Gift Ideas for Citadel Cadets and Graduates

I’ve noticed that a number of people are searching for various permutations of “gifts for Citadel cadets” lately. I have learned of some other unique gifts since an earlier post and will link to them here along with some popular sites.

Brenda Harris Tustian has a wonderful site that includes customize prints for Citadel fans. See her website , then go to “Personalized Art,” scroll down to see “A Citadel Christmas” and “Gameday Memories Citadel”

Chocolate Cadet by Christophe Artisan Chocolatier Patissier
Chocolate Cadet by Christophe Artisan Chocolatier Patissier

A fellow Citadel mom recently posted a photo of a custom-made chocolate cadet from Christophe Artisan Chocolatier – Patissier. I emailed the shop for more information and learned each Chocolate Cadet is made to order by hand. They sent a photo for me to include here.  The cadet is not on their website. You need to call the shop to order, 843-297-8674. Each Chocolate cadet is $19.95 plus applicable taxes and shipping. They require a three-day lead time if you are picking up from the shop, longer if it needs to be shipped. When my grad returns from his deployment I will definitely be placing an order.

One time that is searched for frequently are the custom-made Cadet ornaments and nutcrackers by Carolina Cadets. We have an ornament and a Summerall Guard Nutcracker. They are well made a fun to display at the holidays. Our nutcracker guards the entry foyer of our home. (She will be back online in 2015)

Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.
Carolina Cadet Nutcracker and an Army Nutcracker purchased at Target.

A great gift for a graduate is the Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association. It is $400 for juniors and seniors, CGC students and Active Duty Students.

The Big Red flag or a company guidon is a great gift for a graduate. The Big Red flag can be personalized with the company letter and /or the graduation year. The staff of Carolina Flag and Banner are very nice to work with.

A BIg Red Flag with graduation year from Carolina Flag and Banner
A Big Red Flag with graduation year from Carolina Flag and Banner

Of course the Gift Shop on campus has a wide variety of terrific gifts for cadets and graduates. The frames for the diplomas may seem expensive, but once you price them at a framer you’ll see that the price is comparable. A popular gift for Recognition Day is a company t-shirt and window decal. Under the Alumni tab on the website are some nice gift ideas for the graduate.

For members of the Summerall Guards and alumni you can find nice gifts on their website under “Shop for Promo Apparel.” These items make great gifts for senior mentors who are a members of the Summerall Guards.

M. LaHart & Co. has a very nice selection of gift items for cadets and graduates.

I have learned that parents of Citadel cadets are very resourceful. If you have a great gift idea and are willing to share the idea with other parens, please post a link in the comments here.

Remembering our Fallen Heroes

A Vietnam Veteran replaces worn flags beneath the trees along Warrior's Walk at Fort Stewart.
A Vietnam Veteran replaces worn flags beneath the trees along Warrior’s Walk at Fort Stewart.

After visiting with the rear detachment office at the 3-69 AR BN I stopped at the memorial site called Warrior’s Walk at Fort Stewart. Spending the afternoon on the base and seeing scores of Army soldiers where ever I went kept my mind on the young sergeant in the 3-69 who lost his life January 10 in a small arms fight. I never met SGT. Wittman, but he is a graduate of The Citadel and a member of the same battalion my son is in so I do share some connections with him. My heart aches for his family. Taking a few moments and walking along the Warrior’s Walk I found myself praying for the scores of families who are now one member short.

Shortly after arriving I met an older gentleman along the walk. His arms were full of small American flags on sticks. He wore a Vietnam Veteran ball cap. He was replacing worn flags with new ones all along the walk. We chatted for a bit, I thanked him for his service and continued my quiet walk.

Spurs, a boot and several statues are placed in memory of a fallen soldier.
Spurs, a boot and several statues are placed in memory of a fallen soldier.

Each tree has a small circle around it. Family and friends can leave items beneath the tree. I found myself stopping and pondering the items left. Some had a token from a favorite sports team. Some were covered in small angel statues. One had spurs, various statues, and a single boot at the foot of the tree.

The tree that hit me the most was one toward the front. A small photo of a young boy hung from a branch. Was this the soldier as a young boy? I try not to think about what I would do if it was my son that this tree stood for, but with this tree I immediately thought of the photo I have of my 4-year-old with his old Army helmet on one Christmas morning.

One memorial tree had a photo of a young boy on one of the limbs.
One memorial tree had a photo of a young boy on one of the limbs.

Warrior’s Walk is a beautiful tribute to the soldiers who lost their lives in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. There are just too many trees there.

As I left the walk my new Vietnam Veteran friend showed me the small opening in the pillar that holds the directory of the trees. One day soon SGT. Wittman will be in that booklet. I hope to attend the dedication service.

An Army Mom's Field Trip to Fort Stewart

I visited another culture yesterday, Fort Stewart. Since I did not grow up around the military that is how I felt when I entered the base. It wasn’t that the language or  people were different, but how to navigate the different rules and culture came crashing together for me while shopping in the Exchange.

