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.
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.