A Citadel Mom Marks Her Son’s Transition to Army Ranger

Bravo Seniors display their rings Friday afternoon outside the barracks. Photo by Stanley Leary.

One week from today, my son will graduate from Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (BOLC). In two weeks, parents of cadets at The Citadel will descend on Charleston for Parents’ Weekend.  It is also Ring weekend, the time all cadets look forward to their senior year.

This year is the first year, in the past four, that we will not be in Charleston for Parents’ Weekend.  We are creating new rituals as the family of a graduate and new second lieutenant. I will miss the rhythm of the college school year.  Fortunately, I’ve made some wonderful friends and know we will go to Charleston for visits but our time won’t be spent following the official schedule of events for cadets.

Bravo Company Cadre lead the first year knobs in a set of push-ups at the promotion ceremony. Parents’ Weekend the knobs are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. Photo by Stanley Leary.

I’m already missing the regular information posts of The Citadel.  As the mom of a second lieutenant, I have to rely on calls, emails, or text messages from my son to fill me in on what type of training he is going through.  The Public Affairs Office at Fort Benning does have a lot of information posted, but much of it is geared toward the spouses of soldiers, not family members who are not in the area of the base. To learn the location, time and directions to the graduation next week took a phone call and a few email messages.

The next phase is Ranger School.  My son will report at the end of October. The website for Ranger School is very helpful.  I’ve also read Facebook posts of his classmates who are in the Ranger School class immediately ahead of him. They all know just how challenging this training is.  A few 2011 graduates of The Citadel have mentioned that their schedule in the real Army is tougher than knob (freshman) year.  That is saying a LOT.

Lightening Troop Class 11-005 Recon Mounted STX. Photo courtesy of the class' Facebook page.

In some ways, I feel like the mom of a knob. I get little information from my son.  He is putting in long hours and getting little rest. And he still appreciates care packages of protein based foods.

Unlike knob year, I don’t have the comfort of regular photos being posted to a web site, or parent volunteers to call with questions. In that regard, I am like any other parent of a recent college graduate living away from home and working at a new job . . . until he is deployed.

Advertisements

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Bravo Company cadets retake the Cadet Oath on Marion Square the historic site of The Citadel.

Cadets at The Citadel don’t show much emotion. There are two times in the last four years that I’ve seen my son and his classmates show shear joy, Recognition Day and Ring Weekend.

Recognition Day is the biggest day in the life of a first year cadet, or Knob as they are called. This day is the official end of the Fourth Class System. They cease being Knobs and are full members of the Corps of Cadets. The freshmen are recognized by the upperclassmen, being called by their first names for the first time since they arrived at The Citadel.  They no longer have to address the upperclassmen as Mr. or Ms. (although this can take some getting used to.)

Cadet Nelson Lalli After being Recognized with his mother, Dorie Griggs and sister, Chelle.

On the designated morning, the first year cadets and the upperclassmen get up early and do a series of tough physical training exercises.  The morning ends with each company in the barracks. The Knobs do a series of push ups then crawl to the company Guidon and repeat the cadet prayer together. They then stand together and hear the announcement over the loud speakers that ends with “The Fourth Class System is no longer in effect.” 

I’m told the emotions run very high and many cadets have tears of joy, relief and pride streaming down their faces. After a BBQ lunch in the barracks, they get ready for their march to Marion Square, the site of the original building of The Citadel to repeat the Cadet Oath.

My son’s Knob year my daughter and I went to Charleston to watch the march into Marion Square. We arrived on campus just in time to peer through the sally port, the gateway entrance in to the barracks, to hear the announcement. Some parents and family members had been there all morning watching from a distance. As we got ready to leave for Marion Square, we caught a glimpse of Nelson and other Bravo Company cadets practicing with the Guidon. As one of the new company clerks he would carry the Guidon in front of the company during parades.

Senior Cadet Nelson Lalli receives his ring. Photo by Stanley Leary.

He actually had a minute to run out and take photos with us, which we were extremely surprised (and happy) about since we were told that the cadets would have little if any time with their family this day. A huge grin across his face.

Three years later I saw that joy in his face again as he and the other senior cadets received their rings. Unlike other colleges, cadets at The Citadel earn the right to wear the ring. They must meet the strict guidelines for grades, discipline, etc. before they can get their ring. To understand the significance of the ring you really need to spend time with the cadets. You can get a glimpse of the significance of the Band of Gold to the graduates by reading Pat Conroy’s commencement address from 2001. I can’t read this speech without tearing up.

Bravo Company seniors show off their new rings. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Just a few months ago, we prepared to travel to Charleston to watch as our cadet and his classmates received their rings on a Friday afternoon. Since my husband, Stanley, is a photographer, Nelson asked if he’d  take photos as the cadets ran back into the barracks with their rings to toast each other in front of the company letter. Stanley was given permission to be in the Battalion from the 1St Battalion TAC officer, the staff person who oversees the each company and the barracks. My daughter and I watched from the side gates.

Cadet Nelson Lalli escorts his mother, Dorie Griggs and his date, Leslie Manzano. Photo by Stanley Leary.

Up until a few years ago, the cadets received their rings in the Summerall Chapel. The shear number of people attending led the ceremony to be moved to the McAlister Field House.  Once the cadets get their rings and are dismissed, they run out of the field house, across the parade field to the Chapel, then back to their Battalion to toast each other. They then emerge from the Battalion grinning ear to ear with their right hand held to display their new class ring. It is the first time I’d really seen so many cadets exude shear joy.  That joy lasted throughout the weekend.

One last tradition around Parents/Ring Weekend is the Ring Ceremony that takes place Friday evening. The cadets escort their mother and a date or other family member through a giant replica of the Ring and through the Junior Sword Arch as the name of the cadet and the people being escort are announced. As a Mom, it was one of those moments where I was grinning ear to ear, very proud of my son and his accomplishments.

Dorie Griggs and her father, L.M. Griggs in 1980 at her Junior Ring Dance.

That evening I was brought back memories for me of an evening thirty years before at my Junior Ring Dance. I was escorted by my father down the grand staircase of the Jefferson Hotel as the Class of 1981 of Westhampton College of the University of Richmond was presented.  My mother died when I was pregnant with Nelson and my father died a few years later.  They would have been so proud of their grandson.  In a very real way, I felt that I represented our whole family that evening last fall.

It’s so fun to look through the photos from that weekend.  The shear joy of the cadets, their families and friends come shining through. One photo struck me as I reviewed the scores Stanley had taken.  After they toasted each other and threw the glasses at the company letter and then took a photo in front of the Bravo Company letter, the seniors of Bravo Company gathered in a tight circle with their right hands in front of them, bowed their heads and repeated the cadet prayer, like they had done three years before on Recognition Day.

Bravo Company seniors gather together to recite the Cadet Prayer. Photo by Stanley Leary

video: The Citadel, Golf Company Recognition Day 2009

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

%d bloggers like this: