeah, I turned around for one second to talk to somebody and when I returned to my original position - somebody had cut in front of me.

Uh - huh. Another mom had cut.


Not only had she cut but when one of the sergeants respectfully reminded us to please stay behind the cones - SHE MOVED THE CONE UP A FEW INCHES so she'd still be behind it.


So I decided to take the high road and when she turned around and looked at me I gave her the stink eye. REAL BAD. After that she started talking to her husband who was behind us and motioning for him to come stand in front of me too. I have no idea exactly what she said as she was speaking Chinese, I think.

I do know that the stink eye is universal for "don't you dare," because when the husband looked at me and got the same stink eye, he stayed put.

Smart fellow.

So then, as another sergeant was walking in front of the crowd to make sure we were out of the running path, I desperately wanted to nudge the line cutter with my hip and knock her into the road IN FRONT OF THE CONES so she'd get smoked by the DI (see I know the lingo - you do NOT want to be smoked by a DI...)

But I didn't.

Because the Marine Corps is all about honor, courage and commitment.

I wanted to honor my son.

I had already worked up the courage to give her the stink eye.

And I was totally committed to making her sorry for cutting in front of me.

But I didn't do the nudge thing.

I just burned a hole in the back of her blouse with my stink eye.

Moving on.

The Marines started running into the parking lot where we were lined up. They came in by platoon - shouting cadences - running in perfect step with one another - greeted by cheers and banners and rally towels.

Then they stopped right in front of us and stood in formation.

And I saw my son again.

I cannot post pictures of him lined up after the moto run because he doesn't want pictures posted of him in his port holes (military glasses) but let me just say: Sweet merciful heavens! He looked amazing.

AND!! When he found us in the crowd - he gave us a quick wink.

Seriously. How's that for a sweet greeting?

After we got a good look at our marines they continued their run and we were moved to yet another location where we could watch them finish their run. The crowd was so large that we did not see anything at that point. When the marines were dismissed to shower and prepare for the Parade deck, we were invited into the theater building to meet the drill instructors.

We opted out of that due to the crowd again. Instead, we took that opportunity to walk through the Marine Corps museum and buy a couple of things at the gift shop. Then we found a Starbucks on base and had a coffee while we waited for Blake's dismissal for on-base liberty.

After they were dismissed, since the marines had been told to exit the parade deck ASAP, I had to search for a few (long) minutes to find my son. He had followed orders and left the parade deck.

Instead of going to the restaurant that had been designated for the family lunch, Blake asked if we could find a place less crowded and spend the 5 hours just visiting. No touring. No shopping at the PX. Just a simple lunch and visit.

That sounded like a fantastic idea to us.

We ended up in what could best be described as a rec center on base. It had a bowling alley, arcade, televisions....and served hamburgers and hot dogs.

Funny that was one of the best hamburgers I've ever eaten. I guess true bliss does that to ones taste buds.

This is also the point at which we ladies emptied our purses of the junk food Blake had requested we bring to him. So he ate a hamburger and french fries, about $20 worth of junk food and then another hamburger and french fries.

And he entertained us with stories of boot camp. It was amazing to hear this boy of mine - this man of few words - fill us in on the past 13 weeks of his life. The challenges. The triumphs. The humor. The frustration.

It's funny, I went there thinking I was going to come back with tons of USMC items to commemorate our trip and honor our son's career. I came back, instead with one sweatshirt and a Marine Mom lapel pin.

And precious precious memories of spending time with my son who simply wanted to sit and visit with his family for a few hours.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


As you may or may not remember, I did not get to watch my son graduate from High School.

He did graduate. I mean, he got all his credits, completed his classes and received a diploma. But he didn't walk in the ceremony because he was supposed to be at boot camp but then he got sent home due to a paper work error and we had no cap and gown, no announcements, no cake, no party planned.


So, much to Blake's delight, his completion of high school went virtually unnoticed.

Not so with his completion of boot camp.

And therein lies the problem.

Blake does not like parties at which he is the guest of honor.


He told me this week they make him feel like a zoo animal on display.

Now as much as I respect his reserved nature, IT'S NOT ALL ABOUT HIM.


That is why today I am having a Welcome Home From Boot Camp Party for him.

And he is so disappointed.

Not only is there that discomfort of being the center of attention, but he found out that he could be going on a poolee function with his recruiter. A really good poolee function where he was going to get to wear his cammies, carry his pack and hike all day while potential recruits learn what's in store for them. He was going to get to be a real Marine.

