Laughing Helps An Army Mom Cope with Deployment Orders

Hell week is over at The Citadel and classes begin tomorrow. The knobs and other cadets will begin to fall into their regular routine. Along with the cadets, the parents will also find their new daily rhythm at home.

Brother and sister meet for the first time in months on Parent’s Weekend, 2007

For parents of the Class of 2016 that will most likely include checking the school photos each day to try to catch a glimpse of their knob. The parents of the Class of 2013 will be finalizing their travel plans for Parent’s Weekend which is also referred to as Ring Weekend since the qualified seniors receive their rings Friday afternoon then are presented at the Ring Ceremony Friday evening. Each day until Ring Weekend the knobs may be asked by seniors to tell them how many days until they receive their rings. There is a certain comfort in knowing the annual routine at The Citadel remains basically the same over the years. The timing of an event may change from one year to the next, but the basic flow remains the same.

Now that I am an Army mom I miss that routine and general flow of events. We are learning that life as an Army family doesn’t include predictable events. It is more like hurry up and wait then learn to adjust when orders change without warning. Dates are suggestions. Once you feel fairly certain of a date, like deployment or their return, you can’t share that with anyone.

I miss the routine and predictability of the school year at The Citadel. The anxiety I felt over Hell Week doesn’t compare to the fuzzy feeling in my stomach now that we are preparing for a deployment. Even though I know my son was prepared well for his new job as an Army officer, the emotions of sending a child to a dangerous area still catches up with me. I’ve learned not to fight the emotions. It is normal to feel emotional when a loved one will go into harms way. I just try not to let it over ride all the other feelings of pride, love, and joy over the person he has become.

One way I am dealing with this uncertainty is to help new families of Citadel cadets learn the ropes of what I know can seem like a foreign culture. I am also taking the Level II comedy writing class taught by Jeff Justice. Laughing is a great way to help deal with worry and anxiety. Our graduation show is August 27 at The Punchline Comedy Club in Sandy Springs. My routine from the Level I class was well received, hopefully I’ll control the butterflies and have a decent showing next week too.

If you are in the area and would like a good laugh, join us at The Punchline Comedy Club. doors open at 6:30 and the show begins at 8:00. Buy your tickets online.

Dorie at The Punchline Comedy Club during her graduation show.
photo by Stanley Leary.

A Few Notes Before the Weekend

Bravo knobs prepare for the promotion ceremony on Parent’s Weekend.
photo by Seth Ruff

The first week of training is almost over for the first year cadets, or Knobs, at The Citadel. It is a stressful time each year for the knobs and their families. Their phones should be returned sometime early next week. It is important to remember that the cadre in the company do have some leeway with the when exactly the phones are returned. The computers are the same way. Just wait until you get a call or email. Then be as positive as you can. Realize that some knobs will vent to family because they are the only ones to whom they can vent/complain.

By now the school Post Office has sent quite a few USPS boxes and labels to new families. Not everyone receives them. You can order your own online for free at We used the 1096L Priority box then put it in the Flat Rate envelope to save money on postage. It is a little larger than the small flat rate boxes.

Saturday afternoon the knobs will have a little fun when they attend the annual football team scrimmage. The knobs act as cheerleaders for the game.

The Cadet Activities office hosts an evening event Saturday that features a hypnotist. It is always fun to see the photos of the event. Be sure to bookmark the Cadet Activities web page and Facebook page for photos and important information. You can order cookies for your knobs birthday or other special occasion through their office. No knob wants to stand out in the group so remember not to make a big deal out of their birthday on campus.

Once classes get started a regular rhythm sets in to the week. It’s a busy rhythm, but it will become fairly routine.

I understand the Commandant told the new families on Matriculation Day that August 26 the knobs will get their first leave for 7 hours. While it may be tempting to rush to see them, it is the first time they have a chance to get off campus with their new friends and begin to bond as a class. You’ll have plenty of weekends to visit. Many local cadets bring friends home with them too.

A proud baby sister tries to point to her big brothers name on the Bravo Company board. Parent’s Weekend, 2008

Just a reminder to take time to learn the school website, especially the training schedules, photos and External Affairs pages. The Facebook pages for External Affairs, The Citadel Bookstore, and The Department of Cadet Activities will post information and photos throughout your cadets time at The Citadel.

Hell Week and Knob Year Survival Tips for Parents

Knobs and cadre members outside of Jenkins Hall Sunday afternoon.

I made it to another Matriculation Day at The Citadel, my 6th, 5th as a volunteer. Like most visits to the school it was a busy weekend. My tradition is to stop by Mark Clark Hall when I arrive in Charleston. I began to meet incoming families right away. The Gift Shop tends to be a place where all the new families visit when they come to campus.

One thing I didn’t realize before going to campus was the impact posting this blog would have on a broader audience. After my son’s graduation I decided to post the basic information I gave to the Georgia families each year during our orientation for new families. What I discovered this weekend is that I should never underestimate the research prowess of anxious parents! The advice I’ve been sharing with Georgia families is now online and available for anyone who searches the web for information on The Citadel. The end result was that this past weekend people I had never met called me by name to say hello.

The whole experience was a bit surreal. I’m an extrovert so meeting all the new families was really fun, but it just felt a bit strange and rewarding to know that my little blog actually reached the intended audience and helped a few people.

Volunteering during Matriculation Day and being the administrator of the Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016 is a good distraction for me right now too. My son will be deployed sometime later this year. Helping others is a great way to forget about your own anxieties.

I purchased a “Big Red” flag for my son and had his graduation year added. The alumni like to get their photo taken with the flag where ever they are stationed. Once I had the flag, a friend of my son held it by the company letter so I could send the photo to him as well.

“Big Red” in front of the Bravo Company letter in 1st Battalion. the day before Matriculation Day.

This first week for new knobs is tough on them, but judging by the posts of new parents I know it is hard on them too. In 2011 I wrote a blog entry for the blog site Off the Base titled, The Citadel: Year One A No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents. Most of what I wrote in 2011 still applies today.

There are a few other tips I’ll pass along to the new parents about this first year:

Each Cadet is different: Remember, each knob and each cadet will have their own a unique experience. During the first year the knobs learn to work together. BUT if you are friends with the family of an upperclassman, take their advice with a grain of salt no two cadets have the same experience. Each year the cadre change the companies each have their own traditions so no two years are the same and no two cadets have identical experiences.

That goes for my suggestions as well. I don’t have all the right answers. Much of this whole process is up to the individual cadet. Each family has to make their own decisions on how to proceed with mail, visits, etc.

Learn the web site: I posted a page called Helpful Web Links to this blog to help make it easier to find the sites viewed most by parents. It includes links to: the photo site that is updated just about daily this week; the Office the Commandant page, where you can find the Training schedules for each and every week and the PowerPoint Presentations the cadets will sit through; and many others. The A-Z  Site map and the regular search window on the upper right side of the home page are great tools to find the information you are looking for about the school.

Regarding Facebook: I know you miss your child. I was one of the parents trolling the photo website during Hell Week hoping for a glimpse of my knob too. Now that Facebook is such a big part of the social media scene, new parents should use restraint when posting to public sites like The Citadel External Affairs page and other Citadel related Facebook groups. They post great photos and information. You should join the page and keep an eye on it, but if you see your knob, don’t post comments. A knob wants to fly under the radar. If a parent starts gushing about their child on the public page it invites unwanted attention to the knob. The cadets and alumni are also part of the public pages. When you see a photo you like download it and repost it to your own Facebook page so your friends can see the photo and comment. Do join the page just for 2016 parents, Only new parents and a few parents of graduates are on the page.

Facebook friends from the Class of 2016 meet in person in Mark Clark Hall.

Questions/Concerns: Email and call your CFA company or battalion rep. If you are part of the Facebook group for new parents you can private message one of the parents of a graduate on the site. If it is a questions about policy of the school, call the Ombudsperson’s office they are available 24/7. They are a great first stop and will keep your call confidential if you’d like.

Phone calls/Email/Texts: The knobs will get their phones and computer access early next week. It can vary by company when they get the privileges back so don’t panic if you hear someone has heard from their cadet and you haven’t. They will not be able to answer the phone/email or text at will. If they do call and the call drops suddenly it is not a bad connection, don’t call them back. It most likely means a member of the cadre walked in the room and they had to hang up. Keep your calls encouraging. You may end up being the one person they complain to. Realize that most knobs will dump their frustrations to their family members leaving them to worry. They rarely let you know a situation has resolved. You are left to worry and they are dealing with whatever it was they complained about.

Mail/Food: They will get to go to their mail boxes when classes begin. Send positive, fun cards and letters. Small boxes of a food are always appreciated. The school has the US Postal Service send small flat rate boxes and labels to you. You can also get them for free at your local post office. TIP: The Priority Mail box #1096L is larger and still fits in their mail box. stuff it with protein snacks or whatever, THEN put it in a flat rate mailing envelope to save on postage.

Visits after Hell Week: The first time knobs can go off campus is most likely August 26. They may have up to 7 hours I say may because the leave is a privilege that can be revoked. This first day off campus is a terrific time for the knobs to bond off campus with their classmates. Most walk to town for a decent meal without the cadre present. Future weekends you can make plans to visit if that is what your family decides they want to do. As with everything else this year allow your knob to call the shots. They will let you know if a visit would help or if they want to spend time with their new classmates. You can send a gift card to the fast food places around campus, like Burger King, McDonald’s, and Hardee’s, or to the restaurants in town like Sticky Fingers, Moe’s and other casual restaurants.

Girlfriends: There is a Facebook group for girl friends of cadets. Request to join the closed group to meet other girlfriends by clicking this link. I haven’t found one for boyfriends.

Looking forward to Parents Weekend: The schedule is usually posted to the main website a few weeks prior to the weekend. It hasn’t changed much over the years, but do check it to see if they decided to change ties of the events from previous year. If you can, try to get to campus before 12 noon on Friday. The knobs have lunch with their senior mentors then they line to road in front of the barracks to cheer the graduating class as they march to the field house to receive their rings. It is fun to watch as the knobs chant the graduating class on. There is an academic open house and the knobs can usually leave with their families in the afternoon. The seniors get their rings then dash out of the field house and into their barracks to celebrate. They usually want the knobs to be out of the barracks before the seniors come in.

My son stares at a knob during the promotion ceremony.
photo by Stanley Leary


The knobs of the Class of 2011 line the street to cheer on the seniors.

The Friday of Parents Weekend is HUGE deal for the seniors. They have waited three years to earn the right to wear THE ring. They receive them Friday afternoon and Friday night is the Ring presentation and Ring Hop. Knobs don’t attend the dance, but if you are on campus in the evening it is fun to see everyone dressed up. It is something to do sophomore and junior year when your cadet might be out with their buddies. My daughter and I picked up some ice cream and sat near the field house watching the mother’s and girlfriends walk by in their beautiful gowns.

Ring ceremony, 2010.
photo by Stanley Leary.

See the few photo albums I have from my weekend at The Citadel here:

Photos of Friday afternoon and evening

Matriculation Day photos

Sunday Chapel and around campus

A Few Notes for the Class of 2016 Before Matriculation Day

Bravo knobs line up in 1st Battalion ready to report to the First Sergeant.
2010 photo

In just a few days The Citadel Class of 2016 Cadet Recruits will report for Matriculation Day. These first year students are called Cadet Recruits until they go through the promotion ceremony the Saturday morning of Parent’s Weekend.

Right now the cadet recruits around the country are beginning to focus on what is in front of them. From all reports it is the most challenging year of their young lives. I am told by graduates that is is also one of the most rewarding years.

I thought I’d write a few last minute tips for anyone reading this who may not have followed my other posts.

For the Cadet Recruits:

1) Set your Facebook privacy settings as high as you can, including all photos. The cadre are at the school now and already have your names. You don’t need to hand them material about you because your Facebook page is open for all to see. This is good advice for anyone, BTW.

2) Be sure you have printed out and completed the FERPA form and bring it with you. Remember your wallet and ID.

3) It’s too late now to start your physical training if you haven’t already. Know that you will do lots of push ups, sit ups and run every day.

4) You won’t find your company until Matriculation morning. After that your friends and family can get your address through the People Search window on the main school site.

5) Hopefully you’ve started to memorize the Guidon, the small book you were sent. If not be prepared to start memorizing.

6) Set small goals for yourself, like just get to the weekend, then get to Parent’s Weekend, Thanksgiving then Christmas.

Bravo Company cadre prepare to meet the Cadet Recruits.

For the parents:

1) Learn the school web site . I’ll post some links you’ll want to know about right away, like the Operations and Training Schedule page and the photos page. When you can’t hear form them the first 7 – 10 days you can learn about what they are doing and look for their photo.

2) Join the Facebook group for your cadet recruits company and battalion. There is also a page for 2016 parents. The only members are new parents and a few parents of graduates. The Citadel Family Association volunteers are a great help as well.

3) Watch the school web site and The Citadel External Affairs Facebook page for updated information on the big weekends and events. The  Cadet Activities page and Facebook group are also good sources of information and photos.

4) Remember this is a Leadership School. Once you leave campus your cadet recruit is expected to take responsibility for their success and failures. That includes their grades and classes.

5) If they call home discouraged build them up. Remind them to use the cadet chain of command if they have issues. If at anytime you have concerns and want to speak to someone on campus confidentially, call the Ombudspersons office.

6) You can usually find links for the information you are looking for by using the search window on the school site or on this blog. On Facebook groups go to the upper right hand side of he group page and click on the magnifying glass icon. Enter the search term and relevant posts will appear. Bookmark this Helpful Web Links post to refer back to through out the year..

7) If you and your cadet recruit are on campus Friday afternoon stop by Mark Clark Hall, fist floor reception room, between 3:00 – 5:00. A group of new parents and CFA volunteers will be in the first floor reception room to just visit and meet each other.

8) At 6:00 there is a BBQ for new families and old friends. You need to RSVP here.

Take a deep breath. It may be a bumpy ride, but you won’t be going through it alone. Your cadet recruit will learn to work with their classmates. You’ll learn how to find information and support from fellow parents.

Best wishes for a great knob year!

The cadre march the cadet recruits to lunch on Matriculation Day, 2010.