Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

Nelson and his little sister, Chelle, at the JROTC Military Ball, Feb. 2007 and prior to entering The Citadel.

Author Dorie Griggs is sharing her journey as the mother of a son who chose a miltiary career. In this, her second entry, Dorie readies for her son to report to a military college. Click here to read her first blog entry.

By Dorie Griggs 

It’s still hard for me to believe that in five months I’ll be the Mom of an Army 2LT.  The transition happened slowly.  I am now fully entrenched in being the mom of a Cadet Captain in the Corps of Cadets of The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. 

The summer of 2007 was the beginning of a very steep learning curve for me.  Looking back that first year seemed like three.  The three years after knob year (freshman year) seemed like one.

I still remember reading through “The Success Packet”  which outlines The Citadel’s Fourth Class System, expectations and requirements of the school.  It also lists the essentials for first year cadets, or Knobs  as they are called the first year. 

Matriculation morning outside the hotel, August 2007, left to right, Stanley (step dad), Taylor, Nelson, Chelle, Dorie.

The list of items to pack included the number and type of underwear, socks, bed linens, towels and other essential items they were to bring.  It seemed to be a strange type of summer camp packing list.  Added to the very strict rules of what to bring and the nervous tension my son felt, my anxiety levels were pretty high as well.

Parent’s Weekend marks the end of the knob training period with the cadre. The Cadet recruits are promoted to cadet privates. Here Senior Cadet Mason addresses Cadet Private Lalli. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Trying to get information from my oldest son about the school was difficult at best. Talking to him about the challenges ahead was almost impossible.  He was determined to go through with his decision and was equally sure that I would not understand.

For part of his high school graduation present, my then 9-year-old daughter and I went to Target and purchased just about everything on the “Clothing/Personal Items” list in The Success Packet and most things on the “Nice to Have List” published by the Citadel Family Association.  After graduation I took my son and his buddy to an Army/Navy supply store to buy the black lace up oxford shoes and the Army boots they were required to have.

My education in all things Citadel and Army was beginning in earnest.  What I began to learn was that while it is a military school, not all the traditions are the same as the regular Army.  The Citadel is over 165 years old and filled with time-honored traditions of their own.  It is a leadership school.  I didn’t understand what that meant the months leading up to Matriculation Day, the day fist year “knobs” report, but by the end of the year I had a better grasp of the system and how it works.

Parent’s Weekend 2007. Nelson greets his baby sister with their traditional lift.

By the time Matriculation Day arrived I knew my son was as prepared to report as anyone could be, but it was still a tension filled weekend.  My husband, step dad to my sons, and our daughter went to Charleston early to get a day or so in at the beach.  My sons came in with their dad and step-mom the night before he reported.  We all had our “Last Supper” together and agreed to meet for breakfast early the next morning.

Our son decided he wanted a very low profile when he reported and asked that only his Dad and I accompany him that morning.  He didn’t want an entourage with him.  We said our formal good-byes at the hotel, taking photos and long hugs.

Knowing that I am an extrovert and very chatty, I had strict orders from my son not to talk to any cadets when we arrived on campus. He didn’t want me to reveal anything about him to his cadre members, the cadet officers in charge of training the Knobs.  I was also asked not to carry any of his things into the barracks. My job that morning was to stand by the boxes as my ex and our son carried everything into the barracks.

The new cadet privates do push-ups with their cadre.

I did really well at only speaking to other parents until my ex introduced me to the Bravo Company Commander.  Inside I’m thinking, “Don’t call me over. Please don’t call me over.” But after we were introduced, I kept the conversation focused on the cadet officer, his major and his plans after graduation, giving no details out about our son.  I was very proud of myself.

When it came time to say good-bye our son shook his dad’s hand.  I held out my hand and was very surprised to get a big hug.  When I asked about it later he said, “I figured it was the last hug I’d get for a while.”

I didn’t cry that day.  I knew inside this was his choice and he was as prepared as he could be.

16 Responses

  1. Dorie Griggs has used her knowledge to help so many other “knob” parents with that difficult year!

  2. perfection, dorie. my son said “don’t talk to anyone, don’t smile at anyone, don’t look anyone in the eye.” the first thing that happened was that the 4th battalion tac walked over to walt and i and pointed at john and said, “your son.” i said yes. colonel macmillan then said, “jrotc and i bet he was cadet commanding officer.” i was so mortified. i didn’t tell john until his sophomore year! you have captured it perfectly.

  3. Thanks for writing Dorie…our Army learning curve has been very steep also. Our son is in Iraq now and our daughter-in-law just returned from Afghanistan. Blessings as you continue the journey.

  4. This account is just one small example of what Dorie has done over the years to mentor and support Citadel Families. She is a true asset to not only our Atlanta Citadel Club, but also to the over all Citadel community. Thank you, Dorie!

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