We recently traveled to Fort Leonard Wood to see our son graduate from U.S. Army basic training.
For those parents who have been through this, you know how long those 10 weeks were for all involved. We spoke to him only a few times on the phone, and those conversations were brief.
I wrote him what felt like were a million letters and sent the few things they allowed in the form of care packages.
I couldn’t imagine that a package of toiletries made him feel any comfort, but that was all we were allowed to send.
The drive to Missouri was long. We took many back roads for more of a straight shot, which of course back fired on us completely. The roads were small and there was no passing … it felt like it took forever to get there.
An impatient husband driver, a tall 16-year-old crammed uncomfortably in the smallish back seat and a 10-pound dog on my lap, made the trip seem even longer.
We heard that Army people nicknamed Fort Leonard Wood, “Fort Lost in the Woods.” After reaching the base, I can see why. It’s a sprawling facility, surrounded by thick, dense woods and mountains.
I haven’t been on many Army bases, so I was particularly interested. It truly feels like a city. There was even a Burger King.
Family day was first. We filed into a hangar, along with hundreds of other families to await our sons and daughters. I was so excited and anxious to see our son.
When they came marching in formation, singing some song or another, I couldn’t help but tear up. When we finally got to hug him, I of course went to full-on mom-cry.
We checked him out, along with his friend, who had no family visiting. All they really wanted to do was eat and relax.
So all day long we listened to them tell us all about the past 10 weeks. All I can say is that anybody who has gone through basic training deserves much praise.
They are constantly busy and it all sounded both physically and mentally demanding. Our son and his friend are both 23, but said most of the others were younger.
I can’t imagine how scared some of those who had just graduated from high school must have been.
The next day was graduation and I am not sure who was more excited — the soldiers or the family members. The indoor auditorium was packed and the ceremony was awesome.
You feel so patriotic as you sing the national anthem and look at all of those young people who have taken an oath to defend our country.
One by one, each of the four platoon members said their name and what state they were from. The soldiers were from all over the country and we were amazed that a majority had family members present.
After graduation, we waited by the barracks until they came marching down the street — again, singing a song.
We checked our two newly graduated soldiers out again and spent a few more hours with them before heading back home.
I didn’t know I would once again cry so much saying goodbye. We are not sure when we will see him again, but I am excited that I will be able to send him care packages with items other than soap and shaving cream.
It started raining as soon as we left and it never quit the entire way. It was as if Mother Nature knew I was feeling blue and wanted the atmosphere to match.
The torrential rain made the trip home much longer, although we skipped the back roads this time and stayed on highways.
I was so happy to get a call from our son the next night as he boarded a plane to another base for six more months of training.
After that, we don’t know where he will go. It seems as if there are lots of things you don’t know when you first join the military.
Despite the long trip to Missouri and back, and all of the crazy things that happened, we were thrilled we were able to see our son and his fellow soldiers graduate from basic training and move on with their journey.
As a country, we should all be thankful to live in a free country which has so many people willing to serve.
With all of the turmoil in the world these days, we should all be diligent in supporting our military.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.