A Sister, a Mom, a Family Prepares for Military Life

It’s hard to believe in just over a month my oldest son will graduate from The Citadel. The time, for me at least, has flown by. Looking through photos from his college career, I’m forced to believe the time really has gone by.

Chelle and Nelson in Charleston, September 2007.

Our daughter, Chelle, is the measuring stick. She was a little girl in 3rd grade when Nelson started his knob year (freshman).  She is now a young lady in 6th grade and about 12 inches taller. The photos tell the story best. During the 2007-08 school year she always brought a treasured stuffed animal on our visits to The Citadel. Now she brings a book.

My oldest son and my youngest child have shared a very special bond since she was a baby and he was the protective 10-year-old brother. For a recent language arts assignment, Chelle was asked to write about the person she admires most and use the lyrics for a song.  She wrote about her oldest brother and composed a song for him since she couldn’t find one to sum up her admiration. As she sang it for me this morning, a tear came to her eye. I had a lump in my throat as well.

Last night, I attended a production of Theater of War presented at Emory University. The production is making it’s way around the country. Through the ancient readings of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes the audience hears how the warrior and his/her family can be affected by war both physically and psychologically. The production is supported by a grant from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the USO.

Chelle,Nelson and Dorie on Corps Day Weekend, March 2011. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Listening to my daughter sing of her admiration for her brother this morning after attending the performance of Theater of War last night it struck me that we stand in a long line of military families. For thousands of years, families have sent their loved ones of to do battle, never sure if they will see their son or daughter again. We will enter that ancient tradition once our oldest goes through his officer training.

My 12-year-old daughter tears up during prayer time in her youth group at church just thinking about her older brother joining the Army. I listen to the stories of my fellow Citadel Ya Ya’s as they tell of the jumping in happy anticipation every time the phone rings in the hope that it is their child calling from over seas.

For the past 10 years I have studied traumatic stress and it’s affect on people exposed to trauma. My last year at Columbia Theological Seminary, I developed a model of chaplaincy for journalists of all faiths or none at all who cover traumatic events. This work has offered me the opportunity to meet leaders in the field of traumatic stress studies like Dr. Frank Ochberg, Dr. Jonathan Shay, and Dr. Steven Southwick, as well as individuals who have a traumatic stress diagnosis. During this time, I have had the honor and privilege to have attended conferences hosted by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and the Rosalynn Carter Symposium on Mental Health Policy.

Family photo, November 2010. Photo by Stanley Leary.

I now serve on the board of the nonprofit, Care For The Troops, an organization that teaches civilian therapists about military culture so we will all be more sensitive to the needs of members of the military and their families.

My studies in the area of traumatic stress began years before my son decided the military is the career for him.  I’ve lectured to faith-based communities and journalism programs about traumatic stress.  I have come to realize that sometimes as a mom, you can know too much.

My son has received an excellent education and training at The Citadel and in the Army ROTC program there.  I know he is as prepared as anyone can be to enter the U.S. Army.  I also know it will still be tough.

Graduation is a month away.  My son will report for officer training June 8.  After that who knows.

I do know I can draw on the strength of my friends and fellow military moms to get us through, just as generations of families before us have done.

Previous entries by Dorie Griggs:

The Making of a Military Mom

Mom Readies for Son’s Military College

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

How The Citadel “Ya-Yas” Came to Be

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

The Citadel Trained Me as Well as My Son

The Citadel: BVA’s and  Summerall Guards

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

The Citadel Bond Renews Parents’ Long Time Friendships

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

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6 Responses

  1. Thanks again Dorie! Best wishes for Nelson’s future.

  2. Thank you harold!

  3. […] A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life […]

  4. […] A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life […]

  5. […] A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life […]

  6. […] “A Sister, a Mom, a Family Prepares for Military Life” – Dorie Griggs. […]

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