Military Moms Most Memorable Moments in 2011

Chelle and Nelson in Charleston, September 2007.

A Sister, a Mom, a Family Prepares for Military Life” – Dorie Griggs.

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.

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.

Dorie Griggs knew little of military life until her son joined ROTC in high school. That’s when her education began and has not stopped since. She’s cheered him through four years and graduation at the Citadel and watched as he made his First Jump at the U.S.  Army Airborne School. Through her writing and photos by her husband Stanley Leary, Dorie has taken us along as she travels the unknown road as a military mom.

Tracie Ciambotti and her son, Joshua Nearhoof, Army Sergeant out of Fort Carson, September 2010.

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches” – Tracie Ciambotti.

My son enlisted in the Army two days after graduating high school in June of 2005—five months later he was in Baghdad in the middle of a war.  He received the best training in the world for his new job as an Army infantryman; I however, did not receive any information or training for my new role as the mother of a soldier.  Families that have a loved one in the Armed Forces sacrifice and serve with their enlisted and they need support. 

I could not find one support group in the community or county where I lived in Pennsylvania at the time.  Most communities in this country have support groups for all kinds of things; alcoholism and drug addictions; cancer and many other diseases; crime victims; and many more. 

When Tracie Ciambotti couldn’t find a support group for military moms and families near her Pennsylvania home, she co-founded Military Families Ministry. She has generously contributed to Off the Base – writing about her experience as an Army Mom detailing the emotions of deployment but also the drive to provide soldiers and their families prayer and support.

Jared Agle's official US Marine Corps photo.

A Marine Mom Lets Go a Week Early” – April Agle.

… the Marines made their presence known in our lives. It became very clear that things were going to be different from now on.  Jared called me at work on Thursday, August 5th.  He had just received a call from his Marine recruiter that his departure date for boot camp had been moved up a week early to Sunday, August 9th.  Jared was asked if he could leave a week early.  As Jared said to me, “ I can’t say no mom.  I need to call him back and tell him okay”.  

I was proud of myself.  I told him to go ahead and call the Recruiter back and tell him that he would be ready to go.  I hung up with Jared. My heart was pounding so fast. I was in a panic.  My eyes teared up. I called Roger at work and told him.  I hung up with Roger and cried a bit.  I knew it was coming – I knew this day was coming.  I thought to myself, “the stupid military is already messing with my plans”. 

I thought I was ready for this and was finding that it was not true.  I knew I had to be strong.  I remember thinking that it is only boot camp, it’s not like he is going to war – At least not yet.

April Agle works in the business office at WUSF Public Broadcasting, where I work. She’s not only a colleague, she’s a friend. Her 17-year-old son, Jared, convinced her to sign the papers for the Marine Corps Delayed Enlistment Program while he was still in high school. I convinced April to write about the experience. I also had the privilege of interviewing Jared before and after boot camp in 2010. He’s now serving in Afghanistan.

Momma B tries out a flight simulator - three of her children are aviators in military service.

A Mom, 4 Kids, 4 Services: Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines” – Momma B.

My mom radar was definitely on the blink. As an aviator’s mom (make that triple aviator’s mom ) I scan the news daily for any mention of a mishap that might remotely involve my boys or any of their compadres. And when a news crawl or Google alert pops up I am on the phone, if possible, checking  to make sure my kid is safely on the ground.

Such is the life of a military pilot’s mom. It doesn’t matter if they are deployed or not. Every day, they do battle with physics. My Marine in his F/18 defies gravity and the speed of sound, flying way too close to another airplane to make a mom comfortable. My P/3 NFO is up for hours in OLD airplanes-thankfully soon to be replaced. And my Army ROTC cadet in helicopters-those things fly way too close to the ground, don’t you think?

This Off the Base contributor goes by the nom de plume of Momma B on her blog: 4starmilitarymom. She’s mother to four children – all are in the military.

Photo courtesy of Lynn Nankervis.

Seven Is Too Young to Join the Army” – Lynn Nankervis.

Today I sat in an Army recruiter’s office while a camouflage-wearing, big-muscled, tough-talking soldier insisted my 7-year-old son was ready to serve his country by enlisting in the military.

Not really.

Sam is actually 17 years old, entering his senior year in high school and considering joining the Army under the Delayed Entry Program, essentially meaning he signs the papers now but doesn’t report to boot camp until after high school graduation next June.

But as I sat with my son in that office listening to the recruiter proclaim all the benefits of a military career, my mind flashed back to a front-toothless Sam at 7 asking me to take him to “McDongals” for a “mikswake.”

This is my baby, my first-born son. How is it possible he is old enough to be thinking about the military? He’s supposed to be playing cowboys and Indians, not defending his country. You can read the full blog entry HERE.

Lynn Nankervis originally wrote this for the Bloomingdale Patch. Her writing was so clear and insightful, I contacted Lynn for permission to re-use her column.  She also writes The Brady Bunch Plus One blog.

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A Mom’s Update on Her Young Marine Now in Afghanistan

April and Jared visiting the WUSF Studios just after he got out of boot camp, November 2010.

It was little more than a year ago that 17-year-old Jared Agle left his Florida home a week early for Marine Boot Camp at Paris Island. I work his with his mother April Agle. She’s in the WUSF Business Office.

I met Jared before he left and talked with him again when he returned after 13 weeks of basic training. He left again for months of infantry training before deploying to Afghanistan several weeks ago.

April and her husband have gotten a few phone calls from Afghanistan, but the calls are infrequent and often it drops out. She said it took 30 days for the first family “care package” of food and personal hygiene items to reach Jared’s Forward Operating Base. His comment to her, many serving with him don’t get any packages.

April's USO Teddy Bear.

Like any mother, April worries Jared, but she balances it with an inner pride as she watches her young son mature into a man – a U.S. Marine Lance Corporal. So it was an extra special surprise when she found a package on her doorstep the other day.

Inside the box was a short message for his mom and a USO Teddy Bear wearing a t-shirt. The front says, “My arms may be short, but …” and on the back “… they reach all the way around the world.”

The Teddy Bear was a sign to April that her son was still the thoughtful young man she raised –  who remembered to mail his younger sister a birthday card and thought to send his mom a Teddy Bear while on his way to a combat zone.

April is sharing her journey as a new military mom. Here are a few of her stories:

In Training to Become a New Marine Mom

Letting Go a Week Early

A Boot Camp Marine’s First Letter Home

Birthdays, Weddings, A Mom Misses Her New Marine

A Marine Mom: Paris Island Graduation Day

A Boot Camp Marine’s First Letter Home

Already signed up for the Marine Delayed Enlistment Program, Jared Agle and his parents, April and Roger Agle, celebrate his graduation from Zephyrhills High School, 2010.

By April Agle, a new Marine Mom

I remember thinking that there was so much that I wanted Jared to know before he left.  I wanted him to remember that even when he thinks he is alone, that God is always, always with him.  I had these fears of the drill instructors tearing down Jared’s self confidence.  I wanted him to remember that no matter what anyone says that he is a wonderful person.  I wanted him to know that he was likely to get home sick and that it was okay.  We would be praying for him and that the separation would only be for just over 12 weeks.

I remember Jared telling me he did not want me to go to the Recruiter’s Office to drop him off on Sunday.  At first, I was crushed and yes, my feelings were hurt.  It took me a bit to figure out why he did not want me to go with him.  It was more than he was afraid I would embarrass him – I figured it out – if I cried he would cry and he did not want to do that in front of anyone especially another Marine or another Recruit. 

Jared Agle the day he was dropped off at the Recruiter's Office, August 8, 2010.

So I told him I was going, all of us were taking him, and I promised not to embarrass him.  I made a point of speaking positive and smiling on our way to the Recruiter’s  Office on Sunday.  I was Miss Positive Attitude with no crying.  We go to the Recruiter’s and only the Recruiter was there.  We all hugged Jared.  I held him tight and told him I was so proud of him and that I knew he would be an excellent Marine.  And then we left him. 

Wow.  I felt a huge weight.  Roger,  Rylee and I were all very stoic and I think we were containing our emotions.  All it would take was for one of us to let loose and we would all lose it.  I guess we were being strong for each other.

The plan was that Jared was to stay in a hotel in Tampa and on Monday morning he would go to fill out his final paperwork and then board a bus heading to Paris Island, South Carolina.

Monday, August 9, 2010 at 11:00pm Roger’s phone rang.  Roger barely said hello and you could hear Jared almost shouting in a shaky voice.  “Recruit Agle has reached destination Paris Island.  Please do not attempt to contact me. Please do not send any bulky packages. …. That is all”.  And he hung up. 

