Saturday, May 10, 2008

Graduation

It was strange to be back on an Army post again. My stride quite naturally fell into step with the distant cadences called, and most surprisingly, as previously reported, I was blabbing away (this isn't surprising, of course), and suddenly my arm automatically began a salute as an officer approached. I was able to turn it into a bra strap adjustment, and saved myself. Tim was itching for a chance to fire an M-16. He had tons of questions about it, and I found bits and pieces of data running to the front of my mind: "The M-16 is a hand held, shoulder fired, gas fed, air cooled weapon...." I found that military training is a lot like riding a bike. You don't forget how to be a soldier. Most amusing was seeing 'my fatigues' as part of a military history display. Mine were solid green, tucked in shirt, rank on collar, black web belt. By the time I left, 7 years later, we had BDU's. Camouflage, overshirt. Baggy. Sloppy.
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Family Day did not begin until 9, but we wanted to be in the front. We wanted to see Stacey. So we got there at 7:45. On the way over, we passed a company of new recruits marching in the heat in full battlegear. They looked tired, hot, scared, and hopeless. I'm sure that we would have seen the same look on Stacey's face just a few weeks ago, had we been able to see her.
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We visited with another family, while we sat in the bleachers waiting for the ceremony. The DiMaggios from Boston. Their son/grandson/nephew, Carmine, was in the same unit. The DiMaggios were pleased as all hell that Carmine would not be going to Iraq. Since Stacey was telling us that she expected to go, we were a little interested in how Carmine got this little 'perk'. "Well, his recruiter told him that the Army had their quota filled for the next three years. He's safe for three years. After that, they'll send him, but he's done after three years." I knew from personal experience, recruiters will lie like rugs until you sign all the paperwork. I couldn't stand to burst their bubble. They seemed like awfully nice people, but we did exchange e-mail addresses, because I sure as heck want to see how this story plays out.
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The festivities began with an 'insurgent vehicle' driving on to the field, amidst explosions and colored smoke bombs. Ominous rock music blared over loudspeakers. Suddenly, our troops burst on to the field and began firing weapons with blanks. We were assured that our children, these soldiers assure success in the war on terrorism. People cheered and stomped their feet up and down on the bleachers. Man, it was a great day to be a patriot.
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I felt like I was the only one in the whole crowd to have this one thought flash through my mind: "This is not real."
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Am I proud of Stacey? Oh, yes. All of them. They all worked so hard. But in the hot sun at Fort Jackson, watching the graduation of Company F, First Battalion, 34th Infantry, saluting my country's flag, awash in my own memories, caught up in the throngs of the cheering patriots, all the 'Hoo-ah!', I felt a little sick. Now I've got a kid in it. Now it's personal. And I felt afraid. And my own military training came in handy yet again, because my fear did not show.

5 comments:

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Of course you are afraid...what mother wouldn't be.... But your pride shines through.....

I think, all the hoopla is alot to absorb and process..it can't be done at once, at the time. Over the next little while, it will sink in, settle, and fall into place. I hope your Stacey keeps the guardian angel on her shoulder, wherever she is.

Bush Babe (of Granite Glen) said...

My fingers are crossed (and all) that you never have to face that fear. A military background makes the quilt of Deb even more interesting!
Hugs
BB

Lavinia Ladyslipper said...

Happy Mother's Day, Debby.

Your last few posts...have had a mother's pride and love shining through.

I hope you enjoy a wonderful day...you deserve it!

Regards,
Lavinia

Hal Johnson said...

What a strange and powerful mix of emotions you must have felt. Here's wishing that her guardian angel sticks to her like white on rice.

Mary Paddock said...

Welcome back!

I don't blame you, I'd be fearful too. But what a sense of mission she must have and how proud you must be of that.