An Army Family Prepares for Deployment

The Colors are Cased – a battalion ritual as soldiers prepare to deploy. Photo by Stanley Leary.

By Dorie Griggs

The last few weeks have been full of rituals and changes.

October 12-13 was Parents Weekend at The Citadel. My son graduated in 2011, but I am still in touch with quite a few families with cadets there. It is fun to relive the fun weekends through their stories and photographs. Since the first year cadets or knobs are promoted and the seniors receive their rings this weekend, it is a very happy time to visit the otherwise serious campus.

This year, I will admit to spending a bit more time looking at Facebook photos of this fun weekend. It was a great fun way to escape the ritual our family was about to begin. . . deployment.

Our oldest son is about to deploy to the Middle East. He was home in early October for his pre-deployment leave. He spent most of that time living it up with good friends. We saw him for a couple of meals and a going away party his father and step-mother threw for him. It was tough not having more time just to visit, but I was very happy to see him enjoying all his friends.

Casing the colors ceremony. Photo by Stanley Leary.

To help us get used to the idea of the deployment, we took a trip to Ft. Stewart for the Casing of the Colors ceremony. It is a ceremony to signify the battalion is moving from one base of operations to another. The ceremony was followed by a family day, which included a picnic and several games for the children.

Casing the Colors continued. Photo by Stanley Leary.

I thought attending these events would help our family learn a bit more about the battalion and also give us an opportunity to meet other people in the unit. I was moved by the ceremony. After the battalion flag was placed in the casing, the people gathered sang The Dog Faced Soldier and The Army Goes Rolling Along with the Army band. That is when I found myself choking up.

There is something about music that will affect me quickly and deeply. For the past year, I tear up at the playing of the National Anthem, or other patriotic songs. In a quick poll of my military mom friends I know I am not alone in this feeling.

Author and Army mom Dorie Griggs and her daughter Chelle check out a Bradley FV during Family Day at Ft. Stewart. Photo by Stanley Leary.

During the picnic lunch though a spouse asked me about the ceremony. I told her I thought it was very moving. She thought it was boring. We agreed that as a spouse she has attended far more of these events than I have as the mother of a single soldier. These events have become old hat to her. For me the ceremony was helpful, even if it was melancholy. It gave me the opportunity to see the faces of the soldiers who would be overseas with my son.

We arrived at the picnic and sent a text to my son to see if he could join us. Unfortunately, he was working that entire day. He didn’t think he could get away to see us. Our 13-year-old daughter was devastated. This would be our last visit before the deployment. A quick text and phone call later, he made the time to come and give her a needed hug and pep talk.

Chelle and her brother Nelson who is about to deploy to the Middle East. Photo by Stanley Leary.

He told her to remember his first year at The Citadel when he was a knob. He never called home during the nine months of school. He told her his deployment would be just like knob year. He then told her it was just a nine months camping trip. That made her giggle a little and stopped the tears from flowing.

He had to go back to work and we stayed to meet a few more folks. I spent time talking with the chaplain, and the lead Family Readiness Group (FRG) coordinator. We discussed what their needs would be and how the Military Ministry at our congregation could support them.

I’ll be busy researching good deals on hand warmers, hot chocolate packets, instant coffee and baby wipes.

My son set his sights on a military career when he began JROTC in high school. His training at The Citadel in the Army ROTC department, then his training after he commissioned has prepared him well for his job.

Along the way I have learned quite a bit from families who have walked this road ahead of us. I don’t know if you ever really feel prepared and ready to deal with deployment.

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3 Responses

  1. [...] We did attend his going away party in early October and then visited Fort Stewart for the Casing of the Colors ceremony and family day. I wrote about that experience for the military blog site Off the Base. [...]

  2. Dori, Thank you for taking time to write about your experience. I picked up on the link when I did a search for the link to The Citadel Heroes Project for my Mother-In-Law. Please tell Nelson hello for our family. We have added him and you all to our prayer list. (I was his CIT101 professor.)

    • Thank you for note! I hope you found the Citadel Heroes info. It is on the Citadel Family Association web site. Susie Maghakian in the Krause Leadership Center is the staff coordinator of the project. So far all is well with Nelson. We appreciate your prayers.

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