And I'm making him stay home to greet family and friends, eat some cake and a few snacks and miss all the real fun.


I keep telling myself that I should not be frightened by the fact that in the last week I've heard hi say things like "Bam! Elbow to the temple!" and "I got to box twice in the crucible because I won my first round!" I keep trying to wipe from my memory the letter in which he wrote that he now knows how to sever limbs with a knife. I am trying to ignore the fact that he spent a day or two playing with telephone poles like he used to play with Lincoln logs. And the bulging biceps and forearms? I'm trying not to focus on those.

For surely, SURELY he would use none of these against his mother simply because I wouldn't let him go play in the mud today. SURELY he knows that motherhood is an American institution that is to be honored - like baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. SURELY the two peanut butter crunch cakes he's inhaled since he's been home count for something - and the daily letters I wrote him through boot camp as well.

SURELY I have enough going for me that this one little, itty bitty, slight will protect me from my one big bad Marine who wants to go out and play war games but is being made to sit in clean clothes and visit friends and relatives.


And if all that counts for nothing, I think my stink eye is still quite effective, even on him.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I had found a website on which I could buy t-shirts for Blake's graduation - t-shirts specific to his battalion; however, I didn't order them soon enough and therefore was unable to get our sizes. Failure number 1.

I was, however, able to order rally towels for the moto run.

So I took the rally towels to our local sporting goods store and asked them to copy that emblem onto t-shirts for us.

They did an amazing job.

Blake's biggest cheerleaders - Echo Company Platoon 2108

And the front view - as we wait for the bus. This is about an hour before we were to see him for the first time. The neat thing about this is that Blake liked them so much he asked for one and suggested we have a family snapshot taken in them. I felt like a Terrible Marine Mom (TMM) for not having one made for him. That mistake has been corrected and we will get that snapshot taken this weekend.
There were lots of photos taken that weekend - photos of dress blues, parade formation, Old Glory, pomp and circumstance of all kinds.

But nothing - NOTHING - warms my heart like this photo below.

My marine and his dad. I absolutely loved watching them together all weekend. One man sharing his journey with another.

It is such a simple photo - poorly shot and not at all contest worthy, I know. But oh how it speaks to me.

I'd say each of them was walking a little taller that weekend.

I am in love.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


We landed in San Diego at about 3:30 Pacific Time, Wednesday October 13th.

As we taxied to the terminal I saw it.

MCRD - Marine Corps Recruit Depot - the place where Blake had spent most of the 13 weeks that comprise boot camp.

Lots of yellow buildings with red roofs.

And in one of those buildings - or around it, at least - my boy was probably hearing our plane land.

How strange it was, to be yards away from his temporary home and yet be unable to see him until the next day.

How odd to catch a shuttle to our hotel, meet up with my in-laws, eat an amazing Mexican dinner and walk around Old Town without him, knowing that he was just a few minutes away by car.

I was a six-year-old on Christmas eve; wondering if sleep would ever come - if the magic of that long awaited gift would ever arrive.

On Thursday morning we all loaded into a shuttle bus and took a quick ride to the Depot where we would wait around for our sons to do their final run - The Moto (motivational) Run.

As we mingled around the parking lot waiting for instructions - but being careful NOT TO STEP ON THE PARADE DECK!!! (for we all had been told in no uncertain terms to stay off that hallowed ground) we noticed a platoon drilling on said parade deck.

Well, that was something we all wanted to see - a platoon of new Marines drilling in their Service Utilities (cammies)before their moto run. But I noticed something extremely exciting for our family. I noticed the Platoon flag.


It was Blake's platoon.

And they were marching right toward us.

I began snapping photos (which I will post later) as they got closer and closer.

And then I stopped snapping because I didn't want to take any chance of missing my son's face.

Here is where I will make a confession. I did not easily recognize my son while he was in formation. Throughout the whole weekend, from a distance, I could not pick him out of the line up. Because when the Marines say they make everybody the same, they mean it.

So as they march past me, my mind quickly went through a checklist of what I needed to look for:

I knew he was Caucasian.
I knew what little hair was visible would be red.
I knew he was about 5'11".

And then it clicked: GLASSES!!! He's wearing glasses - contacts aren't allowed at boot camp.

