Marine Mom First Deployment Ends & Other Homecomings

April and son Jared shortly after his completion of boot camp.

The Marine son of my colleague and friend, April Agle,  is beginning his journey home from his first deployment to Afghanistan. We’ll share news of his homecoming when it happens.

But, for those who need a piece of good news now – there’s the  website, Welcome Home. I introduced it on the blog about a year ago. It shares daily, heartwarming videos and stories from military families with many surprise homecomings. Here’s the most recent entry:

“After being gone for months performing route clearance missions in Afghanistan, I came home to surprise my Fiancée’, Katie, while she was having lunch at the Student Union on campus at Mississippi State University. My sister and brother-in-law were recording the video, and some friends at Event Services helped play our song, “God Gave me You,” over the speaker system in the food court. It is also the song I proposed to. She had no idea I was coming!”

-John G.

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A Marine Mom: Paris Island Graduation Day

By April Agle, a new Marine Mom

We were allowed on base for family day on Thursday, November 4, 2010, starting at 5:30 a.m.  I was so going to be there and we were.  We were not the only families anxious for a peek at our Marines. 

Paris Island was April Agle's first time on a military base.

This was also my first time on a military base. 

Even though 5:30 – 6:00 a.m. seems early to us, the base was a bee hive of activity.  There were Marine recruits everywhere and in different weeks of boot camp.  They all looked the same.  How were we going to find Jared?  And would we even recognize him?

Jared’s graduating class had a morning run that we watched and we had no idea which Marine was Jared.  Then, we all had to go into this huge metal building where bleachers were set up.  We were told that the Marines would file in.  They would be dismissed, but they had to stay on base and they had to report back by 4:00 p.m.  We were to make sure they were not late. 

The anticipation was killing me.  The Marines filed in and we were all looking for Jared trying to figure out which one he was.  They really and truly all looked the same.  So handsome in their uniforms.  I teared up with pride for them all.  There were hundreds of them and they were all so young.

And then chaos.  The Marines were dismissed.  The families in the bleaches converged on the Marines and the Marines were converging on their families in the bleachers.  People everywhere and everyone looking for their families. 

Marine Mom April Agle with her newly graduated Marine, Jared, and daughter, Rylee.

Jared was able to find us.  I was so proud of him.  He looked absolutely amazing.  We hugged each other and cried.  Everyone’s emotions were high.  I had such a lump in my throat.  My son was a Marine.  How awesome. 

On Wednesday night before family day, a Marine was set up in the hotel lobby for families to ask questions.  He made the suggestion that we might want to bring a picnic lunch because the restaurants would be packed.  We would waste a lot of our visiting time waiting in line and for food. 

It was a great suggestion.  We bought sub sandwiches, chips, sodas, cookies and munchies.  I had asked a Marine on base where there was a playground picnic area on base and he gave us directions.  That worked out great.  It was somewhat away from everything going on and the kids had a playground to play on and run around. 

Marine Graduation Family Day Jared Agle poses with his sister and cousins from New York and Georgia who came to down for his graduation.

My emotions were all over the place.  Jared was so different, but the same.  He seemed very stiff.  He almost seemed uptight, like he was not relaxed.  I thought, how am I supposed to talk with him.  He was not at ease, but almost formal.  I was concerned, but tried not to think about it.  I was thrilled to see him eat. 

We took pictures until I’m sure Jared thought his face was going to fall off.  Jared told us the plan for graduation.  He was going to go directly back to his barracks and get his sea bag.  Roger was to meet him by the flag pole and they would head to the car.  That would allow us to get off base as quickly as possible.  It seems Jared wanted off Paris Island as soon as possible.

April's daughter Rylee stands on the "infamous" yellow foot prints to Marines training at Paris Island.

Friday, November 5th – Graduation Day.  I can’t explain it other than to say – WOW.  Hundreds of Marines marching in formation and all in dress uniform.  It was an impressive sight.  I was so proud of them all.  There were men and women Marines graduating.

