An Outreach Program of MarineParents.com
I didn't trip over Marine Family Network until the last third of Boot Camp, so I just had to "fake it" through most of the early angst. Lucky for my son, I didn't do anything completely stupid, other than send a really fat envelope stuffed with a long letter and way too many pictures. Out of that boot camp faux pas, my son got a bit of extra attention from the DI, who did look over his shoulder at the stupid picture of my husband who decided to (for no reason I understood then or now) lift up his t-shirt and show my son his really big belly. The DI's only comment was, "Looks like your dad could use some PT, Recruit." I wish I'd known about "Letter Lag" as I freaked out over my son's early anguished laments about not getting any letters. And I wish I'd known that it was very typical to have the first few letters be a bit blue.
But hey, I found MFN just in time to learn all about Graduation and when to show up, and how to find the right place to sit for the best view of my new Marine. And thank heavens MFN was here when I was trying to figure out who bought the airline ticket home for my new Marine, and what 10-day leave really meant, and the benefits of Recruiter Assistance, and the realities of SOI -- a "hello/goodbye" kind of graduation and then off he was shipped to his PDS as an Infantry Marine.
You might be inclined to think life is now good after Boot Camp and SOI. You might imagine that, from here on out, if you want to know anything, all channels are clear and your Marine can explain everything you need to know.
Excuse me while I lie down on the floor and roll around laughing for a few minutes.
LOL LOL LOL LOL.
OK, I'm back.
If that were so, I must have been in an alternate universe for the remaining three years of my son's USMC career because, WOW, that was not my experience.
Here's a typical Parent (P) <- ->Marine (M) conversation:
P: Do you need anything?
M: No. I'm good.
P: Do you know when your next liberty is?
M: No. (Replace "liberty" with "leave," "training," "deployment" - you'll get the same answer)
P: When will you know?
M: I don't know.
P: Really? How can I plan?
M: (with obvious frustration) I'll know when I know.
P: Why don't you ask your Gunny?
M: NO! (huff) I gotta go.
P: (sigh) OK. I love you.
M: Yeah, OK. Me, too. Bye. (click)
So, where should you go for comfort, support, answers, distraction, laughter after boot camp? Where can you go to talk with experienced parents who have been where you are, who don't "guess" or tell you what they've "heard," but who have been trained and will find out if they don't know? Where can you feel safe that OpSec rules are consistently applied to protect you and your family, that the people answering your questions have been vetted to ensure they are who they say they are, and have been provided with training and access to very detailed resources to support you?
It ain't Facebook.
If you are thinking, "Ah, she works for MFN, what else would she say?", she (being me), would say that she's a Marine parent who stumbled onto MFN one day while desperately searching for answers, and has never left, even though her son did his four years, two deployments, and is now a civilian Marine. She'd tell you she doesn't "work" for MFN (if that means she gets paid). She, like every other moderator you encounter here, is a Marine parent who volunteers his/her time because it matters that the next generation of parents gets the best possible information, the best possible support, and makes it through their own Marine journeys with people who have been there themselves. We speak with honesty and compassion, and share the toughest truths as fairly as we can. We don't have personal agendas, our attention is not on ourselves but on you, and we clearly "take off" our moderator hats when we want to speak as ourselves. Moderators commit to hours of training and hundreds of hours of moderating.
That ain't Facebook.
So, what's after boot camp, and why might you want to venture beyond the boot camp forums on MFN to explore what else MFN has to offer?
You Will Continue to Know More than Your Marine About What's Next: Your Marine's career has just started. He or she will be in training for some time to come. It is completely true that they will only generally be told what's next when their Command decides it's time. They will become increasingly irritated if you keep asking them questions to which they don't know the answers. The moderators at MFN live to answer your questions related to the next phases. Be Warned, though. Throughout your Marine's career, no news will continue to be good news no matter whom you talk to. As difficult as it is to hear, it is the absolute truth that your Marine is your best source for answers to question like, "When is your leave scheduled?" If he doesn't know, only his Command knows, and they won't tell you either -- they will tell your Marine when they decide it's time to tell him.
There's that 10-day leave, and possibly challenging Leave Behavior: CLICK TO Read More About Behavior on Leave NOTE: This pretty robust and "evergreen" topic also includes within it a link to the old MarineParents site where there is an 11-page discussion on this same classic topic, dating from 2009 to 2011. Definitely worth reading. Some things never change -- discusses leave from every phase of a Marine's career, from boot camp leave, through pre- and post-deployment leaves. You'll read about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not all will apply to you, but some will.
