Survival Skills to Succeed as a Citadel Mom

Recognition Day for the Class of 2014 at The Citadel is this Saturday, April 16. As I wrote earlier, this is the best day in the life of a first year cadet, or knob as they are called.

Readying for the cadets to arrive in Marion Square, the original site of The Citadel in Charleston. Reenactors are dressed in the uniform of the original cadets. The building in the background is the original site of the school.Now, it is an Embassy Suites Hotel.

It is the day that marks the end of the 4th Class System and the knobs become full members of the Corps of Cadets.  It is a day that begins with several hours of physical challenges, followed by a period of being “recognized” –  called by their first name for the first time. In the afternoon the first year cadets march to Marion Square, the site of the original Citadel, to retake their cadet oath.

Over the past five years or so an increasing number of parents and family members head to Charleston to watch the proceedings of the day from a distance. Alumni from the school tell me that wasn’t done when they were cadets. Like most things in life, traditions change.

The first year cadets arrive on Marion Square and prepare to re-take their cadet oath.

The number of emails I’m receiving from first year parents indicates that quite a few parents will attend the events this year too. The big question I’ve been asked is, “What is the schedule for the day.”

I learned very early in my son’s tenure at The Citadel that you can find the answer to most questions by searching the web site.  Scheduling questions are usually answered on the “Office of the Commandant” page under “Operations and Training.” Recognition Day 2011 is no different. The full schedule for the day is available there in PowerPoint format.

Members of Bravo Company Class of 2011 re-take their cadet oath.

Parents who really want to learn about the training their cadet receives can check out the “Training” section of the Office of the Commandant page.

You may wonder how I learned about all this. The answer is I’m curious plus I have a son who doesn’t tell me much.  If I want to learn about the school and his training, I have to find out on my own. The good news is, after talking with other parents, I found I wasn’t alone!  Many of my Citadel Ya Ya friends helped fill in the blanks when I didn’t know about certain traditions or events.

I’m beginning to learn about resources for Army parents like the web site Go Army Parents and Blue Star Mothers for mothers of active duty military members.

Our children may be the ones at the leadership school and going into the military, but their parents helped give them the skills necessary to succeed;-)

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The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

I really thought I’d be more emotional this past weekend. It was Corps Day Weekend.  The weekend when The Citadel celebrates it’s founding. During this weekend the Summerall Guards change to the new class of cadets and the Citadel Family Association holds its final meeting of the academic year.

The Citadel Family Association area representatives representing: Georgia, Florida, California, Massachusetts and New York. Photo by Stanley Leary.

It normally doesn’t take much for a tear to come to my eye.  Given this weekend of good-byes, I really thought I’d need a whole box of tissues. It didn’t turn out that way. Friday afternoon, I attended the Citadel Family Association meeting. I’ve served as the Cadet Recruitment and Retention Coordinator this past year and this meeting is when I introduced the new coordinators.

Seeing so many parents whom I now call friends out weighed my grief over leaving this chapter of my life. I had a great time seeing; and in some cases meeting face-to-face for the first time, parents I’d worked with via Facebook and email the past year or so. It was so much fun seeing everyone that I didn’t dwell on the fact that I may not see them again.  With Facebook and email, I know I’ll continue to be connected and in touch via cyber space.

Shamus Gillen of The Citadel Admissions office presents Dorie Griggs with a Recognition Award for her volunteer service. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Friday night was also a celebration. We went to dinner with two other families and their cadets.  My son is a 2011 Summerall Guard from Bravo Company.  Their sons were incoming 2012 Summerall Guards, also from Bravo Company. This dinner wasn’t about good-byes but rather celebrating the achievements of our sons.

Saturday morning was the real test.  It was the time I came the closest to shedding a tear. In a very formal ceremony on the parade field the 2011 Summerall Guards passed their rifles to the 2012 Summerall Guards.

Cadet Nelson Lalli (second from left) and the 2011 Summerall Guards prepare to pass their rifles to the 2012 Summerall Guards. Photo by Stanley Leary.

My son would pass his rifle to his good friend.  As the time approached for the exchange I could feel the emotion and the tears begin to well up. Seeing the beaming parents of the 2012 Bond Volunteers as they marched on to the field to become the 2012 Summerall Guards kept me from dwelling on the sadness of an ending.

Good friends, 2011 Summerall Guards, Matt Spysinski, Nelson Lalli, James Harrell before the rifle exchange. Photo by Stanley Leary.

I refocused on the thrill of seeing the 2012 Summerall Guards perform the Citadel series for the very first time in front of an audience. Last year I was so happy for, and proud of our 2011 Summerall Guard I was smiling not crying.  It was a fun day that began with the rifle exchange and continued when we joined the other 2011 families at a luncheon and had the opportunity to purchase our “Summerall Guard Parent” t-shirt.

Saturday evening was time for more celebration, and probably the reason I did not become as emotional as I thought I would over this last Corps Day as the mom of a cadet. We spent the evening with several friends who are parents of graduates of The Citadel. I was the only one there with a cadet still in school. 

The 2011 Citadel Ya Ya’s reunion, plus friends. Photo by Stanley Leary.

These wonderful folks, part of the Citadel Ya Ya’s, traveled great distances so we could all have time to visit and catch up. Through this group, I’ve learned that just because your son or daughter graduates you don’t have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends you’ve made.

In a way, it must be how the cadets feel.  They may be separated by military service, job transfers, etc., but they share the common experience and bond that no one will ever break. Our cadets wear the Ring, and we share in their triumph and dear friends we have made over these last four years and the heartstrings that will always keep us connected.

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