Corps Day Weekend 2012 for me was about visiting friends and paying forward the kindness that was extended to my son during his four years at The Citadel. So many families hosted him for meals and visits. They helped in ways I’m sure I am not even aware of. Since my friends couldn’t join me for the weekend for a reunion I decided I go anyway and try to pass along a few kindnesses.
After a full morning of visiting the barracks, the band concert, watching the 2013 Summerall Guards then the parade, I was ready to go to lunch. I had made plans to meet a Georgia cadet at 5th Battalion. After four years of waiting outside 1st Battalion for our cadet this was a whole new experience. 5th Battalion, or Stevens Barracks, is home to Palmetto Battery, Papa Company and Sierra Company. Several Georgia cadets are in each company so I could visit with their parents and meet new friends. At one point the knobs of Palmetto Battery were marched into the barracks. Several minutes later they ran out in the PT (physical training uniform) to return later pulling the canons used for the parades. It is a ritual that happens every day after a parade, but one I had never seen before. I recognized a few of the knobs as the ones I met earlier at the band concert dressed in the various uniforms from previous conflicts. I hope their parents will see the photos I took of their cadets in those uniforms.
My young cadet friend, Cadet Lee, emerged from the barracks in his dress white uniform. It is a favorite uniform among parents. The cadets tell me they prefer it over the wool ones as well. After touching base with my friend, Jerri, we headed to The Marina Variety Store for lunch. I’ve mentioned this restaurant before. It sits right on the Ashley River off of Lockwood Blvd. I like it there because you can park for free, the food is great the staff is nice and the view is great. Our time over lunch flew by as we heard stories from Cadet Lee and Jerri’s son, Cadet Rodgers, two very sharp young men.
One of the highlights of my weekend came after dropping off Cadet Lee. On the way off of campus I saw two knobs looking like they might need a ride. I introduced myself as the mom of a graduate and asked if I could help. They were very polite but said they had to go a distance to their home and a cab was on the way. The real fun began when i asked what company they are in. They replied. “Bravo Ma’am.” I then told them my son, Nelson Lalli was in Bravo Company. They looked at each other than looked at me in disbelief. They said they knew of “Mr. Lalli” and that he is a legend in Bravo Company. With that I told them to cancel the cab, I would take them to their home. The 20 minute ride was filled with knob stories and them telling me what they had heard about my son. They also spoke about the current cadet command of Bravo Company most of whom I have known since their knob year. I smiled as they referred to each one as Mr. The two knobs seemed to be making the best of their first year. We laughed as we exchanged stories. I made a note to myself to try and keep up with these two young cadets as they progress in their time at The Citadel.
I spent a little time walking along the beach on Isle of Palms that afternoon. My next stop was the Boating Center on the campus. It is one of my favorite spots on campus to visit. The contrast of the tranquility of the dock and marsh compared to the intense environment of the rest of the campus is striking.
My next fun pay it forward moment came as I was leaving campus. I saw a group of cadets outside 2nd Battalion. It looked like they were arranging for a ride off campus. When I stopped and go tout of the car I realized I knew one of them. I ended up driving 5 cadets to downtown Charleston in my little Toyota Corolla. The ride was fun as I met the 4 cadets who were with my friend Wei-Ming. All five of them are from Taiwan and will go back into service with a branch of the Taiwanese military after graduation.
My last morning was spent sharing brunch with another Georgia cadet. The same cadet I brought a care package to Saturday morning. We had corresponded via Facebook last summer as he prepared to report, but had not really spent any time talking. It was fun to hear of his plans for the future and to learn about how his first year was progressing. Spring break is coming up and shortly after that will be Recognition Day. I could hear the excitement in his voice as he talked about Recognition Day.
The weekend ended with my traditional last stop at Mark Clark Hall and a spin through the Gift shop. I was stopped by two families in town to look at the school for their high school student. They had a few questions for a parent. As I spoke to each family I was reminded of our first visit to campus the summer of 2006.
Each cadet has their own path at The Citadel. Each family will develop their own rituals when they visit. I am grateful for the many families who hosted our son during his time there. I hope on future visits I’ll be able to continue to pay the kindness our son received during his time at the school forward to current cadets.