The Citadel: Parents Weekend and Ring Weekend tips

Bravo Company, 2011 Seniors show off their rings. photo by Stanley Leary

In one week my oldest son will graduate from Armor Basic Officer Leader Course (BLOC) at Fort Benning, GA.  In two weeks families from around the country will arrive in Charleston, SC for Parents’ Weekend at The Citadel.  This is the first time in four years we will not be in Charleston and it feels really strange.

I was going through photos from last year and thought of a few things I learned about parents Weekend that I should pass along.

For the families of seniors this weekend is all about the Ring. The afternoon presentation is in McAlister Field house.  The Cadet Activities office does a great job of posting information in advance. You’ll see people in all types of dress.  The senior cadets will be in their most formal uniform.  We decided to wear nice clothes for the presentation.

One little tip for the mothers of cadets. . .  if you would like the “Mother’s Ring” or a pendant consider buying it for yourself. Some cadets will order them on their own, but not many do. Parents of underclass cadets – the ring is ordered in their junior year.  The payment is due early their senior year.  The price varies with the gold prices and it can be close to $1,000.

After the seniors go into the field house the rest of the Corps of Cadets and their families can participate in the academic open house and the address by the president, or just leave campus.  Of course you always need to check with your cadet.  Depending on their rank and company they may have certain duties to perform.

The RIng Ceremony. A photo is taken when you go through the ring then half way down the carpet. I didn’t look the right way. You will hear a voice through the flower arrangement telling you to look to your right. photo by Stanley Leary

Friday night is the night the senior cadets walk through the replica of the Ring with their mother, date and /or family member. The cadet activities office posts the schedule of when each company is assigned to go through the ring. You need to be at the field house 15 minutes prior to the posted time. If you have an early time you can plan on dinner after you go through the ring. Our time was after 8:00 so a group of Bravo families went to dinner prior to going through the ring. Our cadets didn’t plan ahead. One of the moms’s called around Wednesday night to find a place that would take our group of 30 a the last-minute. Some companies have a tradition of having dinner together at a hotel. The school arranges to have a photographer at the presentation and also at he Hop afterwards. Do not be upset if your senior wants to spend most of their time with their buddies.  They have waited three years to earn the right to wear that band of gold.

Bravo Company flag. Parents’ Weekend 2010

Saturday morning is a crazy busy time.  Schedules vary but in general you can go to the barracks and see your cadet and their room. . Parents’ Weekend is the first time of the school year when they have Open Barracks, a time when family, friends and alumni can enter the barracks and visit rooms. The knobs prepare for this day weeks in advance.  They put a lot of time into painting a banner to be displayed from the 4th division (4th floor) of the barracks. If you wondered where their sheets went to, take a close look at the banner. Seriously, the banner and the various bulletin boards are a big deal.  Each floor has a different bulletin board.  The cadets take great pride in their designs each year.  Make sure to notice them.

You can hear the Regimental Band concert of Summerall Field, watch the Kelly Cup competition and see the Rifle Legion Performance Saturday morning too.  At 10:00 parents of knobs will want to be in the battalion to watch the promotion ceremony for the knobs.  They are promoted from cadet recruits to cadet privates. The Citadel Heroes volunteers will man a table where you can sign cards for deployed cadets and recent graduates.

After the promotion ceremony the cadets get ready for the parade. First year parents will soon learn to stake out their spot in the stands early or bring their own chairs.

There is very little time between the parade and when the cadets have to get ready to march to the football stadium. You can pack your own lunch, eat in Coward Mess Hall or purchase a box lunch through cadet activities. We ate in the mess hall the first year then brought our own lunch after the first year.  I’ve learned that if you ask 5 different people their opinion of what to do for lunch that day you will get 5 different answers.  Do what your cadet would like to do.

It is fun to watch the cadets march to the stadium. Once you get to your seats you can watch the cadets line the field to cheer on the team. The cadets all sit together. We found sitting across the field from the cadet section was our favorite spot.  You are out of the sun. The Summerall Guards perform at half-time.

