The Citadel and the Fellowship of THE Ring

The Ring
photo by Stanley Leary

When I was 13 years old my brother gave me The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Years later my oldest son became interested in the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien. The books involve a tale of the One Ring that controls the others.

Years later I was struck at the similarities and differences between the One Ring and The Ring the senior cadets at The Citadel receive their senior year. The One Ring is one of power over people. The Citadel ring that a graduate wears is also one of power. The Citadel ring’s strength is in the power of friendship forged through the tough training the cadets endure over their four years. The power of The Citadel ring goes beyond the graduates and in many cases influences the families of the one who wears the ring.

One of the most moving accounts of the bond forged by the graduates who wear the ring is told by Pat Conroy. He told this story in his book, My Losing Season, and he also told the story in his commencement address in 2001. I can’t read the story without tears welling up in my eyes. Talk to many graduates and their families and they can tell you their own story of the Ring. In her book In the Company of Men, Nancy Mace details her father’s story of recovering his lost ring in the swampy fields of Vietnam.

Two weeks from now the Class of 2013 will receive their rings. It is a huge weekend for seniors and their families. My son used to say that the ring, and what it symbolizes, is more important to him than his diploma. Everyone who graduates from a college or university gets a diploma. Not everyone can earn the right to wear The Citadel Ring.

Over the past five years I have had the privilege to see what the power of this ring can do. As the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group for a few years I had the honor of witnessing the kindness of the members of the Atlanta Citadel Club when they heard a cadet was in need. One had trouble meeting the out-of-state tuition and was helped by a graduate. Another family had a crisis and weren’t sure they could get their cadet home, the alumni offered to pay for a flight. If a knob needed a ride back to campus from Georgia I just posted the need and within minutes offers to help would pour in.

This giving nature also applies to the families of the cadets. A family suffered the death of a grandparent. Their cadet couldn’t afford to travel to the funeral. A ticket arrived in the mail paid for by another family who heard of their need. When a cadet or graduate is deployed the moral support for the family of the soldier pours in.

Each year cadets and graduates are sent overseas to war. When one Citadel Mom learned that current cadets were going to war she founded The Citadel Heroes Project. Volunteers donate items and cards that are sent to the deployed cadets and graduates a few times a year. It is a huge effort that means so much to the recipients.

A young graduate died just months after graduation and before he reported to his first duty station. The roommate of the deceased was left behind to tie up the loose ends. A few of us attended the memorial service in Summerall Chapel. I was asked to read a poem during the service on behalf of the Citadel Family Association. A few of us moms learned it was difficult for the surviving roommate to go to the mail box each day and see mail to his deceased classmate/roommate/good friend. The Citadel Moms each took a week and sent baked goods gift cards for coffee shops and food. For eight weeks the surviving roommate went to his mailbox to find these gifts of love and support from his Citadel Moms.

Recently it was brought to the attention of a group of alumni that a few seniors, due to a number of circumstances, couldn’t afford to pay off the balance on their rings. Within a matter of hours alumni of all types, young and old, male and female, came together to donate the money needed to pay off the rings for these deserving seniors. When parents of current cadets and graduates heard of this effort, they too wanted to help. It was an amazing show of support by the members of The Citadel family. On October 12 the qualified cadets will receive their rings with the rest of their class.

Wearing the ring is something I will never experience. It was my son and his classmates that proved they were worthy of the honor of joining the Long Gray Line of graduates. They are family, not just classmates. I can tell you being a family member of the person who wears the ring makes you part of their extended Citadel family.

Pat Conroy used the sentence “I wear the ring.” in The Lords of Discipline to summarize the importance of his time at The Citadel and the bond he shares with others who wear the ring. The cadets who went through the rigors of the 4th Class System understand that sentence differently than any one else who reads it.

The parents and family members of the cadets and graduates can only get glimpses of what it means.

Bravo ’11 wear the ring. Photo by Stanley Leary
A group of friends who met through their cadets time at The Citadel.
photo by Stanley Leary

Updated Hotel Information

Since posting the information on Parents/Ring Weekend a week or so ago, I have heard from a few hotels with updated information. For most hotels in the Charleston area you can call directly and ask for their Citadel rate. A few hotels have provided me with direct links to get special discounts. Please book mark this site and share the link to this entry with your friends.

See the links and notes below for the updated list.

Charleston Marriott Make your reservation through this link for a special discounted rate.

Comfort Inn Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate. They also offer a frequent guest program. Be sure to ask about it at the desk at check in.

Fairfield Inn & Suites North/University Area Make your reservation through this link for a special discounted rate.

Hawthorn Suites  Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate.

Home2 Suites Call the hotel directly and ask for The Citadel rate. 843-744-4202

Homewood Suites Charleston Airport Call the front desk, 843-735-5000 and ask for The Citadel rate.

LaQuinta Inn & Suites Charleston Riverview Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate.

Residence Inn Charleston Downtown/Riverview Make your reservation through this link for a special discounted rate.

SpringHill Suites Charleston Downtown/Riverview Make your reservation through this link for a special discounted rate.

Wingate by Wyndham Charleston Southern University Boulevard  Call the hotel directly to ask for “The Citadel” rate.

My First Family Readiness Group Meeting

Dorie and Jerri catch up after the Family Readiness Group meeting.

I attended my first Family Readiness Group (FRG) meeting last week at Fort Stewart. The meeting date was posted to the battalion Facebook group a few days before the meeting. With a deployment on the horizon it was a meeting I really had to attend to help me understand the ins and outs of getting ready.

After making sure the rest of the family would be set if I was gone for two days, I checked to see If I could stay with a good friend and fellow Citadel mom, Jerri. When we found out my son would be at Fort Stewart, Jerri told me that I could stay with her if I came to town. It was time to take her up on her offer.

It is a four-hour drive from our home to Fort Stewart. I arrived at Jerri’s house with just enough time to visit then leave for the meeting. Jerri went out of her way to make me feel at home. She even drove with me onto the base to make sure I found the right building for the meeting.

I knew ahead of time that I probably would not get to see my son since he was busy with his work and may be in the field. On my way to town I had spoken to the executive director of Care For The Troops and found there was a fellow member of the board of directors that lived near the base. When I spoke to him it turned out he wasn’t free, but his wife is the Military Family Life Consultant (MFLC) for my sons battalion and she would be at the meeting.

As I parked the car near the building I saw a number of young couples walking toward the building with their small children in tow. The meeting room was packed when I got there. The only seat left was right next to my new contact with the MFLC!

The lieutenant colonel began the meeting by introducing the various Family Readiness Group leaders, including his wife. He then began to go over the calendar for the next several months using PowerPoint. I have learned during my son’s time at The Citadel that the military loves to use PowerPoint. Each time he would use an abbreviation for a term his wife would ask him to explain the abbreviation. I was grateful for her questions since I had no idea what they meant. While he talked I took notes so I would remember the terms after I walked out. During the meeting I also made friends with two young wives and their toddler age daughters. These young women said they also appreciated the meeting since their husbands tell them very little.

The biggest surprise came when the meeting was over. I checked my phone for messages and learned my son sent a text asking if I’d like to meet him for dinner when he got off work! It would take a while for him to finish up so I spoke to the FRG leaders and the lieutenant colonel after the meeting. I was given some free information and a small doll to give my daughter. The booklet, A Handbook for Family & Friends of Service Members: Before, During and After Deployment, and the file folder with information from USAA Insurance includes lots of reading material. It will keep me busy reading all the information.

A few of the items I was given at the Family Readiness Group meeting.

The highlight of my visit came later that night when I finally caught up with my son. He worked until 8:00 pm so we met at his condo and went out for a late dinner. It was obvious that the was extremely tired. He gets to bed each night by 9:00pm and is up very early to get to work. He is learning that what he went through knob year is nothing compared the schedule and demands on him now. When our dinner arrived at 9:15 it was the first meal he had since early that morning. We caught up on family news and his weekend adventures. Then came THE conversation. The one every family should have before a deployment. He began to tell me his wishes should he not return alive from his mission.

The conversation flowed. he told me his plans and explained he had already reviewed them with his father, my ex. I was impressed by the level of thought he put into his plans. I was also very happy that he brought it up with me during this visit when it was just us there to talk. We have had very few one-on-one talks since he left for college five years ago. The conversation didn’t bother me then, and really doesn’t bother me now either. It is just a little surreal to discuss final plans with your child. It brings home the fact that their chosen career means they are in harm’s way. It just isn’t the type of conversation I ever had with my own parents when I started my first job out of college.

After dinner I saw his condo for the first time. A beautiful place right on the river near Savannah. We didn’t visit long after dinner since he had to get up early the next morning.

My friend Jerri stopped in my room when I got home to talk about my visit. I so appreciated the opportunity to stay at her home and have her counsel as an Army wife. She has years of experience with deployments and other aspects of Army life.

Now it’s time to start reading all the information I was given.

