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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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:

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

Care packages being prepared for Citadel Cadets prior to Christmas.

Parents at The Citadel are like parents at any school or university. We care deeply for our children and their well being. Some of the Citadel cadets have obligations to the military which may require them to be deployed while they are still students.  When one mother learned about this, she leapt into action and started The Citadel Heroes project. That mom’s son is now a graduate and serves in the Air Force, but the work continues through parent volunteers and staff support.

Started about four years ago, The Citadel Heroes Project is an all volunteer program.  Volunteers donate money and items to be sent in care packages to the deployed cadets and recent graduates. The staff of the Health, Exercise & Sport Science Department coordinate sending the boxes several times a year.

The next mailing will go out after the annual Corps Day weekend, March 17 – 20. During the weekend events, visitors will be asked to sign cards and drop off donations for the care packages. Money is also needed to cover the postage to mail the boxes.

Family and volunteers continue to support Citadel Cadets with hundreds of care packages as they deploy.

If you would like to help this effort, you can send a check made out to The Citadel Heroes Project and mail it to: The Citadel Heroes, c/o Col. John Carter, Dept of HESS, 171 Moultrie St., Charleston, SC 29409.

If you would like to be added to the email list for future announcements, contact Gwen Christ, The Citadel Heroes Project Manager: fpgwen@aol.com.

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.

Where I’m From: It’s About Being a Marine

Major Gen. Ronald L. Bailey.

The U.S. Marine Corps is using Black History month to launch its national campaign: Where I’m From, which showcases Marines and their hometowns.

Major General Ronald Bailey is a St. Augustine, FL  native and currently the Commanding General of the Marine Corps Recruiting Command and based in San Diego.

Bailey was a football star and member of the Army ROTC at Austin Peay State University when the Marine selection officer convinced him in 1977 to give the Corps a try.

“I fell for that old macho, ‘it’s too tough for you’ trick,” Bailey said. “After I got in the Marine Corps, I realized my personality and my goals and what I wanted to do in life and what I wanted to become were in line with the United States Marine Corps.”

He met  African American role models in the Corps who convinced him to make it his career. He said the military offered him opportunities and he agreed that the military has been in the forefront of social change such as dealing with desegregation after WWII.

“Work hard, do your job, be the best, then you’re going to be okay,” Bailey said. “You know as I and many in America understand the difficulties we’ve traveled, but we’ve grown from it and we’ve gotten past those and we still are getting past those.”

Major Gen. Ronald Bailey, center.

“Even when I look at the ‘Where I’m From’ Campaign, it’s a success story,” Bailey said. “You have individuals from their community showing that you too can be successful in life and you too can be a U.S. Marine.”

The campaign’s goal is to initiate a conversation with the American public not just the African American community. So, the multi-media campaign will continue beyond this month with TV and radio ads as well as internet banners. The “Where  I’m Fromwebsite shows a map with photos of Marines near their hometowns.

Initially, the Marine Commandant testified against lifting the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy regarding military service members’ sexual orientation. But, Bailey said the commandant now says it’s a “leadership issue” and is “stepping forward and carrying out the policies of our nation.”

“The environment that I’m establishing on my base and the recruiting command is one of acceptance,” Bailey said. “To insure that every Marine will have the opportunity to reach his or her potential regardless of age, race, sexual orientation. It’s about being a Marine and Marines do the right thing.”

To learn more about the U.S. Marine Corps “Where I’m From Campaign”, click here.

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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