(NOTE the following paragraph about group tickets is not valid for 2012 tickets. There are no group rates for parent’s Weekend and Homecoming in 2012)

A good friend of mine purchased a block of tickets at a discount then made them available to friends.  The normal $30 ticket at the group rate was only $6 each.  My son’s senior year we had over 200 people in our section.  I had to pay for the tickets but everyone sent me their checks and a self-addressed stamped envelope. To do this you need to plan in advance. I purchased the tickets Matriculation Weekend at the ticket office and had the pick of the best seating. Posting a notice to the parent Facebook groups is a quick way to get the word out about ticket availability.

Once the game is over the cadets are free to join their family and friends. We were fortunate to have a group of friends to tailgate with each fall. Most knobs want to get good food and sleep before returning to the barracks around 11:30 pm. There is a silent procession of cars that drive around the parade field the hour before their curfew. It reminded me of the final scene from the movie “Field of Dreams,” when all you can see are a stream of headlights.

Sunday morning after chapel or ethics seminar the knobs can go off campus until about 6:00 or 7:00.

Just remember the weekend will fly by. You’ll do a lot of walking so wear comfortable shoes. Parking is always tight these big weekends so getting to campus early Saturday is a good idea.

The 2011 Summerall Guards perform at half time of the game on parents’ Weekend.

Miscellaneous tips and info:

Dress: Be sure to check the weather reports. The past 4 years the weather was mostly very warm and sunny. Summer weight clothes are best. You’ll see a variety of outfits, mostly casual. Comfortable shoes are best since you do a good bit of walking. It did rain one year.  Umbrellas are not allowed in the stadium. A rain poncho is best.

Hotels: Most hotels will offer a special rate for Citadel families.  Call the hotel directly and ask if they offer a Citadel family rate.  The hotels closest to the school book very quickly. Marriott, Best Western, LaQuinta and SpringHill Suites, Marriott Courtyard are all very close.  The Hawthorn Suites Hotel is near The Citadel Mall and about 7 miles away they offer a very low rate for a suite room. Please feel free to leave your hotel recommendations in the comment section.


Charleston is known for it’s great restaurants.  Reservations are suggested for most fine dining restaurants. You can find some wonderful places all around the area.  The places farther from downtown are easier to get into and the prices can be lower too. Feel free to leave a comment below with your favorite restaurant tips.

Information for Parents about the BVA's and Summerall Guards

The 2011 Summerall Guards take a run with the 2012 Bond Volunteers the night before they pass their by Stanley Leary

I was looking over the site stats for the blog Off the Base.  It is fun to notice the articles that are found because people are using Google to find out information.  The beginning of the school year the entries about knobs and Matriculation Day are the most frequently searched.  Second to that is BVA’s and Summerall Guards.

Junior year is when cadets who want to be Summerall Guards volunteer to go through intense training.  They are called Bond Volunteer Aspirants. In many ways it is like knob year, only this time it is worse.  The juniors represent some of the top leadership in the Corps of Cadets. They have a heavy load of classes and duties that their advance rank brings with it.. They volunteer to go through intense physical and mental challenges. The “fun” begins first semester, but the really intense period occurs after the break at Christmas.

I mentioned in an earlier entry how anxiety producing this junior year is for parents. It is widely known on campus that the BVA training is tough. Very little information is available to parents who are anxious.

The best advice I can give parents of the BVA’s, let your cadet contact you. Do not expect to hear from them as often as you did the years before. Send them encouraging emails, and care packages. Try to understand they need all their focus to squeeze in tine time study train and get their jobs as officers completed. The waiting is the hardest part.  Remember, just support your cadet.  They will let you know if/when they need help getting the various required items like the high top Chuck Taylor shoes and fatigue pants.

The 2012 Summerall Guards take the field on Corps Day, March 2011. photo by Stanley Leary

You can find background information online.  I’ll include a few tips and web links to help.