We finally got Jared and made our way off Paris Island and to the hotel.  I still felt that Jared was very formal or reserved.  It took another day for Jared to finally start to ‘decompress’ or something. 

The only thing I can think of was that Jared had been under a microscope for 12 weeks.  He was judged each and every minute of every day.  I guess maybe he had to figure out that he was not being judged anymore.  He had to maybe tell himself it was okay to relax.  As the days went on, he became less reserved and formal.  He started to joke around and argue with his sister.

Rylee and my niece Madilyn had used car chalk on all of our vehicles for Jared’s graduation.  The cars now proclaimed USMC graduate Paris Island.  On our drive home, it was so great, cars would pull up next to us and beep the horn and give a thumbs up.  Jared thought that was cool.  I think he was still trying to absorb that he was a Marine. 

We were driving down the interstate into Florida and a police SUV started beeping its horn and continued beeping as it passed us.  My guess is that he was a Marine and was letting us know he too had experience with Paris Island.  Jared was now part of a brotherhood that only another Marine would understand.

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:

Birthdays, Weddings, A Mom Misses Her New Marine

Boot camp Marine Jared Agle's sister and cousins send him a photo message from their October family gathering.

By April Agle, a new Marine Mom

(My Marine son) Jared is blessed with a wonderful family.  Someone was always sending him a letter or card.  Parents, sister, aunts, uncles, and both sets of grandparents. I know it was important that he have some mail almost every day.  I kept thinking what if he has a really bad day and that is the day that he does not get mail.

I have a whole new appreciation for the military families from past wars.  The time when the only communication was via letters.  Our generation is quite spoiled with our ability to instantly contact one another with cell phones, email, and skype.  Boot camp only allows letters – snail mail. 

It is amazing what you can pick up in letters.  You can really get a sense of the person’s feelings, whether they are happy or down.  Over the weeks Jared’s letters were up and down. 

Roger Agle (left) and 17-year-old son, Jared, August 2010 just before reporting to Paris Island boot camp.

It was frustrating writing to encourage him knowing that his mood would probably be over before he received my encouragement.  I found I had many questions for Jared after reading his letters and it was frustrating not being able to ask and get the answer right away.

Jared’s birthday is in August.  He was going to have his 18th birthday at Paris Island.  This was a hard day for all of us.  Jared was down in the dumps as his birthday was getting closer. 

I joked with him writing that this would be the only birthday that he would remember everything about.  He would always remember where he was and what he was doing on his 18th birthday.  Something he could share with his own children some day.

It was the first birthday of Jared’s that I was not with him.  No cake and no special dinner.

I heard from an acquaintance of mine, Jenny, that her husband was being deployed to Afghanistan.  They have two young children.  She is such a positive upbeat person and a true inspiration.  Jenny was encouraging me, when she was and is going through so much herself. 

Now part of the "military family," April's friend Jenny shares this photo of her children and husband before his deployment.

Jenny and her children stopped at work to see me.  Her children made Jared a Thank you card and asked for me to send it to him.  It was the sweetest thing.  Their dad is deployed and they took time to make something for Jared.  I was so touched.  I was starting to see what a close knit group the military is.

A family event was coming up and this would be the first time Jared would not be with us.  My brother was getting married on October 23rd.  My husband, Roger, and my daughter, Rylee, were going to be standing up.  Family came in from out of state.  My brothers and sisters and their spouses and children all were at the wedding.  Jared was the only one not in attendance. 

This bothered me quite a bit.  I dreaded the family picture of us all because Jared was not there.  The whole time spent with family I felt something was missing, Jared. 

Jared’s graduation was quickly approaching.  Jared had written me at one time, “time seems to be going by quickly and yet so slowly at the same time.”  I know exactly what he meant. 

I wanted to be at Paris Island as soon as possible.  It was going to be awesome.  We had a large group of family that was going to meet in South Carolina for Jared’s graduation.  I was so excited that so much family was doing this to support Jared.  We received our pass to go on base in the mail.  YES – it was almost over.

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:

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