Navy Son- Phone calls

 

Recce Dog

Reece wonders how you all are doing….

HI. How is everyone? Are you holding up during this pandemic?  I can tell you that I am trying to do many things to keep myself from getting too stressed or scared. I have tasked myself with building a new website for our business. I think that will give me sufficient time to not be thinking about this virus. I am exercising, and riding my horse. These things balance me. If I read too much news I am become overwhelmed. I have tried to limit myself to certain times of day to watch or read any news on the pandemic.  If I spend too much time thinking about things my mind go bonkers.

I have been spending some of my time on Facebook pages dedicated to support the loved ones of the Navy recruits that go through the training center in Great Lakes Il. They train over 32.000 navy sailors yearly. Thats amazing.  I am sorry I won’t get to see the place. Covid-19 wrecked graduations for these sailors – and so many other 2020 grads in the world.

The RTC is a well-oiled machine. At the moment they are trying to battle outbreaks of the virus by quarantining new recruits before they begin training and they have had to quarantine divisions if an outbreak occurs. This significantly slows the process of getting new minted sailors out the door to get them to their career training which can take up to 15 months in some cases- and  there have been delays for those waiting to go to training. The Navy has had to make changes on the fly to deal with this unknown enemy.

I have depended on these FB pages to provide me with updated info but also to give me support during a very stressful time. One day we are talking about getting mail and then another about PIR (grad) gifts. Some days wives or husbands need support as they struggle with the separation of their spouse or moms just need a virtual hug.  We share photos and joys of our SR (Seaman Recruit), we celebrate when a family gets the “I am a Sailor” phone call- as that’s the only real celebration these sailors get right now.  And we get rumors about this and that and the admins help navigate those.  And sometimes we get wind of the best rumor of all – phone calls.

The SRs don’t get calls very often. In normal bootcamp (aka no virus around) that SRs get to call a loved one four times. Once when they get to bootcamp- a quick scripted call- I got that one at 3am; then at around three weeks- that one can be longer; and again at five weeks; then the “I am a Sailor” call. Of course if there is an illness or injury they are able to call home as well.

During this pandemic the protocol has changed a bit. We have had three calls already. The I am here call, then the one we had on my 21st anniversary with my hubby- that call was a shock – I wasn’t expecting it .  Luke had no idea it was our anniversary but I told him he gave us the best gift. We spoke for over 30 minutes and it was emotional. Luke had just gotten out of quarantine and was working through P days – aka processing days. There you do just that- get processed- medicals, banking, payroll, etc. He was facing some fitness tests that were making him a little nervous. When we hung up I cried happy and sad tears. I had no idea when I would hear from him again. But I had the relief of knowing he was doing ok for the most part.

The relief is short-lived.  Some worry and stress begin to build up as time marches on. I wrote him a number of letters and hoped we would get one from him.  There were messages on the FB pages that reported some new cases of the virus. If your SR is ill they will call -and you so want a call- but not that call. But with each scheduled (non-emergency) call comes a celebration on the pages. When our SR calls we usually see many reports of the calls from the division. It is a nice place to be because we all know the feelings we are having.

This past Saturday Kevin and I were sitting on the back deck and my phone rang and I saw the Illinois exchange and I grabbed the phone. There had been a rumor on the pages that calls were going to come over this weekend.  I was not counting on it because we had heard from him only two weeks ago. But the call came!

I put the phone on speaker and set it on the table.  Since we had just gotten a letter the day before I knew he had passed the fitness and swim tests.  I knew he was so proud when he received his uniforms with his name on them. But we talked about it all and more. He is still coming to the realization that he is really doing this. In this call he sounded like a different person. I hear the confidence in his voice. The happiness that he is making friends and the pride of his accomplishments.  This is assurance that he is where he needs to be.

I look forward to meeting this new person sometime soon I hope. I had been told that the Navy will transform my kid. He will come into his own. I believed that but didn’t think I would see it this fast. He has always had a good heart. But he was lost as lost could be. Now I think he is found and is developing a sense of self and is now on the life journey of learning more about himself through experiences. I am amazed.