You could tell he was reading a script of some kind.  Wow and that was it.  Roger and I looked at each other almost in shock.  I was a bit upset because we did not get to tell Jared anything, not I love you, not how was your trip, nothing.  No one really prepared me for that. 

High school senior Jared celebrates his last "spring break" with his younger sister, Rylee, on a family cruise 2010.

I spent a good deal of time over his life teaching Jared the importance of calling or texting me so I knew where he was at.  I found out the Marine’s don’t really care what your mama wants.  So I guess this was a reality check for me.  Jared was going to need a lot of prayer and I was going to do that.

 The house seemed different right away.  Jared had been gone before on trips with the fire department for maybe four days.  This time it was different.  The house was quieter and felt less full somehow.  Jared was not due back for quite a while.

And so we waited.  And we waited.  Every day we checked the mail box.  And we waited some more.  We wondered, we prayed, and we waited some more.  No letter.  Yes – I was a bit unrealistic.  I wanted a letter within days of his leaving with his address so I could send him mail.  The day Jared left I started writing him.  A paragraph each day so he would be aware that he was not out of our thoughts.  And so the training of a Marine’s mother began.

The people that I work with are just terrific and they have helped me each step of the way.  I constantly was talking about Jared and they listened.  Everyone has been very supportive.  I work with a lot of veterans and former military.  They would share stories with me and were always available to listen to me. Without this tolerance and support, I think I would have gone crazy.  It was very helpful to be able to talk about Jared.  I appreciate their on-going interest in Jared’s career, it means so much to me.

Finally, one week later, we received something in the mail with Jared’s writing on the envelope.  We were thrilled only to be somewhat disappointed.  It was a form letter.  But,  it had his address finally also, a whole list of what not to send.  The only hand written note was a line that said ‘Can send Cliff bars’.  Okay excellent something to do for the mom who is missing her son. 

The banner reads "See You in Two Weeks." October 2010, Jared's family gathered for a wedding, the first big family event without him. This photo was taken to let Jared know his family was thinking of him.

I had a mission and I was glad of it.  The only problem was that I had no idea what a Cliff bar was, but if my son wanted Cliff bars he was going to get them.  And so I found out that a Cliff bar is a protein bar.  We mailed them to him the next day and I felt relieved that I was able to do something. 

 I now had Jared’s address and another ‘mom to do’ thing which I so wanted.   I made up mailing labels for his grandparents and everyone.  The address is quite a big address so I thought labels would help everyone.  I have some advice for anyone that is sending their child to boot camp – make address labels.  I made up return address labels for Jared’s boot camp address and mailing labels of our home address so he send us mail.  Jared said these were wonderful because he never had much time and he was tired and rushed.  The labels saved him time.  Also, send stamps.  They don’t really have time to buy stamps and who wants to wait on them to get around to buying postage. 
Mail became our link to Jared.  Our family used to go 3-4 days before we would check the mail.  Now, we were checking the mail every day.We finally received a hand written real letter from Jared a couple of days after the form letter.  We all got teary and I think we read and discussed his letter for days.  He had a ‘p.s.’ at the bottom of the letter that said, “Went to church. I look forward to going Sunday.”  I was pleased about this and knew it would help Jared.  I also know that he probably was only going to church because it got him away from the drill instructors.  But hey he was going to church no matter the reason.

April Agle works in WUSF’s business office and among her many duties, she helps me and other staff with Human Resource issues. Her other contributions:

In Training to Become a Marine Mom

A Marine Mom Lets Go a Week Early

Here’s a link to WUSF’s  first story when Jared graduated boot camp.

A Marine Mom “Lets Go” a Week Early

 

April Agle and son, Marine PFC Jared Agle, visited WUSF's studios after his boot camp graduation.

By April Agle

In all reality, I have no decision or choice in this matter (April’s 17-year-old son, Jared, convinced her to sign the papers for the Marine Corps Delayed Enlistment Program.)

Time started to pass.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years came and went.  Jared had senioritis bad.  He could not wait to get out of high school.  Of course all adults know that once high school is over time goes by very quickly.  I told him to stop wishing his life away. 

During the holidays, I kept thinking this could be Jared’s last one at home for awhile.  He could be deployed for next year’s holidays.  Roger and I decided we needed to have a really nice family vacation during spring break.  We wanted some good times to hang onto in the separation that was coming up.  Our family unit was going to change in the near future. 