School of Infantry (ITB and MCT): School of Infantry (SOI) is the school where both ITB (Infantry Training Battalion) and MCT (Marine Combat Training) are conducted. ITB is the MOS training for Infantry Marines at the School of Infantry. After that training, Infantry Marines typically go directly to their first Permanent Duty Station (PDS). All other Marines go to MCT (because "Every Marine is a Rifleman"), and then to their MOS Training. The training is generally similar, but ITB is longer and includes detailed training in combat and weapons skills. ITB Marines may (and I emphasize may) sometimes get weekend liberty and have time to call you. MCT training is shorter, and Marines will rarely be free on weekends to leave base or call you. CLICK HERE to Find the ITB and MCT Forums for both SOI East and West
MOS Training: Depending on your Marine's MOS, training will be in a different location and be of varying lengths. There may be a wait time before your Marine "classes up" (classes starts), and you may wonder what he'll be doing during that time. CLICK HERE to Find Your Marine's MOS Forum
PDS: Every Permanent Duty Station has unique challenges -- interesting weather, different ways to communicate without spending a fortune, best shipping methods for packages from home, what it costs to ship a vehicle, what there is to do in the area . . . who better to ask than a fellow parent whose child has been there for awhile? I still laugh about the time my daughter-in-law called me from Hawaii while my son was deployed, because there was a power outage on base and she wanted to know if I, in California, knew why, since I always seemed to know what was going on! The power of the MFN family at work! CLICK HERE to Find the Forum for your Marine's PDS
What's Going On with Your Son's Unit: When your Marine is assigned to his/her first PDS, they are also assigned to a Marine unit. It's called "joining the Fleet." It could be an Aviation Unit (e.g. an AirWing), an Expeditionary Unit (e.g. a MEU), a Division Unit (e.g. an Infantry Battalion), a Logistics Unit (e.g. Engineer Support Battalion), or a Reserve Unit. There's a different character and culture to every unit. Your Marine may have lots of complaints, because all of a sudden, he/she is once again the "newest kid" on the block. You'll want to talk to more experienced parents about that, as well as about what the Unit is doing. You may learn when the Marine Corps Ball is planned for that unit, or understand what the big training exercise your Marine mentioned is all about. CLICK HERE to Find the Forum for Your Marine's Unit
The Big "D" - Deployment: So early in your Marine's career, this is a topic you want to shove out of your mind and think about "later." That's OK. Just remember that you want to be here when you get the first real hint that deployment may be in your Marine's future. I'm taking off my moderator hat here and telling you I tried the "other social network" during one deployment, and quickly ran back here where people were sane, and didn't start attacking other members because they were stressed, and didn't share photos and information that completely freaked me out because it was so outside of OpSec rules. Well, to be completely honest, I got kicked off that page, because the page owner, who turned out to be a girlfriend of a Marine who took over the page from another Marine girlfriend (yikes!) told me I was "upsetting" people by cautioning them about photos that clearly showed where the Marines were, and explaining that those people they were bashing because they were "too lazy" to deliver the mail were actually other Marines who had to turn back because they were at risk in a combat area. Deployments are stressful enough without being somewhere where "free speech" becomes a free-for-all, with everyone sharing rumors, drama, and way too much info. Here's the truth: It's not safe on ANY social network to share private information (e.g. last names, birth dates) or OPSEC (e.g. troop movement dates, troop morale, mission information) no matter how "private" the group, or how carefully vetted the members are. The founder of MarineParents.com created her own web site when her son was deployed in Iraq more than 10 years ago because she was desperate to connect with other worried parents. She and her husband owned a web site development company so it was a logical solution for them -- I think she knew what she was doing when she established the MFN Privacy and OpSec posting guidelines. I'm certain she knows more about how the internet works than the girlfriend of a Marine who took over a "private" FB page from another Marine girlfriend.
However far away it seems, Deployment is a really big topic. There are forums about care packages, forums for deployments on different continents, forums to help you know what to expect during homecoming. You can find links to them here: CLICK HERE then Scroll to the Bottom of the Page for Deployment Top...