The lifelines for families of loved ones serving in the military are letters and calls – more letters and more calls.  When will we get the next call? I am thinking maybe the weekend of May 17- Kevin’s birthday weekend. That would be great – but we cannot count on it. There is rumor they may graduate early if there are no setbacks, so perhaps the next call will be the “I am a Sailor” call?

All we can do is get ready and wait.

 

Navy Son – Letters —

LettersOn Monday I had the nicest surprise – quite unexpected actually. I had two letters from my son, SR Sweeney (Seaman Recruit), from bootcamp. He should be about completed his two week quarantine- we think – we don’t know for sure. The letters I got from him were written April 1 and one before that.  I think his bootcamp training will begin soon but there is also the virus to contend with and there was a case or two at the center so I have no idea how things are progressing there.

I must say I didn’t expect him to write us much at all.  I was so doubtful that I sent him  with cards and  pre-addressed envelopes. I was making it so easy for him to send us a word or two. I had no idea he would be writing us in quarantine – I wasn’t sure what was allowed.

My son’s letters to us were not on the pre-addressed cards I gave him but instead on Navy RTC stationary. I think I marveled at them like he was five and in kindergarten and brought home his first handwriting assignment.  He actually wrote a whole letter- no two letters!  And yes I am saving every one we get! Just like his those kindergarten assignments.  Once a mom always a mom.

His letters were basic really. But he expressed his desire to get going to work. I also could tell the virus situation had finally become real to him. He wanted us to know the Red Cross could get him a message fast if anything serious went down with us here.  He had been out once or twice to get some medical checks. He got glasses. He’s making some friends. For that I was glad as he is shy. The food was not great. I found out from my Facebook group that they are getting bagged food until they mainstream.

He updated me on some business items they had gone over with him once he was there.  He asked that we write him back. He said he didn’t know what was going on in the outside world.  I struggle with how much to share with him. I know it won’t be anything that I feel would stress him while he is in bootcamp.

But the kicker for me were these words:I miss you both so much…I love you both so much… Definitely not words I would expect from my son. He is shy. He holds back feelings. And those words are what broke me open…tears flowed.  It felt so nice to read the words but also they made me worry about him a little more too.

I know it will be ok. Well I pray it will be.  I know he’s in a bit of a shock now. If he is homesick it should pass- especially after he gets going in bootcamp.  He won’t have as much time to think. He will be exhausted by the end of each day. He will wish he was in quarantine again-  I am told.

Letters are like gold. They connect us when we don’t have the luxury of text or email. Oh how I miss those at your fingers tools! But the separation is needed. It takes that civilian and makes them into a soldier -part of unit. United together for one cause. I get it but I hate the silence.

I am not a true Navy parent yet. We are just at the beginning. But I already know this worry about your child is not the same as leaving them at two-week camp in the summer or dropping them off at college. This is something that is bigger…and I don’t mean to downplay those other worries. I have been through those too, so I speak only from how I am feeling now compared to those other times that we let the thread that ties us together out longer than it had been before.  It was scary and exciting and hopeful.  That worry ebbed a bit as time wore on. But now this thread will be a long unending spool let out further and further. It is so much bigger – this worry- than what I have felt before. Parenthood is the never-ending roller coaster ride of emotion.

I am sensing that this worry is like a knot that lodges itself somewhere inside.  Because this is only the beginning. There will be deployments to far away lands. Missions we won’t know about in detail but know they exist in theory. We won’t ever feel  he is truly safe unless  he is real standing in front of us – and when  he is near us it is only for a short time and there will be a parting again…and the worry cycle continues. I am not there yet but I have a sense that this worry is a different beast. I am very unsettled.

And the letters come and there is an exhale…not a release of all the worry but some. They are a gift. Something I didn’t know I would cherish until they sat in front of me waiting to be opened.