When your kids are in school you have some control over their lives.  We were realizing that soon we would not even have that little bit of control.  Wow, empty nest syndrome was looming on the horizon.  Once one child leaves the nest then the next one is shortly after that.

Our family went on a wonderful cruise over spring break.  We had some much needed family time.  I desperately wanted Jared to feel the importance of family.  I was starting to feel anxious about him graduating high school and leaving for boot camp.  Time was going by too quickly.  There were times that I just wanted to grab hold of my kids and just hang on tight – to stop the world and just prevent them from growing up.  I knew that once Jared graduated from high school our lives were going to be so different.  I kept thinking I was not ready for different.

The Agle family on Jared's graduation day from boot camp.

I survived prom and Jared’s graduation was quickly approaching.  Jared’s boot camp departure date had been scheduled for July and it was pushed backed to August.  A brief reprieve, but a cloud still hanging over us.

Jared graduated from high school and I was so proud.  I counted this as an accomplishment for Roger and me.  I think we deserve some of the credit.  Another milestone completed.

The summer proved to be a trying time.  I found myself worrying constantly about Jared and his going out.  We argued quite a bit.  He was letting his chores slip at home and was constantly going out with friends.  This was so not how things were supposed to go.  I did not want Jared leaving for boot camp with anger between us. 

Jared was asserting his independence and I was reminding him of his responsibilities at home.  Of course, Jared called it nagging.  I think a lot of the problem was that Jared had a lot of free time.  He could not get a job because it would only be for a couple of months and he had no interest in taking a summer college course.  I found myself thinking that he needed to leave for boot camp soon.  I did not like how things were going at home with us.  I thought he should leave for boot camp before we really had it out. 

As is typical when you hear someone has graduated high school, you ask what their plans are.  When I would tell people that Jared was going in the Marines, I would get a ‘really’ kind of look.  Not too many reactions were ‘good for him.’  I can’t really blame them.  We are at war after all. 

Jared Agle's graduation from Marine Corps boot camp.

I watch the news and think well that’s a hot zone or that could be our next war.  Sadly, there will be lots of places in the world that Jared could end up in. 

The most disappointing conversation I had was with Jared’s best friend’s mother.  She told me how upset she was to hear that Jared had joined the Marines.  She told me she had tried to talk him out of it.  She was adamant that Jared should not go.  I was shocked.  Why would she think she should talk him out of it? 

When Jared first signed up, a lot of my family also gave Jared a hard time.  They questioned his decision constantly.  I felt bad for Jared because he constantly had to defend his decision.  I don’t think he was expecting such negative feedback from our family.  I had to remind myself that they really were concerned with Jared’s well being and they do not want him to go to war.  Jared would get short with them questioning him.  I could not really blame him.  I found I had to speak up to them so they would back off of Jared.  I think Jared’s feelings were hurt and he did not understand where they were coming from.  I tried to explain that they were just concerned for him.

Jared’s departure date was set for August 16th and that happened to be Rylee’s first day back to school.  We had a family graduation party in July for Jared and a lot of family was there.  The party went very well and Jared got to see family that he had not seen a while.  Jared started staying at home more.  He would just come and sit by me on the couch when I was reading.  I think he was realizing he was leaving home soon and things would never be the same.

Jared Agle in his official USMC photo.

And then, the Marines made their presence known in our lives. It became very clear that things were going to be different from now on.  Jared called me at work on Thursday, August 5th.  He had just received a call from his Marine recruiter that his departure date for boot camp had been moved up a week early to Sunday, August 9th.  Jared was asked if he could leave a week early.  As Jared said to me, “ I can’t say no mom.  I need to call him back and tell him okay”.  

I was proud of myself.  I told him to go ahead and call the Recruiter back and tell him that he would be ready to go.  I hung up with Jared. My heart was pounding so fast. I was in a panic.  My eyes teared up. I called Roger at work and told him.  I hung up with Roger and cried a bit.  I knew it was coming – I knew this day was coming.  I thought to myself, “the stupid military is already messing with my plans”. 

I thought I was ready for this and was finding that it was not true.  I knew I had to be strong.  I remember thinking that it is only boot camp, it’s not like he is going to war – At least not yet.  One step at a time, don’t borrow trouble.  Jared needs to do this – I need to let him go.  “If you love something then set it free….”, and all that.  Wow – Jared was really going into the Marines.

