It's been much too long since I've posted a new entry to my blog. In the last three months, Patrick has graduated boot camp, graduated MCT (Marine Corps Training) and is currently awaiting to start his next training, MOS. Once he has completed this training, he will be sent to his first duty station. These last three months have presented many emotional memories for me that have manifested in all types of crying.
Boot camp graduation will forever be embedded in my mind. I took over 1,000 pictures! Although the weather in Beaufort, SC was rainy and chilly, Mark and I were filled with warmth and pride to see our son stand tall and be named a US Marine. The day before graduation, new Marines spend a few precious hours with their family/friends in an event called 'Family Day'. Hugging him after so many weeks of desperately missing him was one of the best feelings I have ever experienced. I can only compare it to how I felt when I first held Patrick at his birth, Mama tears and all!
Because of the weather, we could not walk about outside but we did get to see where he slept, showered and performed his daily ablutions. The OCD in me was delighted to see the bathroom sinks all lined up in a straight row, with the soaps all in the exact same spot on the top of each sink. I could literally kneel down, close one eye and look down the row of sinks to see every single soap dispenser lined up all the way down the row. Truly a sight to behold! It goes without saying I took many pictures here. It definitely choked me up a wee bit.
The huge warehouse like room where my son slept was impressive. Each bunk had two foot lockers on the end, brown bath towels hung on both sides of the bunk. Against the wall were open closets where their uniforms hung perfectly pressed and shoes shown bright. Of course the highlight of the dorm tour for me was to see each and every bed made tight and exact. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a coin to try and bounce off the bed.
After a few stops on base, our family (there was 11 of us), ended up in the post Exchange. This department type store had the usual found items, also had Marine Corps clothing for family and friends to buy and proudly wear. It also has official uniform items for the Marine's to purchase. It was there that we found a patio furniture display and sat visiting with Patrick. I was truly amazed of his whole demeanor. Where in the past at family gatherings, Patrick would sit in the perimeter, occasionally contributing a sentence or two to a conversation.
On Family Day, I witnessed my son leading conversations and hold the his own recounting some stories of his boot camp experience. Yes, he looked tired and thinner. But he looks fulfilled and content. He now holds himself ramrod straight; no more slouching. In fact, whenever I am with him I find myself adjusting my own posture. Where prior to leaving for boot camp, he was the classic teenager who would carelessly spout words without taking the time to filter his thoughts, he now speaks with purpose. If he did revert and speak with an attitude with rough tones, he will quickly correct himself.
Graduation was a glorious event; filled with tradition, pageantry and American pride. All of the new Marines looked incredibly handsome in their uniforms. It is truly a once in a lifetime memory. Fortunately, I was prepared and brought a handkerchief with me!
Memorial events continued to take place as it was during all this that our oldest son, Jeff, announced his PhD candidacy was accepted from George Mason University. This means that he haspassed all of his class requirements and qualification exams; his dissertation has been reviewed by his committee who has replied back to him with their comments/questions. Jeff is to respond to their questions, publish his dissertation and then graduate. He plans to have this done by 2015. Jeff also became engaged to the lovely Brittny, (or as my mother calls her: Beanie). We are so happy for him. He has worked so hard and with Brittny sharing his life, his future journeys look happy and promising.
Our second son, Phillip, also had wonderful news with the success of his employers first Gala Event in New York City. Phillip is the graphic designer for a non-for-profit company in NYC. He is extremely talented! If anyone was ever meant to live and work in NYC, it is our son Phillip. The city with its effervescent lights, bustling activity and sense of style fits him perfectly. Phillip is happy at what he does, where he lives and with who he is; could a parent ask for anything more? Over the years, Jeff and Phillip have brought tears of joy to my eyes many times.
Patrick's 10 day leave at home flew by. Before we knew it, he was saying his good-bye. He left for MCT on St. Patrick's Day, 03/17. St. Patrick's Day is the anniversary date of when Mark and I first met, (the reason why we named our son Patrick). Over the years, Mark and I have gone to dinner and exchanged gifts. We now exchange cards. But more than that, St. Patrick's Day is a day that affords the opportunity for us to recall the early days when we where first together. I think this past St. Patrick's day will replace those early day memories.
This past St. Patrick's Day we drove our Marine to the airport. The memory of seeing Patrick check his luggage and then go through the security gate at Philadelphia International, (PHI) airport will be forever burned in my mind. I saw how others in the airport recognized Patrick was in the service and their eyes held respect and awe. Several people came up to him and thanked him for serving. He was taken to the front of the lines for every queue; no waiting; which was great for him. But also took away from those last moments DH and I were able to spend with him. Too quickly Patrick was heading off to catch his plane.
This farewell hit me hard; even harder that saying good-by when he left for boot camp. When Patrick left for boot camp I had the knowledge of when I would see him again. Saying good-bye at the airport, I was overcome with such uncertainty. I had no idea when I would see Patrick again. I found myself doing something I have very seldom done in public - I cried the 'ugly cry'. The 'ugly cry is when your nose runs, your eyes get red and puffy, you sob, trying desperately to catch your breath. That is the cry I exhibited at PHI airport on St. Patrick's Day.
Much to our joy, very soon after completing MCT school, a mere five weeks later, Patrick was back at home. His MOS had been delayed and he was able to perform 3½ weeks of RA, (Recruiting Assisting) at the local Marine Corps recruiting office. There are no words to explain my feelings seeing my son go to work in his dress blues or observing him return home after speaking at a local new recruit gathering with his Marine Corps medals reflecting the lamp light from his uniform.
While serving as an RA, Patrick was selected to represent the Marine Corps at the War on Terrorism Memorial dedication in Doylestown, PA. Although it was a rain drenched afternoon, Patrick stood at parade rest the entire time, not flinching one iota ever though the rain drenched him down to his socks! t Patrick's superiors were very pleased with his 3½ weeks as an RA.
Patrick recently returned to his MOS post and still awaits the beginning of his last phase of initial MC schooling. It was difficult saying good-bye to him at the train station. I am happy to say the 'ugly cry' did not occur. But tears were shed. You would think after saying good-by time after time it would get easier. No, not at all easier.
This past Memorial Day was a different experience for Mark and myself. We visited the memorial in Doylestown, PA, and found the experience more meaningful than other memorial viewings. Our son is now a member of those that sacrifice themselves to serve our country; dedicated men and women who keep us safe and free. We owe it to them, to keep their efforts fresh in the minds of others.
Admittedly, I am the cliché Marine Mom. I have the Marine Mom license plate, most days I wear my Marine Corps earrings and lovely Marine Corps necklace my wonderful DH gave me for Mother's Day. On the weekends, I usually have on one of a multitude Marine Corps tee shirts, as does Mark. We are honored and proud Patrick chose to serve.
I hope I have several thousand more memories standing by in the wings waiting to occur. They await the snap of my camera for pictures to be added into the photo albums; memories waiting to be deposited within my heart. I just need to make sure I have enough tissues on hand for when they arrive!