I have written my letters to him as has his dad but they have to wait until we are given his correct division information. He won’t get letters addressed to the quarantine area which I am told by thanks to the Training Center Facebook group admins is the address he gave me. So as the Navy motto reminds us – I will hurry up and wait for his division info to get to us. And I hope the letters that he eventually gets from us give him some peace- and he feels the love behind them.

I had forgotten the special feel of a real letter. We have so much connectivity available all the time but when you don’t have it – the letter for me is a lifeline.  I hope I get more from him- but knowing the rigors of their schedule when doing actual P days ( processing days – first week of real  bootcamp where they process the recruit) I won’t get my hopes up.  But if I do I will appreciate the lift of some of the worry – that exhale -even if it lasts only for a little while.

 

 

 

Navy Son- Part 2- How we got here…

My son has been at the Navy training center for about a week now.  He is in quarantine as is the protocol at the moment for new recruits.  We did get word yesterday that a recruit in training tested positive for Covid-19 and had been placed in isolation.  I can’t imagine getting that call as a parent – but it is a reality we have to consider.  The Navy is making changes daily to it’s normal procedures and it can be frustrating but it is understandable that they are dealing with something never conceived of (a world crisis of this magnitude) and they are trying to adjust as best as they can.

As a parent of a Seaman Recruit  (SR) it is not easy when there is so much in flux and all I can do is remind myself that my kid is in good and capable hands. They will care for him if gets ill, they are caring for him now.  Over time I have come to an acceptance of my son’s decision to join the Navy- it didn’t happen overnight. But I have gotten there.

When my son first said he wanted to join the Navy he was a senior in high school that was in 2018.  I was not a fan. Kevin and I both encouraged him to apply to college and maybe do ROTC or apply to the Navy after he graduated.  I think at the time I thought it was an idea that came with not much thought or it was a fantasy of an immature kid. Like when he was little and wanted to be superman. Though he did wear out two pair of superman sneakers over the years! But still I felt that he wasn’t mature enough to make a decision as big as joining  the military.  He also mentioned  that he wanted to be a police officer- which again we suggested he wait on. I think in our parent point of view we thought getting a college degree would be best. 

He did a year in a university  – and never pursued ROTC- but then at the end of his freshman year decided to change to a major (criminal justice) they didn’t have at the university he was attending so he withdrew from there and decided to live at home with us and he began local community college last fall. 

I could tell he was not thrilled going to those classes. And I could tell by the amount of gaming he did that he wasn’t studying. His heart was not into it. I was beginning to realize it was a waste of money if he didn’t have a desire to be in college. That’s when during yet another discussion about drive and motivation and his future he brought up the Navy again. And again I admit I wasn’t a fan. He wondered out loud why I was so against  him joining the military since my stepfather was a career Navy pilot and made it to captain. My son had heard some stories about my stepfathers career – teaching young Navy pilots to fly on and off the carriers at night, fought in two wars.  To me that didn’t extrapolate into my kid enlisting. I wasn’t a Navy kid or considered myself part of a Navy family.  My mom married into one when I was a young adult. So I didn’t feel a pull to have my kids join. Do not get me wrong. I was thankful for my stepfathers service andI am so thankful for all military service men and women. I just wasn’t sure I wanted MY kid to be part of the military. I was scared. And I still am. 

I told him that if he wanted to join the Navy he needed to do all the work himself – because normally he needed my help to figure most things out for him, jobs, banking , school admin issues etc.   I decided that if he was really serious about the Navy he had to do it on his own. I was not going to facilitate it. If he went and hated it later  he only had himself to blame. And I figured since I left it up to him he would not do anything about it.

I was wrong. Within a day he had a meeting with the local recruiter in nearby Frederick, MD. And that morphed into more meetings and once he was told he was eligible he went to officially sign-up. I have to admit I was not a fan still. My anxiety about it ramped up. But since he seemed so excited- and he rarely gets excited by much – I wanted to be excited for him. We looked over the jobs he could choose from based on his testing scores. 