April Agle works in WUSF’s business office and among her many duties, she helps me and other staff with Human Resource issues. Her other contributions:

In Training to Become a Marine Mom

Here’s a link to WUSF’s  first story when Jared graduated boot camp.

In Training to Become a Marine Mom

Jared Agle at the Marine Recuiter drop-off on his way to joining the Corps.

On Friday, Jared Agle graduated from Marine Infantry training. This blog is featuring his journey through the eyes of his mother.

By April Agle

In October 2009, I remember Jared informed his Dad and me that he made an appointment for the Marine Recruiter to come to our house to explain the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP).  I was not thrilled and not because I was against Jared going into the military.  My concern was why the Marines? Did Jared check out the other branches?

Jared turned 17 in August 2009 and a senior at Zephyrhill’s High School.  He needed to make plans for after high school graduation, but I wanted him to thoroughly explore all options like college, technical school, and yes, the military.  I asked Jared to pray about his decision and make sure this is where God was leading him.  I already knew he was not going to choose college.  Jared had often talked about the Marines and wore clothing with Marine symbols on his shirts.  I knew he was choosing between the Marines and Fire College. As of October 2009, he decided on the Marines.

What a mother sees and feels as her 17-year-old son chooses to become a Marine.

I remember the young recruiter who came to the house. He was in a Marine dress uniform and I kept thinking to myself that he did not look much older than Jared.  I will say this: there is just something about a Marine in dress uniform. It is impressive.  The recruiter was very nice and answered every question I had on my list.  I had always heard you cannot trust a recruiter and I told him that.  He was not offended and explained step by step what the Delayed Enlistment Program was and the advantages for Jared.  Roger and I were convinced and signed the papers for Jared to be in the DEP.  Jared was so thrilled.  He got what he wanted.

Even before he was in the DEP, Jared participated in the Physical Training (PT) held each week.  How can a mom be upset with her child getting exercise?  There was a change in Jared right away.  He had a plan for his future, something to work towards, the decision had been made. 

Jared Agle at Marine Boot Camp on Family Day, November 2010.

Jared started paying attention to what he was eating.  He cut way back on his soda consumption.  He did crunches at home, pull-ups in the doorway and started running.  It was now mandatory to go to the PT weekly and attend Pool meets each month.  Jared was already a slim guy, but now he was getting fit.  Again, this is what moms want – healthy teenagers.  I think being in the DEP also helped Jared make better decisions in social situations.  We had often discussed with Jared how one little indiscretion could change the course of his life.  Now, Jared did not want anything to mess up his chance of becoming a Marine.

Jared had to take an entrance test, the ASFAB.  The Marines had raised the minimum score to pass making it harder for people to join.  Jared was concerned about it because he knew some guys that had not passed it their first attempt.  I was actually pleased that the ASFAB was a challenge.  This told me that you had to have smarts to get into the Marines.  I had this misconception that the Marines were the brawn and not necessarily the smarts.  I learned early on that this is not the case.

 I was relieved. The Marines actually encourage college education.  They have to take college classes to get certain promotions.  I was happy to be wrong and I apologize to all Marines for believing this stereo type.  Jared was able to pass his ASFAB first time through and he passed his physical and background check.  Jared was going to go to boot camp after high school graduation.

Jared Agle with his parents and sister on graduation day from Marine Boot Camp.

My pleasure was somewhat short lived because Jared had to choose his MOS, Military Occupational Specialty.  Jared chose Infantry.  I admit I had a problem with this.  I asked him all Marines shoot guns why do you have to specifically sign up to shoot guns?  There has to be something else you could do.  This is where the boy/man struggle is evident and I can see the immaturity.  Jared tells me he is looking for excitement and adventure.  And “besides, mom I get a signing bonus.”  I answered, “I know why they offer a signing bonus – it’s because you get shot at.”

Needless to say, much heated discussion took place.  In all reality, I have no decision or choice in this matter.  I signed the papers and Jared gets to decide.  Jared signed up for infantry.  At this point as a mom, I have to be supportive.  Jared really could be a diplomat – he can be convincing that he knows what he is doing.

Here’s a link to our first story when Jared graduated boot camp.

April Agle works in WUSF’s business office and among her many duties, she helps me and other staff with Human Resource issues.

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