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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Looking Back

I am feeling rather nostalgic today thinking back on my son leaving a year ago for boot camp. That combined with the fact that one of my oldest and dearest friends own son is leaving for boot camp this May.

As I think back on my own experience and in trying to prepare her what to expect, a few major(at least to me) things pop in my mind. I am sure I have shared many if not all of these things at one time or another on here(with each year that passes, so does a bit more of my already failing memory) but I want to share them again in hopes they may help someone who is getting ready to go through the experience of a loved one leaving for military service.

First and foremost, I truly believe my biggest support through our whole boot camp experience was Navy For Moms. I HIGHLY recommend any mother, wife or loved one of a future or current Sailor take a visit there and sign up for the group or groups related to your expected needs(boot camp group, A School group, etc..) Having the support of those who had already gone through the experience as well as the bonds made with others currently going through it with you make a HUGE difference. I knew what to expect and when, from the first letters, to the dreaded "box" of your loved ones items they left home in and more. Thanks to letters shared by other mothers and wives from their Recruits I knew how things were going even when I didn't get my expected letter one week. A year later and many of those ladies are still my friends on Facebook and other social networks. Our loved ones are now stationed in different places all over the globe, yet we women still share that bond of having gone through the boot camp experience together.

One thing many loved ones want to know is what kind of gift to give the recruit before they leave. Honestly, if it wont fit in their wallet, they shouldn't bring it, because it WILL get sent home! Many learn this the hard way. Even stationary items will be sent home. The best gift you can give is a phone card, already activated, stamps, and LOTS of letters while they are in boot camp. I was so sad to learn how many young men didn't get letters. I wrote my son daily, sometimes more than once a day. I sent Facebook status updates, photos of friends, thoughts I had friends write before he left and I held on to and other items of interest.

A year later and my son still often comments on how much mail he received. Those letters from home really help them get through the whole experience. Even if it's not your own family member going through boot camp, WRITE and write OFTEN! Church members wrote, friends, other family, and I can assure you each and every letter was saved by my son and still cherished.

Which leads me to my next thought. The nicest thing I think anybody has ever done for me! Before my son left a friend sent me a keepsake box:

Filled with many boxes of cards, stamps and writing instruments:

We not only used these to write many of our letters, but in turn have used it to store his letters to us as well as other small Navy related items he has sent home or left here:

I still often go through these letters . Some bring a tear, some bring a smile, but all remind me of this last year and the growing all of us as a family have gone through, through this experience.

I loved and appreciated this thoughtful gift more than words can express, and I plan on stealing this idea for my dear friend whose son is leaving soon(my best ideas are my "borrowed" ones!)

Our church has a quilt ministry. Several of the ladies make quilts for those who are ill or going through tough times. On the quilt are SEVERAL threads, and we as a church pray for the person receiving the quilts and then tie a knot for each prayer. There is no magic per say in the quilt or the knots, the magic is in the prayers, but the knots show the person how much they are cared for and how many prayers are being said on their behalf. I think that is pretty magic!

Our church also has made "pocket" quilts for our brave young men and women serving our country. One was given to my son prior to leaving for Boot Camp, and was able to fit in his wallet, making it so he can keep it at boot camp.

While those brave young men and women who willingly choose to serve our country, especially in these times when we are already at war deserve our utmost respect and gratitude, let us not forget the moms and wives who are at home holding things up on the home front. The young wives especially who are doing the hard work of perhaps raising young children and running a household alone could sure use some extra help and support. Parenting and marriage is hard enough under ideal circumstances, but can seem especially overwhelming when you are worried about your better half serving and protecting our country.

If you know such a young lady, offer to watch her children for an afternoon giving her some much deserved rest or make a meal or two occasionally. Anything special to lighten her load and lift her spirits.

Of course us moms missing our child can use a smile or word of encouragement as well. We all feel an overwhelming sense of pride in our young service member, but we also miss our children dearly. For our family, it's one year of service down, and four to go, more if he decides this is his career path. It gets easier over time, but never "easy."

1 comment:

Lisa said...

I really appreciated this post. We're an Army family, having been through one deployment, and I so appreciate hearing about those who support the men and women serving in our military.