He chose cryptology- but then when he went to our local MEPS (the place where you they do recruit processing) the job wasn’t available. Kind of a bait and switch? But I realized later he could have waited for that job to come open but he wanted to leave sooner than later…so he chose a job in a Sub. Missile tech to be exact. Holy cow this freaked me out because  just the week before he said he didn’t want subs and I was happy with that. Then he picked subs!  He told my husband he did exactly the opposite of what he had said he wasn’t going to do. But he had had options and he could have waited. So I guess this is something he wanted to do. Or he thought he did. Or he was being a teen.  I really lost my cool when I found out he chose subs- first I was mad …then I sobbed- I am sure this was me letting out all the anxiety I had been having over his decision to go to the Navy- I will say I was going through some seasonal effective depression when this all occurred so I think my reaction was more dramatic because of this. But a Sub- 800 ft underwater….why?

I could not speak to him for like two days. I hated myself for this. I read up on subs and saw he could be under the ocean for ten weeks…with no contact. I felt claustrophobic for him. A projection onto him of my issues of enclosed spaces. But I also began reading about subs. I do tend to research things – probably more than my child did.  I am sure I do this as a way to come to terms with things. The more knowledge the better I am able to process things.

In my research I read about some of the scary tests they have to perform in sub school (where he will go after he passes bootcamp).  My kid doesn’t swim well ( I am told they will teach him to be a better swimmer in bootcamp) and they have a test where four of them have to go through a sub hatch in a simulation of a sub escape. They wear air filled plastic bags (I am sure it is more technical than this) over their heads and float to the surface. They have a room flood while they fix equipment, they have fire simulation. Oh Lord!  But the more I read the more I saw that the testing is obviously important  and they want them to pass so they help them to get there. And if there are issue like severe claustrophobia then they will help them move to another job not in a sub.  But most important I read about the camaraderie that builds among the soldiers in subs and on ships, and the sense of pride these seamen have for their Navy, and their country, and themselves. He needed this. 

My son needed a direction, he needed to find something that could build his confidence, and he needs friends.  If he feels that this is the vehicle to him finding himself who cares if it comes before , after or instead of college -and there are many benefits to being in the military as far as schooling goes.  It has taken time for me to wrap my mind around all this. The positives and the negatives, the risks and rewards.  It was never a case of me letting him join the military. If this is what he truly wanted then I wasn’t going to stand in his way. But I know he wanted and needed my approval. He wanted to know I was proud of him.  I have settled into the fact that my kid wants this and he needs it.  I am very proud of him and I have told him that many times.  But it doesn’t mean I am not scared too.  It is very hard not to be during this pandemic. 

My son once told me he rather live a shorter life helping others than a longer life not doing so. That is sobering coming from such a young person.  It may have been a thought of an immature young man not realizing his mortality but it was one of the most authentic and honest things he has ever said to me.  It makes me sad too- because of course I want him to have long beautiful life so his discussing his mortality at all is not easy. But I believe he feels a call to service of others. And if that calling was to join the Navy than I now call myself a proud mom of a Navy recruit. And will try to navigate my own fears as I root him on  -and – I let him go on his life’s journey.

I just miss him.

Navy Son – Part 1

No description needed right?

As my husband brought yet another bag of trash up from my son’s now empty bedroom I realized what made me so mad before he left…his messiness …no his piggyness ..his inability to pick up when asked…his incessant gaming and leaving soda cans in a circle around his chair like the fallen avatars in his games…these annoying things became things I was missing already. Of course I wasn’t the one cleaning them up. So I can wax sad here.