Help! I need distraction!: There will be many times during your Marine's career where you want to be with people who understand this crazy life, but you also want or need to cry, laugh, or be distracted more than you want to dwell on USMC right that moment. This is the place! I have my own favorite list of forums I go to, but here are just a few sources I'll mention:
CLICK HERE to Read Featured Blogs: Over the years, many parents have contributed blogs. Some are day-to-day comments or requests for info. Others are hysterically funny, tell incredibly moving stories of special moments in a Marine family's life, are really helpful summaries of various phases in the Marine career progression based on a member's experience. MFN's Blog editors tag blogs they think might be helpful for other members to read. This link will take you to that "featured" collection, which continues to grow; feel free to scan through them and pick out one to read now and them. No need to read them all at once -- you've got plenty of time . . . at least three more years.
CLICK HERE to Read the Best of Blogs and Links: You'll find direct links to some of the Featured Blogs here, organized by Marine life phase (Recruit, Marine, Deployment, etc.) but you'll also find links to odd forums like the one devoted to Semper Gumby. Be sure to scroll all the way down the page to find some of our favorite little Forums in the sections called: "For All in the Family" and "When You Really Need a Hope or a Smile."
CLICK Here to Read the Best of Poems and Links: We have some awfully talented members here, and many feel moved to write poems or tell stories. Go here to find links to some of our favorites and to a whole Forum devoted to poems and stories.
CLICK HERE to Visit Scheduled Evening Chat: MarineParents.com has hosted a scheduled evening Chat for most of its lifetime. Based on the number of volunteer moderators available, we are open 3-4 evenings a week. When we're open, we're open from 8 PM to 10 PM Central Time. You will find the current schedule on the home page of the Chat room when you follow the link posted here. The Chat room is always staffed with at least one moderator. There is always at least one room open, and we welcome Marine families from all phases from poolee through vet. When there is enough interest, and by request, we can open a special room for parents preparing for or in the midst of a deployment on a scheduled basis. As you can imagine, conversations and questions from Recruit parents can be very different from those of deployment parents so we do open separate rooms when we can. This Evening Chat is different than the Chat you find on MFN's home page. Besides always being staffed by a moderator, so you are guaranteed a conversation, it is larger, has multiple rooms and more capabilities, and you must have Java on your computer. Java is a free application you can download to most computers from the Internet.
More than a Social Network
To me, MFN is more than a "social network," and even more than a front porch where I can sit and talk to friends. It's both of those things, but it's also a home, with lots of rooms filled with interesting people and the things they've collected over the years. Even after 5 years, I still stumble over a room I didn't realize existed. I am constantly surprised at how MUCH is here. There's an incredibly rich library of information assembled here like nothing else collected anywhere else. There is layer upon layer of experiences, accumulated over years and years, freely shared here by 10+ years of Marine parents. Marine Family Network is just one wing of a vast network of information. There's RecruitParents.com, which you probably know, and WhatsAfterBoot.com, MarineParents.com, and a host of Outreach Programs that you can see in the right-hand vertical border of every page on MFN if you scroll down the page.
You want to know how amazing this community is?
Near the end of my son's first deployment, I got a call from my son, with desperation in his voice: "Mom, you've got to save Kujo." Kujo was a stray Afghani dog who had attached himself to my son's squad and went out on every patrol with them, stared down other wild dogs, slept by their sides in the desert. As they were getting ready to depart, they couldn't bear the thought of leaving him behind. I could not imagine a way to get a dog from the middle of a war zone to the United States. Of course, I came here and posted a plea for help, truly not expecting a response. Within 5 minutes, a fellow Marine parent posted the name of a British rescue organization in Afghanistan, the only shelter in that entire forsaken country. Within 10 minutes of posting on MFN, a family I didn't know at all offered their 50-acre ranch in Texas as a home, which I gratefully accepted because it was a better home for a wide-ranging dog like Kujo. I emailed the British shelter, they emailed me back with a phone number to give to my son. We were able to raise the money needed to transport him, the British shelter somehow smuggled him from my son's Combat Outpost to a British base, where Kujo was airlifted to Texas and a wonderful new life. It's almost unbelievable, isn't it? Here's the proof: Click Here for Kujo's Story
Is it any wonder I can't imagine leaving this community? How about you?
Semper Fi, Semper Fido
Mom of a 3/3 Marine, Weapons Co
Cpl. Andy MOS 0341
2009 - 2013
"Hollywood Marine" MCRD San Diego
2 Afghanistan Deployments
Now a Civilian Marine
& Army Reserve