Lessons Learned from a Son’s First Deployment

Dorie Griggs inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping. PHOTO CREDIT: Stanley Leary

Dorie Griggs inventorying the supplies before packing them for shipping.
PHOTO CREDIT: Stanley Leary

By Dorie Griggs

My son’s battalion will return home soon. I’ve looked through my photos and notes about the year.

During that time I have mailed over 443 pounds of needed items to both my son, his platoon, and the battalion. That number includes a Christmas mailing providing gift bags for each member of the platoon, a large shipment of items to the battalion headquarters of underwear and socks, as well as Easter, birthday and regular care packages.

Putting these mailings together was a community effort. It helped me pass the time by providing helpful items to our soldiers. Many of my friends sent their own boxes. I know my son and his soldiers appreciated their gifts. Continue reading

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7 Mother’s Day Tips from a Military Mom

Dorie Griggs with her son and daughter during Family Day at Ft. Stewart. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Dorie Griggs with her son and daughter during Family Day at Ft. Stewart. Photo by Stanley Leary.

I am the mom of a member of the U.S. Army. My son is deployed right now. Which means I experience a wide array of emotions any given day, sometimes within the span of a few minutes.

Mother’s Day is approaching quickly. Holidays have a way of bringing up the emotions we can hide the rest of the year. Having a child deployed this year I anticipate a few down moments as I approach that day.

I’d like to offer a few suggestions to readers who would like to show support for a military mom this Mother’s Day.

4 Ways to Help a Military Mom

Offer to send a care package to the deployed soldier. Knowing my son receives packages from a variety of friends makes me smile.

If you don’t have the time or money to send a package, offer to contribute to the postage costs, or supplies. Military families spend a lot on postage during the deployment.

Do let the mom of a deployed soldier know you appreciate their service.

Treat the mom of a deployed soldier to a lunch or dinner out, just to chat. Enjoying positive company is a great stress reliever.

3 Things to Avoid with a Military Mom

I love surprises, but not while my son is deployed. If you would like to visit the mom of a deployed soldier call first to let her know you are coming over. An unexpected knock on the door can bring visions of uniformed officers coming to let you know your soldier has been killed. Please don’t put the family of a deployed soldier through that scenario.

Having a deployed son or daughter is stressful. We get through it one day at a time. Making statements like, “I don’t know how you do it.” Is not helpful. We don’t know how we do it either.

Avoid overtly political discussions, unless the parent starts the conversation. Whether you agree or disagree with what is going on does not change the fact that my son is deployed and I worry.

I hope to spend this Mother’s Day with my husband and two children who are still home. Hearing from my deployed son would be a huge bonus.

The Citadel Ya-Yas become Military Moms

The Citadel Ya-Yas in March of 2010. Photo by Stanley Leary.

A year ago Monday, I wrote about the friends I made through the Citadel Family Association, The Citadel Ya Yas. We are a geographically diverse group of moms who met through our volunteer work and our mutual interest in supporting our children while they attended The Citadel. This group of friends continues to be a strong source of friendship, support and comfort. Between us we have children in the private sector, graduate school, and a few branches of the military. We are in touch through Facebook, email, and phone calls when really important events pop up.

The summer my son attended Leader Development & Assessment Course (LDAC), I found a another group of friends. Most of us have never met, or even spoken on the phone.  We are family members of the cadets who went through LDAC the summer of 2010. We met via the LDAC 2010 Facebook group.  We formed our own Facebook group and now support each other as our children become officers and go through the various stages of training and active duty.

ABOLC graduation. Dorie Griggs, 2LT Nelson Lalli, Chelle Leary, Taylor Lalli. Photo by Stanley Leary.

LDAC also maintains an excellent blog, Operation Warrior Forge, where they post photos and stories about the cadets at LDAC. I was able to watch the graduation in real-time via their live stream, WarriorForgeLive. The LDAC 2012 group should be up later this spring.

I am now on the steep learning curve now being the mom of a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. I’ve learned about Fort Benning, the Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (ABOLC), the Armor Branch traditions, Airborne School, Ranger school, Reconnaissance Surveillance Leader Course (RSLC), and am now learning about Fort Stewart and the 3rd Battalion, 69th Armor Regiment. Each one of these groups has a Facebook page or group as well. I wrote blog entries about our experience at the Armor BOLC graduation and included links to the sites where I learned about their traditions. I also wrote about the Airborne School first jump and graduation.

Airborne School graduation, November 2011. Photo by Stanley Leary.

When my son went to Airborne school, I corresponded with other family members through the  US Army Airborne School, Fort Benning Facebook group. Some of us met at the Fryar Drop Zone or at graduation. We shared photos from the jumps we attended and even checked on each others’ soldiers. A few of us are now Facebook friends. The experience last fall helped me see the bond the families of active duty military members share.

I am finding that as the mother of a single soldier some information is harder to track down. The Family Readiness Groups seem to be geared more toward the married soldiers who have spouses with them on base to attend meetings and events. At least, this is my experience with a soldier who is not deployed. I was visiting the Fort Stewart site recently and saw a post about their redesign. I plan on sending in a few suggestions.

One of the stated goals of their new design from the feedback page: “We are aiming to be a model example for all other military websites to be based upon.” If you are the family member of a single soldier and have ideas to share, scroll to the bottom of this page and send in your suggestion.

Prayers for Those Lost in This and All Conflicts

I, like most, am struggling with the devastating loss of the 37 Americans and Afghans in a helicopter crash. I do not know how to respond. “Old-school” journalists are supposed to remain objective, emotionally detached. Yet, whether it’s 37 or just one death, there now are families without a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, a spouse.

My response was to turn to a friend, a trained minister and Off the Base blog contributor Dorie Griggs. I asked if she could write a short prayer to share. And, the great friend that she is she offered me, fellow readers and the families of those killed this comfort:

BY DORIE GRIGGS

Our hearts ache with the tragic news of Saturday morning’s helicopter crash in Afghanistan and the death of so many of American the Afghan soldiers. Prayers of condolence are sent to the families and friends of the fallen, their battle buddies, and to the scores of soldiers and support personnel who are in mourning today. Help us to be mindful of ways in which we can reach out to the families of these soldiers and the scores of soldiers carrying on throughout the world.

She also shared this prayer received from the National Chaplain:

REV. LIN MCGEE, National Chaplain

I come on my knees this day to beseech each and every member of our organization to stay in constant prayer for our beloved troops and their waiting families.

This morning, in Afghanistan, Taliban insurgents shot down a United States Chinook helicopter, killing 31 (UPDATED reports now say 30 Americans were killed) of our precious children along with the 7 Afghans that were also aboard.

Gracious God above, how long will this war go on and how many heroes will we loose!  The Department of Defense has issued a statement — yet no statement will ever bring these children back to their waiting mothers and other loved ones.  Our hearts are broken!

Please pray for these families ~ please pray for all of our families that are enduring this war from the front lines!!  Please pray that the devastation and loss from the war will soon be over!

People see us and they think our lives are as others — but they are not.  Each day we await our heroes, each day our stomachs burn, our throats are filled with lumps, and our eyes tear in a moment.  Some days it is difficult just to get up, brush our teeth, and get our cloths on.  Some days are impossible – like today.  We are the families whose loved ones guard the world with commitment, dedication, and often the giving of their own lives.

I shall pray for you throughout the day.  I know each of our lives has been shattered by this horrific tragedy.

PRAYERS FOR PEACE, IN TEARS.

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