My son is now a Navy Recruit and he left for bootcamp Monday, March 23,

We got the call the at 3:16AM to be precise on Tuesday morning.  I was fumbling for the phone – but was awake anyway just groggy. When I answered I heard my 19 year old son’s voice – telling me in a very scripted tone that he was at Navy boot camp and he was ok, and he would talk to me in two weeks. I am told not to count on that call- it may be more weeks than that. It was a quick call. I got my I love you’s in and  I wasn’t sure I was allowed to say more -and he didn’t offer more-so we hung up. Now moving forward -no contact- (unless I get a that call  he mentioned)-for about ten weeks. This is going to be a tough one on this mom. Well at least I know he is safe.

We dropped him off at a hotel near Fort Meade Sunday night – he would be with other recruits most likley but it still felt so odd leaving him there. I didn’t want to go into the hotel because of the social distancing rules. I didn’t want to make a scene when I said goodbye which means any tear falling from my eyes because it would upset my son. I was sad that we couldn’t go to the base the next day to see him off. It was closed to civilians because of the virus restrictions.

I stood by our truck and hugged him tight. That last hug – watching as he fades into the hotel lobby- my heart falls a bit.

It is hard enough to send your child off to the military – but to do so during  this pandemic is so hard. I haven’t slept well in the days preceding his departure and the insomnia is still hanging on. I have had loads of tears. Tears because I miss him, tears because we can’t talk for a while and tears because I am afraid.

I have so many fears-  some rational and some irrational. I worry he might become ill? They are on a two week quarantine -and my son was very happy because he could bring a handheld gaming device and game for the time he was in isolation. It won’t get old for him – he’s a gamer and its one of the habits he has that I hope the military breaks. But if he gets ill do they even call us? He belongs to the military now so I don’t know what information we can get.

I fear that he won’t make it through bootcamp- he needs this in his life. He has lacked direction and goals – he needs this for his confidence and to mature.  I am so proud of him- yet so sad because he is gone.

I fear he will get hurt during some of the exercises- he has to breath in tear gas! That freaks me out.  He laughs about it!  I fear for him in general because he is not worldly and he is immature. I am told the Navy will change that.

I fear he will have the WTF did I do moment where he may regret signing up.  Who am I kidding he will have that…I just hate to know that he will be at a breaking point like that…but I want him to get past it. I know he can do this…but he has to know that too. I want the successes of boot camp to build up this shy, quiet, introverted, sweet, kind young man.  Also I fear he will change too much- will he become hardened – more closed up? None of this is in my control and I know it..it’s just the feelings I feel now. However dumb- I just have to allow myself the time to adjust.

But I am a mom and I know I won’t stop worrying.

I also fear this pandemic as a whole – what will it mean for my son once out of bootcamp? How do they keep them safe – one military man down can mean many down because of the ease of spread in such close quarters.  What if  -God forbid -someone in our family becomes ill enough we would want to contact him- can we?  I have a mild sore throat and stuffy nose and today and I am filled with worry about what it could be.  These aren’t easy times.

These are my own feelings and I never projected these on to my son as he prepared to leave. he deserves a mom who can keep it together while he got ready for the biggest thing in his life thus far. And before he left I kept it together mostly by being in denial that he was going.  I helped him get his new bank account set up and I pestered him about getting his room clean and clothing put away before he left…he made a feeble attempt…I am told the Navy can change the slovenly into much neater humans! Let’s hope for that!

I just never let myself get too close to the feelings of him going until we had that last hug and the string that ties together got longer and longer.

The best thing is that Kevin and I are not alone in all these feelings – we have the experience of others near and far. Last week before my son left, I was told by my son’s Chief at the recruiters that there were facebook pages to join that could be a source of support during this time.  We joined a couple and these pages are already a source of comfort. It is comforting to be among those that are feeling some of what I have felt – and also it is nice to talk to those that have been there done that.

I honestly struggled with my feelings about him joining the military and I will write more on that later. But I am so very proud of my child.  The timing of it all is hard. With so much uncertainty now I feel like I want to have instant contact with my adult children  – just to make sure they are ok. But that isn’t what I have with this son. That will take adjustment —and letting go some.  Not easy for parents. Especially now.

….To be Continued….