And that realization saved me for out of 76 platoon mates only about 15 were wearing 'port holes' (the nickname given to military eye wear because they are so large) They are also known as BCGs or Birth Control Glasses because they are NOT attractive. But they are UNBREAKABLE. Blake said they proved this because one recruit spent an evening trying to break his and they simply. would. not. break.

Anyway, my boy marched right past me - mere inches from me. He did not look at me but I saw him.

"I saw him!" "I saw him!" I continued to whisper to my family (for there's something about being around a drilling platoon that brings on a reverent feeling), as my hands went to my face to cover the ugly cry.

{It was kind of like that day some 19 years ago when I was lying in an operating room saying "it's a boy! It's a boy!" after a c-section.}

And a gentleman who had ridden the shuttle with us walked over to me and said "you saw your son, didn't you? I could tell by your face. I'm happy for you." His boy was in another platoon and he would have to wait a while longer to see his new Marine.

But that's what the whole weekend was - just families and loved ones who were starving for the sights and sounds of our boys - pulling for each other - allowing others' happiness to be our happiness for the time being.

Next up? The Moto run. Seeing my Marine in his PT clothing is when I realized just how huge he'd become (well, huge compared to when he left) The Marines had taken a drinking straw and turned him into a tree trunk simply by adding 25 pounds of new muscle.


...has been met.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


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Sunday, October 17, 2010


Last night, after a wonderful but exhausting four days in San Diego, I crawled into my own bed thinking I'd sleep like a rock.

We were home. My children were home.

And I had finally placed my travel weary and worry torn heart into my favorite resting place - my bed.

And yet, I lay there for a while unable to sleep.

My body felt like it was made of jell-o. My eyes were scratchy and raw from fatigue.

And yet sleep wouldn't come.

I had reached the point where I'd become too tired to sleep and I hate that feeling.

So I lay there and asked myself what was wrong and all I could think of was that something was missing.

Something was missing? How could that be? I was in my bed, my head on my own pillow, listening to the hum of my fan - my family all in the house - and I couldn't sleep? Something was missing?

And then it hit me. Worry. Worry was missing.

The worry.

I was lying there waiting for worry to make it's nightly visit into my heart.

Only this time it wasn't going to come.

It's not that I wanted it to come; it's just that it had become such a part of my life for 13 weeks that I had taught myself to lie awake and wait for it. Because night time was when it opened the door and crept in. Always. Always at night when the lights were out and the house was quiet, I'd stare at the ceiling and think of my boy.

And now it is gone - that worry.

For now.

I left it at the curb outside the St. Louis airport as soon as our son climbed into the van.

I know it will return.

It will return when he leaves for combat training and then again when he leaves for his job school. And then again when he is with the fleet. And then again, with horrible force, when he is deployed (for we've been told to prepare ourselves for a deployment).

It will return when my daughter leaves for college.

But for now?

Now it will sit on that curb in St. Louis and I will refuse to pick it up while my boy is home.

And when I realized all of that I closed my eyes and slept with a peace that had, for a few months, been unknown to my heart.

Friday, October 15, 2010


...he is a Marine.

Ooh-rah and Amen.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


My son has started his final test. As we slept in the wee hours of this morning, he started out on his journey to conquer The Crucible.

Oh to be so close to a goal and have to push ones body and spirit beyond its limits to achieve it.

But achieve it, they will - with God's hand upon them.

Please Thursday. Come quickly. Come quickly so that I will know my son is safe and proudly wearing his first EGA pin.

Sunday, October 03, 2010


Somewhere out on the West Coast is a group of Navy chaplains who work daily to reach through the dirt and grime of boot camp and shine a light of hope, goodness, encouragement, and - well, CHRIST - into the hearts of hundreds of Marine recruits.

And one or more of those chaplains did just that with my son.

We received word yesterday that our son had been baptized during weekly worship services last Sunday.

We did not get to witness this milestone event; but that is what military life is like. We will never meet these particular men who have made it their life's work to lift up young men and women who are in the midst of a hugely difficult time in their own lives.

But that is OK.

Because my son is now my brother.

And the journey before him will be an amazing one - for so many reasons.

Friday, October 01, 2010


We've been waiting weeks to see this video. Let's see if I can lead you to it.

2nd Batallion - Echo company - Platoon 2108.

Third row from the top - third from right. He's the handsome sunburned red head.

And he's two weeks from being a Marine.

And my heart is leaking out of my eyes.