And We’re Off!
Well, that definitely goes on my “Top 5 Hardest Things” list. Not because I don’t want him to go. This is what he wants to do, and I am really OK with that. And we’ve gone three months (or more) without seeing each other or even texting/talking much. So that’s not the hard part. It is really tough for a mom to send her child off to the hardest thing he has ever had to do.
He asked us to get to the processing office at 8:00, so we arrived early. My sister and her family were also there. In true military fashion, we sat around and waited a lot. Military facilities aren’t known for their comfort, but at least they had a soda machine and snacks.
There were probably 40 or so recruits, not all of whom were shipping, and some families (although, surprisingly, not as many as I would have thought. Several “shippers” had no one there at all). He had arrived that morning around 4:00am to complete final paperwork, medical screens, and other preparations. So we sat around and chatted as he waited for them to call.
Finally, about 10:30, they called back a group of about 20. They went into the room for a few announcements, then they called in the families. We stood at the front of the room and took pictures as they swore in. Capt. Watkins gave a nice little speech. Then they went into a room at the rear, where Capt. Watkins called them one by one to complete their contracts. We spent several minutes taking photos in front of the Marine seal and flag.
We stepped back into the processing facility, and it was time for goodbyes. He said goodbye first to a friend and to my sister’s family, who then left. Then it was our turn.
I absolutely did not want his last view of me to be as weepy-Mom. So I just kept smiling and giving him hugs. He said, “Send lots of letters!” We both told him how much we love him and how proud we are of him. Bruce suddenly remembered that we needed to pick up his backpack, so we scurried over to the Marine office. (Sean took only his driver’s license, socsec card, a little money, and his Bible.) We got everything, then he heard an annoucement (which I missed), and he had to go. A couple more quick hugs, and off he went.
The timing was perfect. As the goodbyes commenced, the skies outside grew darker and darker. By the time we left, it was raining cats, dogs, pigs, chickens, and everything else in the barnyard. I may be buying new espadrilles.
It was a long, quiet drive back home. We had orchestra rehearsal that evening, just to cap off a tough day. We’re preparing Memorial Day music, and I had to slog through the Marine Corps hymn, Stars and Stripes, and other patriotic tunes.
From previous conversations, we knew that they’d drive him (and other shippers) to the airport, allow them to get some food, then fly out. We have no idea how he was met on the other end, but I imagine they put them all on a bus and drove them out to MCRD (Marine Corps Recruiting Depot) San Diego.
He was allowed one phone call to let us know he had arrived safely. It was scripted, and there was lots of commotion in the background. But he sounded good, and he managed to say “I love you,” which I’m pretty sure wasn’t in the script. (I imagine extra push-ups that he was happy to do.)
He won’t be allowed to write or receive letters for around two weeks. I will miss our frequent texts and occasional phone calls. But at least I get to write.
Bruce and I find ourselves in a similar mental state today: “OK, that show finally is on the road; now we can get on with other things.” This has been looming since last fall, and we’re all glad (Sean most of all) to get things started. He can’t get boot camp over with until he starts.
He told us that they would not be allowed to sleep until tonight. For the first couple of days (he told us), they get lots of water and little else. The Marines want to flush out all the crap (cigarettes, sodas, caffeine, and God knows what else) that their bodies are full of. After that, I suspect there will be lots of proteins and carbs.
I am anxiously awaiting our first letter; it will be hard to be patient. I am really looking forward to the Disney week with my sister and young nephews; a terrific distraction. I suspect our first letter will arrive during that time; Bruce has strict instructions to scan and email it. No way am I waiting a week for it.
I will keep you posted. Today, I am OK, but I know there will be times when I miss him terribly. And at least once an hour, I wonder, “What is he doing now, and how is he faring?”
—Mighty Marine Mom