As many of you know, our eldest son, Gabe is in the US Army. Back on July 31st we handed him over to the US Army in Omaha, NE, and they sent him to Fort Jackson, in Columbia South Carolina, for his BCT – Basic Combat Training. Gabe has always been a quiet boy, who kept to himself. Very controlled in temper and incredibly intelligent. The day he swore in (video below), I cried so much! I have never been away from Gabe for longer than week and I knew that after that day, he was no longer going to be my little boy.
When the soldiers are done with their BCT, two things occur, Family Day and Graduation. Which in short means, I get to see my son! After ten weeks of intensive training, the Army allows the soldiers to have a Family day. On this day, the soldiers and those who have come to see them can stay on base and do any of the activities that are available to them. Eat, shop, hang out…, just as long as you don’t leave base. The next day is Graduation, and you may take your soldier off base and spend the day with them before they have to report back for traveling to their AIT locations. Ok enough of the details…
So we left on Tuesday October 9 early in the morning and drove to South Carolina. We stopped a couple of the times on the drive, but didn’t do anything to really write about. We got to our hotel early afternoon, Towneplace Suites by Marriott, you can see our review of our stay HERE. That evening, after driving around the base a few times, and learning where everything was, we went to Buffalo Wild Wings for Dinner and met up with the Normans, whose son was also graduating BCT and heading to the same AIT as Gabe.
I got to see Gabe! On family day we arrived at Hilton Field at 6:30 am in order to get a front row in the bleachers since we had a stroller with babies. Boy was it cold! In Orlando it was high 80’s low 90’s, but not in SC! We got to Hilton Field at 6:45 am in order to get a front row seat in the bleachers so we could keep the stroller with us. The other families and loved ones started arriving around 7:30ish. We had a surprise for Gabe too, his best friend David, a Marine, was able to get leave and join us for these two days. David is stationed a couple of hours from Ft Jackson, so it was perfect!
We had no idea of what to expect, just that the whole thing would kick off at 9am. So we sat there, and at 9 on the nose the speaking started. I really don’t know who spoke, or even remember what they spoke about, I just knew I wanted them to hurry up. I was there to see my son and that is all I could think about! Well after about 15 minutes of talking, they asked if we wanted to see our soldiers, we all yelled, and then these smoke grenades were thrown from across the field, music was playing and we saw soldiers coming through the smoke towards the stands. We all though YES, our soldiers! But no, it was a platoon, and they described each person in the platoon, what their roles were. It was neat, but really, I was inpatient, I wanted my son to be there! Well after they were done with that production they asked if we wanted to see our soldiers! You can guess what happened next! Here is the video:
So before I continue, I want to say something. NOTHING is more disrespectful then showing up to a timed event late, and interrupting those who arrived on time. Your child, loved one or whatever just spent 10 weeks training on being respectful, following directions and endurance. Probably the toughest 10 weeks of their lives and you couldn’t your arse to their special day on time, or even early so you could get a seat? But then to interrupt the viewing of those who were respectful and followed directions is beyond rude. in my opinion, the Army shouldn’t have let you in the stands if you didn’t all ready have a seat. If you were late, then tough shit. Better plan better next time.
So I abruptly stopped the above video, as I saw them stop and I wanted to go get my son. I am not sure how it worked out, but out of the couple of thousand people in the stands, I ended up being the first person on the field getting their soldier. I walked quickly to my son’s platoon and looked for him, there he was, third row back, my son, my soldier, my hero! I could see it on his face, the change wasn’t just physical. His smile, oh he melted my heart! As soon as I reached him I grabbed him and hugged him! Yes I was crying. That moment will forever be chiseled into my heart and mind.
We spent all day with him on base. We found a lovely little park in a residential area, that no one was at other than us. We left a couple of times for bathroom stops, to get food and to purchase him a new iPhone. But for the most part we spent 80% of the time we were given there at that park. We asked him a lot of questions, let him ask questions, and most of all, I just stared at this new man who sat with us. In awe of all that he had accomplished and in admiration of all that he now stands for.
Graduation day was the next day, and it was a very emotional day for many. As we watched our sons and daughters officially earn the title of US Army Soldier. They were dressed in the Dress Blues, so handsome! They marched in to formation, awards were given and then they had final formation. We picked up Gabe from his platoon, and headed for the hotel. He had one request of us, he wanted Buffalo Wild Wings for Lunch/Dinner. Many of you know that graduation day was also Courtney’s 1st birthday. So we had cake for her too.