The Summerall Guard Parent and Sponsor t-shirts are sold by the Summerall Guards as a fund-raiser.  Be sure to buy yours from the new Summerall Guards on Corps Day.  They are usually sold at the BBQ lunch that is held as a fund-raiser.

A good explanation of the Bond Volunteer Aspirant training can be found here:

Three different web sites for the Summerall Guards:

Merchandise can be purchased here. Log in required

The School web site link:

Videos of the BVA training:

Take Your Rifles, by Chris Florio  (one of my favorites)

The Citadel Summerall Guards 2010

Summerall Guard Commercial

2012  Summerall Guards

Nelson Lalli, a member of the 2011 Summerall Guards presents Brett Collin of the 2012 Summerall Guards with his official patch. photo by Stanley Leary

2011 Summerall Guards, photos and video by Stanley Leary

Unedited version of 2011 Summerall Guards from Corps Day 2010, photos and video by Stanley Leary

2011 Summerall Guard photos by Stanley Leary

Corps Day 2011, photos by Stanley Leary

Congratulations to Bobbie O'Brien

Last week I had the opportunity to sit in on the meeting of the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Fellows .  Bobbie O’Brien of  WUSF, and the administrator of the blog site, Off the Base, presented a summary of her work over the past year.  She was also selected as the only Fellow to present to President Carter and the Board of Councilors. Today Bobbie posted a summary of her presentation. You can see and hear about my contributions at the 6:13 mark.

Bobbie told me she added a few photos from my entries to Off the Base.  It was a strange feeling to be in a room of distinguished guests and then see a photo of me with my children on a screen as big as the side of a house! I am very grateful to Bobbie for the opportunity to contribute to her blog.

Congratulations to Bobbie and all the Fellows.

At the end of Recognition Day. 4th Class Cadet Nelson Lalli with his mom, Dorie and sister, ChelleRing Ceremony, 2010. 1st Class Cadet Nelson Lalli escorts his mother, Dorie and his date, Leslie Manzano through the Junior Sword Arch.

Previous posts from Off the Base

As a little background, I thought it might be helpful to post links to the entries I’ve written for Off the Base, a blog by Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Most of my entries for Off the Base have to do with being the mom of a cadet at The Citadel.  Future entries on this blog will be on a variety of topics.

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

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Care Packages for Cadets: The Citadel Heroes Project

The Citadel Bond Renews Parents’ Long Time Friendships

The Citadel: Unofficial Tips for Families of Incoming Knobs

The Citadel: Saying Good-Bye, But Always Connected

A Sister, a Mom, A Family Prepares for Military Life

Dorie, Nelson and Leslie. Ring Ceremony 2010

Survival Skills to Succeed as a Citadel Mom

A New Blue Star Mom Shows Supports for Fallen Soldier

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Gray Li

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Citadel Mom Cycle Completed – A Blue Star Mom Emerges

A Military Mom Meets Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell, IV

An Army Mom Transitions from The Citadel to Ft. Benning

A Seminary Student, Now an Army Mom Reflects on 9/11

Welcome to my new blog


For the past 9 months I’ve contributed to the blog, Off the Base, a project of Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF.  Bobbie and I met at the Carter Center in 2010 at a series of meetings focusing on our returning veterans and Mental health issues. Bobbie is a Fellow with the Rosalyn Carter Mental Health Journalism Program. I attend the meetings as an observer.

Since graduating from Columbia Theological Seminary in 2002 I’ve research traumatic stress. When I met Bobbie my oldest son was a junior at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina, and an Army ROTC cadet. She asked me to contribute to Off the Base as the mom of a cadet at a military college and the mom of a future officer in the U.S. Army.

I turned her down at first because as I told Bobbie at the time, “I’m not a writer.” I majored in public speaking at the University of Richmond and would rather speak to a thousand people than write an article. I thought about her offer overnight and agreed to do it the next day. To grow you really have to push yourself into uncomfortable positions.

While I will still contribute to Off the Base, there are topics that are of particular interest to me that won’t fit into their mission. I’m glad you visited the site and hope to hear form you.