On the 1st of May my son, Nigel, left for San Diego MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) for 13 weeks of training. Since he was a young boy, he knew what he wanted to do. A year ago, he enlisted with the United States Marines. However, two weeks before he left, I woke up each morning sobbing because I felt this unidentified fear.
During the last two days of processing, we accompanied Nigel and I held up extremely well; until he entered the shiny white bus (it resembled a school bus) that would transport the recruits to the airport for their departure to boot camp. I had never seen a white bus before. I suddenly had an overwhelming feeling that I was sending my son off to prison, not boot camp. The second the bus doors closed, I placed the lens cap on my camera and handed it to my fiancé and told him, “I don’t like this day anymore.” And I cried.
Nigel is not the first child I raised. He was the fifth child (of seven) that I let go into the world to discover his future. Each time a child left home, there was a period of mourning. Multiple emotions and questions devoured around me. I cried for two weeks. I made a mental list of things I could have done better. Within two weeks, I apologized for everything I did wrong and reassured my children how proud I am of them, how much I missed them, and I how much I loved them.
But, when Nigel left, all I could do was hug him good-bye. I held back my tears, forced a smile, hugged him real tight and told him one more time that I loved him and how proud I was. The day he left, I had such admiration for his bravery to go off to a place he had never been. I knew if it were me, I would have been scared to death, but Nigel was eager and anxious to begin his military career. He was confident in his choice and I understood it was my duty to be supportive of him.
I would have to wait 13 weeks, until he graduates from boot camp, to see or talk to my son again. I felt as though he were ripped out of our lives. I was suddenly afraid to be without him.
Within a week, I listened to a scripted phone call from Nigel announcing he had arrived. Approximately four days later, I received a one-page standardized letter with his mailing address. I was ecstatic just to see his handwriting that filled in the blanks! We were on the verge of reconnecting again! That meant so much to me that I immediately wrote him a letter.
Eleven days after that, we received our first letter from Nigel! Ever since that day, my plastic white mailbox has become my new best friend. Nearly every day, I raise the little red flag and place a new letter for Nigel in my mailbox.
My emotions are totally mixed up. I miss Nigel every day. I can be swollen with pride one minute and dismayed the next. I cling to each little tiny positive moment to help me regain emotional strength and focus. I soar over the moon when I see his letters! Reading his words touch my heart so deeply, that they make me cry. Lately, I have been seeing the soul of my child on paper. Beautiful words, which otherwise I may have never heard Nigel say if he weren’t in boot camp.
As best as I can tell you, I am trying very hard to adapt to my new reality. I was not emotionally prepared to cope with boot camp. I heard what people told me, but I was unable to grasp it until I began to experience it. Nigel’s recruiter has been exceptionally honest and supportive of us. Without the help of friends, including the recruiter, I would still be drowning in my emotions. Little by little, I have been moving myself forward and trying very hard to return to Linking Michiana fulltime.
I believe what has helped the most are the letters from Nigel. He wrote in a letter to his younger brother that “letters are better than gold’ – and he is utterly precise about that! Nigel’s letters illuminate my day; I can absolutely comprehend what my letters do for him.
Here is a portion of one of his recent letters:
I really miss you. I find myself reading your letters over and over again each day. It’s the only thing that reminds me of you. This week flew by! I start week 3 soon. I can’t believe after that it is Swim Week! Hell yeah!
I need some letters. They are the only positive thing here. There is nothing new here really. I am going to try and write as often as I can. It makes me smile when I think of writing home or to others.
I really love it here and then I hate it here.
It feels good being part of something so amazing! Today, I realized what an awesome set of DI’s (Drill Instructors) we have! I saw one of them joke with us and smile. It was a good day! I miss and love you. As much as I hate to, I have to sleep now.
I love you,
It is Memorial Day weekend, a federal holiday that has been set aside to remember our fallen soldiers. I just realized that there is not a single holiday to honor our active duty military. Why do they have to be retired, discharged or dead to be respected and honored? Maybe, it is because it is our duty to honor and support our service members every day. Now that my son is training to be a Marine, I have a whole new perspective on Memorial Day. The instant the decision was made to enlist in the armed services, was a display of bravery. Every day after that, we should do what we can to help inspire their success.
If you have a family member or a friend serving our country, please demonstrate your support by staying in communication with them. Whether it is a care package, a letter, a card, photographs or a phone call – those few minutes you give will have a positive influence on their overall well-being. I can confirm that a hand-written letter has more value than an e-mail. It is something of you that they can hold in their hands – your handwriting, your heart, and your support – that will nurture their memories and love for you.
May God watch over our troops!
Note: The “I Support Our Troops” image is used with permission from Freedom Isn’t Free — visit and like them on Facebook!