The Exchange

I met the Family Readiness Group leader at the Exchange. The first sign that I was out of my element happened pretty quickly. I was sitting outside the Exchange in what I thought was the front entrance. A few minutes later my contact walked up and said, “I thought I should check over here. I was waiting on the other side, the front of the building.” Oops.

This was my first visit to an Exchange on a military base. It was like a mini mall. My shopping companion knew exactly where to go once we were inside. We passed kiosk shops with framed sports photos, ladies wigs and other items. We arrived at our destination, a store filled with uniforms and supplies for soldiers.

Before my trip to Fort Stewart scores of friends and people I have never met sent me checks to go toward supplies for the soldiers of the 3-69 AR. Many of the soldiers are in remote areas without access to the internet or a PX. Getting needed supplies is difficult, so are showers. We were told before they left that our soldiers will need us to send items like soap, deodorant, etc. more than snacks and goodies. When I heard there were some soldiers who needed socks and underwear, etc. I put the word out and people responded. To date I have received $1,310 for this project.

Once inside the Exchange I handed over the cash, holding some back to go toward shipping. Since I do not have a military ID all the goods needed to be purchased by my contact. We decided shopping at the Exchange was better than ordering online with free shipping. The prices are so much better on base we could send more to the soldiers this way. We are buying for two platoons, about thirty men.

socks in the cart

We started in the underwear and sock section. Standing in front of a wall of socks we began to read labels. We settled on one style labeled “Military Fatigue Fighter” and features “Graduated Compression” and is made with “Wick  Dry & Scentry Technologies.” While neither of us really knew what “Scentry Technologies” actually means after reading the description of the sock we decided on this style. We opted for a mix of large and extra-large socks. It was on to t-shirts and underwear.

Standing in front of the t-shirts we had fewer decisions to make. There was only one choice in the type of shirt to make, cotton or polyester. Then it was a decision about the size mix. After getting enough for two per men, it was on to the underwear.

The standard issue briefs were only $2.05 a piece. While most of the guys we knew prefer boxer briefs we opted to go with the standard issue because the boxer briefs were over four times the price.

By this time our two shopping carts were pretty full. My shopping partner was keeping a running total on her smart phone.

We turned to the cold weather gear. Because the soldiers are in an area that is very cold now we opted for the “ThermaForm Neck Gator.” The label touts, ” A unique construction of layered fibers that create a body-conforming climate capsule to keep your neck and face warm and protected from winter weather,” Plus it had moisture control. I am learning that wicking and moisture control are important features for soldiers.

After a quick check of our running total we had enough money to buy something in the three dollar range. We opted for foot powder and were on our way to check out.

I made a slight detour to look at the Teddy Bears dressed in uniform. Our 14-year-old daughter came to mind. She misses her oldest brother and would love one of these bears. I settled on one with its cover pulled down to cover its eyes, the same way our soldier wore his cover at The Citadel, plus it had a distinctive nose like our guy.

On to the register. The ladies were very nice. One rang us up while the other bagged the items. To our surprise we came in at $995, not the $1,100 we thought we had. It was on to the PX to buy breakfast bars and oatmeal. The MRE’s provided the needed calories, but we thought the soldiers would appreciate something that doesn’t come from a standard issue box.

loaded carts

The PX was a big grocery store with great prices. We made quick work of the breakfast aisle loading up our large cart with boxes of nutritious bars and oatmeal. A little girl about 4 years old just stared at our cart as we walked down the aisle.

The check out line was like any other store. The lady working check out reminded me I was not at home in an off base grocery store. As she was ringing us up she asked if we needed custom forms for the USPS. We didn’t tell her why we were buying such a huge amount of bars and oatmeal, she just knew. It turns put she receive the stop mail notice for her son and had a stack of forms in her car. She gave the young guy bagging our groceries her car keys to retrieve the forms she no longer needed. One Army mom helping another.

With my little Toyota Corolla now filled up with items to ship to Afghanistan, we drove to the battalion headquarters office to see the Family Readiness Group Support office. I wanted to stop in to say hello and to express my condolences to the rear detachment staff after the death of Sgt. Wittman of the 3-69 just a week before.

After a quick visit and a few photos, I was on my way off base. I took a little time before I pulled out to reflect on the day. I only spent a few hours on base, but I had learned so much. I had to let it sink in a bit.

As I approached the Main Gate, I saw the “Warriors Walk” a tribute to Fort Stewart soldiers who lost their life in during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. I had to pull over to pay my respects. I’ll write about that experience in my next entry.

Dorie visits with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader and the FRSA.
Dorie visits with the Family Readiness Group (FRG) leader and the FRSA.


The Citadel: A note to Parents of the Class of 2013

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Grey Line.
Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Grey Line.

Sunday, January 6, 2013, cadets from The Citadel return back to campus for the Spring semester. For the Class of 2013 it marks the beginning of their last semester as cadets.