The Citadel: Parents/Ring Weekend 2012 + Hotel Info

Knobs line the street Friday afternoon. The seniors will process between them on their way to receive their rings in the field house.

Only four weeks until Parents Weekend at The Citadel. I won’t be attending the events, but I am in touch with quite a few parents who are looking forward to October 12. Parents of knobs can’t wait to visit their knob and see the barracks and the other activities on campus. The senior parents, especially the moms, are getting ready to see their cadet receive their hard-earned ring and walk through the giant replica of the ring Friday night.

Bravo Company banner, 2007.

Knob parents:

  • Parking is hard to find so get to campus early and plan to walk a lot.
  • If you can, arrive early enough on Friday to see the knobs line the street in front of the barracks. The seniors will walk between the knobs on their way to receive their rings. he knobs cheer them on as they pass by.
  • Friday afternoon belongs to the seniors. You are encouraged to visit the academic departments with your knob then take them off campus for the afternoon and evening.
  • Be sure to pay special attention to the company banner Saturday morning. The knobs work very hard to make sure the banner looks great. There are also bulletin boards to take note of as well.
  • Make lunch plans for Saturday. You can eat in the Coward Mess hall with your cadet and will need a ticket. You can purchase them in advance or on Friday afternoon through the Cadet Activities office. Boxed lunches are also available or you can bring your own lunch.
  • Bravo Company banner, 2010.
    photo by Stanley Leary
Bulletin board recognizing the one 2011 Summerall Guard member in Bravo Company.
photo by Stanley Leary

The promotion ceremony, 2010.
photo by Stanley Leary
The Ring Presentation ceremony begins. 2010
photo by Stanley Leary

Senior parents:

  • If you can arrive Thursday evening so you can get to campus early on Friday. The parking as on most big weekends is tight.
  • Dress for the afternoon should be in keeping with the occasion. The cadets are in their most formal uniform. You will see people in a variety of different types of clothes. a Jacket and tie for the gentlemen and a dress or nice slacks for the ladies is appropriate. Again you’ll see families in a variety of different clothes Friday afternoon.
  • Friday evening plans will revolve around when your cadets company is scheduled to go through the ring. Cadet Activities posts the schedule.
  • Dress for the mothers and anyone else going through the ring with the cadet is formal.
  • Check with your cadet to see what the plans are for dinner that night. Some eat before they go through the ring others go after.
  • Ladies, be aware that  you may be standing behind the scenes for a while before you go through the ring.
  • Family members not going through the ring go inside the field house to watch the presentations.
Our family outside 1st Battalion after the ring ceremony.

If you plan on being in Charleston for the weekend I hope you have your hotel reservations. If not, I have some information to share with you regarding availability.

Hotels I’ve checked with have given me the following availability and rate information for Parents Weekend and Homecoming. You can also try hotels.com or another web site to find a hotel at a good rate. Vrbo.com is a good place to start if you’d like a rental property. If you are staying three nights and are looking for a rental property call recent grad, Chip Morrison, of Carolina One Realty, 843-343-3525.

  • Comfort Inn near campus has availability for both parents Weekend and Homecoming. Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate. They also offer a frequent guest program. Be sure to ask about it at the desk at check in.
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Charleston North/Univ Area Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate. They offer a discount on their regular rate.
  • Hawthorn Suites has some rooms for Oct. 13th  and still has availability for Homecoming. Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate.  $74 plus tax.
  • Homewood Suites Charleston Airport is offering a nightly rate of $137 plus tax for Parents Weekend. Call the front desk, 843-735-5000 and ask for The Citadel rate.
  • LaQuinta Inn & Suites Charleston Riverview is sold out for Parents Weekend but does have rooms for Homecoming. Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate. $92 plus tax.
  • Marriott Charleston has a limited amount of rooms for October 13 for the special rate of $189. For Homecoming they have a few rooms left and selling for a two night minimum for Friday and Saturday. THe rate is $319 per room per night.
  • Residence Inn by Marriott Downtown/Riverview Limited rooms available. Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate. They offer a discount on their regular rate.
  • SpringHill Suites by Marriott Riverview Limited rooms available. Call directly and ask for The Citadel rate. They offer a discount on their regular rate.

Other posts about Parents Weekend/Ring Weekend:

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Special Weekends: Parents Weekend, Homecoming, Corps Day, Recognition Day

The Citadel: Parents Weekend and Ring Weekend Tips

Senior Parent notes

You’ll see a variety of outfits Friday night at the Ring Ceremony: