The Making of a Military Mom

JROTC Awards night my son's junior year in high school. LTC Linda Colar was the teacher who taught me about the Army.

By Dorie Griggs

I’m the very proud Mom of an Army ROTC cadet at The Citadel, The military College of South Carolina.  If you had told me in 2003 that I would write the previous line in 2010,  I would have laughed.  My son was going to study sharks, at least that was his plan.  His plans all changed his sophomore year in high school when he enrolled in his high school’s Junior ROTC program.

Senior year Raider Team meet, my son Nelson was captain. Photo by: Stanley Leary (Nelson's father)

The military had always interested him.  He had a dynamic teacher, a retired Lieutenant Colonel, who modeled leadership in a way that appealed to his “Type A,” first-child way of thinking.

His change in career path is not one I was on board with – at first.  I graduated from seminary in 2002 earning a master of divinity degree.  My area of interest at the time was doing chaplaincy type work with journalists who cover traumatic events, much the same as chaplains serve the police force or firefighters. I learned about the effects of traumatic events on the person experiencing them. The thought of having a child of mine go to war was not a thought I wanted to entertain.

As my son became more involved with the JROTC program, it became obvious he had a gift and the talents to be successful.  It also became apparent,  if I wanted to continue to have a relationship with my son,  I needed to get on board. I had to find the best way to support him and his interest in the military.  

The Roswell High School Raider Team won the county-wide Trophy in 2007. Nelson is holding two trophies to the left of the student in the red beret.

I read books and became friends with his instructor.  She was a tremendous help.  I attended the events hosted by the JROTC department.  In a way,  I was one of the “team Moms” for the group.

By his junior year, my son decided to look into the academies and applying for ROTC scholarships.  The military was going to be his career of choice.  His decision meant a whole new area for me to research. 

We attended our congressman’s academy day at a local base.  We spoke to ROTC officers at a local college. We looked into military colleges. Then the campus visits started.

A proud mother of a JROTC cadet, Dorie Griggs, was awarded the "Coin of Excellence" by the 1st Squadron 16th Calvary Regiment for outstanding support to the Roswell HS Hornet JROTC Battalion.

There was something about The Citadel that appealed to my son from the beginning. I went with him for his campus visit to Charleston.  We went along with another student and his father for the long trip from Atlanta to Charleston.  During the campus tour the guide took us into the stark barracks and explained that all cadets are given a list of what to bring, then told how to fold and put everything away.  I remember thinking to myself, “who would chose to go to a school like this?”  When I looked at my son and his friend, the two of them were saying, “This isn’t as bad as I thought.”

From that visit forward, he compared all other schools to The Citadel, and they didn’t measure up in his eyes. He received a full ride offer from the Army ROTC department at a school in Georgia, our home state, but he held out  to see if the ARMY ROTC scholarship would come through to enable him to attend The Citadel.  In June of his senior year the letter arrived.  I’ll never forget the afternoon call from him, “I’m going Army!  They gave me the 4-year scholarship!”

His journey to become an Army officer was beginning as was my very steep learning curve on being the mom of a cadet and soon to be military officer.

I first met Dorie Griggs in January at the Carter Center’s symposium on how to better cover returning war veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. She has been teaching me ever since.

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23 Responses

  1. Great article!

    • I am A Citadel Alum Mom 2010 and now aVery Proud 1st Lt. Marine Mom. I’m counting the days till my Marine is back home. I enjoy reading what Dorie has to write. Always well written and informative. Keep our son’s in your thoughts and prayers for a safe return this New Year!

  2. I am the proud Granddaddy of Nelson Lalli. Dorie has been a great supporter of the parents and cadets at the Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. We say go Army at the Army and Navy Football game!

  3. i have known dorie as a citadel mom for 3 years. supportive and empathetic, she would do anything for her kids. it is not easy to watch your child do something that is out of your realm, but dorie learns and reaches.

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  5. As a friend and former coworker, I have known Dorie over the years to be a consistently capable and caring mother to her three fine children. So I was not surprised by her response to Nelson’s decision to pursue a military career, although, like many parents, she might not have chosen that path for him. Understanding, however, that our children’s career decisions ultimately belong to them, Dorie not only accepted her son’s choice, she enthusiastically embraced it. In doing so, she sets a wonderful example for all of us whose sons and daughters stand at the threshold of adulthood. Nelson is to be commended also, along with all who choose to serve in our nation’s outstanding military, helping to ensure our continued freedom and security.

  6. You’re a great military mom Dorie!

  7. […] and the whole military college experience was foreign to me.  As I mentioned in my first entry, The Making of a Military Mom, when I don’t understand something I read about it and learn as much as I can to help take away […]

  8. […] friends who looked around the barracks during their pre-knob visit in 2006 and said to each other, “This isn’t as bad as I thought.” are now in their final few months of their Citadel career. They proved to themselves and everyone […]

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  11. I am the proud mother of two brand new FEMALE 2LTs who came from ROTC programs. Both are Military Intelligence officers and one is engaged to another 2LT who is currently deployed. We support them for the choices they have made.

  12. […] 2 rows in front of us.  Our son’s first visited The Citadel together the summer before their senior year in high school.  It seemed a fitting way to close out our 4 years there by sitting near each other. We were in a […]

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  15. […] student. They had a few questions for a parent. As I spoke to each family I was reminded of our first visit to campus the summer of […]

  16. […] Christmas day the first blog post I wrote for the military blog site Off the Base was published. The Making of a Military Mom started me on a journey I could never have imagined. When Bobbie O’Brien first asked me to […]

  17. […] was the work of Dorie Griggs – a long-time contributor to Off the Base, a proud Army Mom, former Citadel Mom and now writer of her own blog: Dorie Griggs. I miss her […]

  18. […] Off the Base. I assure you I was extremely anxious about the whole experience. The first entry, The Making of a Military Mom and the second, Mom Readies for Son’s Military College trace my early journey. The following […]

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