I’ve watched the last several years as the seniors anticipate being part of the long grey line of graduates in May. They look forward to their time to break free of the rigors of the military college and begin their life as graduates who wear the ring. Sometime during graduation week it really begins to hit them. They have worked hard for four years to earn the right to wear the band of gold, walk the long grey line and receive their diploma.  What dawns on them graduation week is that while they are moving forward with their new life, they are leaving some of the best years of their life behind. They have become family to their classmates and will now spread across the globe to begin the next stage of their life.

I’ve heard it said among alumni and I have seen it with the cadets the past few years. They spend four years trying to graduate and the rest of their lives trying to get back.

For the parents of the Class of 2013 I have a few tips for this semester and beyond. . . .

Remember tickets to graduation are limited to 8 per cadet. they can request additional, but it isn’t guaranteed. The Cadet Activities office handles all tickets. Your cadet can network with their friends to see if they have tickets to spare.

Enjoy the next four months. Realize your cadet has made it this far in a very tough program because you gave them the tools necessary to succeed. It is a great accomplishment for the whole family.

Spring semester flies by. Visit when you can. Take photos.

Plan ahead for graduation. Make reservations for lodging and meals.

If your cadet will commission with a branch of the service begin now to learn what that will mean for your cadet. The required uniform is expensive. Rituals like the first salute from an NCO also includes handing them a silver dollar. Join the Military Parents of The Citadel Facebook group. The group includes current and former members of the military who are also parents of cadets are graduates as well as parents who learn from each other as they pass through the various training then deployment stages.

Make plans to see the friends YOU have made the past four years. The Facebook groups are great, but be sure to get email and mailing addresses.

Consider purchasing a frame for their diploma from the gift shop. They seem expensive, but custom framing is more expensive.

If your cadet is a member of the Summerall Guards consider purchasing a few items now to give as gifts later.

The Lifetime Membership to the Citadel Alumni Association is a great lifelong gift. Other alumni gifts can be found on the CAA website.

Moms, if you want a “mom’s ring” you may need to let your husband know. Some cadets purchase them for their mothers, but many never think about it. Your husband and your cadet could work together to get one for you.

Your senior is a young adult. They will make mistakes. Hopefully they will learn from their mistakes. Be there to listen when they want to talk, but try to move from a supervisory role to interested observer/consultant. It is time for them to strike out on their own. This transition can be as difficult and even more difficult for the parents than the cadets.

For everyone in the classes of 2014 – 2016, your time is coming soon. Bookmark this entry for future years.

A Note For Parents of 2014 BVA’s:

Be prepared for a tough few months. Your cadet is about to begin their most physically challenging time at The Citadel. I am also told by graduates that they look back on their time as BVA’s as some of the best times they had at The Citadel. They just don’t have extra time to call or keep in touch. Join the Facebook pages for the Summerall Guard Foundation and The Summerall Guards once your cadet makes it. Summerall Guards wearables can be purchased through their website. BVA pants and shirts too.


Previous Posts about Graduation week:

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

An Army Mom Reflects and Gives Thanks

We made it through our first Christmas with our soldier deployed. While we missed him, we did manage to have a very nice holiday with friends and family. Like many people I tend to become reflective this time of year. I thought I’d share some rambling thoughts and reflection about this past Christmas.

Two years ago Christmas day the first blog post I wrote for the military blog site Off the Base was published. The Making of a Military Mom started me on a journey I could never have imagined. When Bobbie O’Brien first asked me to contribute to the blog as the mom of an Army ROTC cadet soon to be officer my first response was, “Thank you, but I am not a writer.” Little did I know when I finally agreed to give it a try that my entries about our experience at The Citadel would be so well received. Eventually I posted my own blog. I’ve met so many wonderful people through this blog either in person, on Facebook, or through email. We have a very supportive community.

This Christmas a group of friends joined me and donated items to be sent to my son’s platoon for Christmas. We heard via Facebook the gift bags arrived right before Christmas. I was thrilled to hear all the boxes we had sent finally arrived. When I asked for photos he told me they would be coming. I checked email and Facebook several times a day hoping to see photos of our guy. A few days before Christmas our daughter asked me what I wanted most for Christmas. I told her, “I’d like a picture of soldiers in Afghanistan.” What a wonderful gift to receive Christmas morning in my stocking. While it wasn’t the picture I expected, it was one of the most thoughtful presents I have ever received.

This picture was in my stocking Christmas morning. A gift from my daughter.
This picture was in my stocking Christmas morning. A gift from my daughter.

She also gave me a t-shirt with the little blue fish, Dory, from Finding Nemo. (In case I forget my name I can look at the shirt.)

In case I ever forget my name, I can look at my shirt. A gift from our daughter.
In case I ever forget my name, I can look at my shirt. A gift from our daughter.

A few days after Christmas an email arrived with three photos. Two of the platoon with the gift bags we sent and one of our guy in a hat we sent to him as a present. It made for a great start to the New Year. The guys look good and we could make out a few of the children’s Christmas pictures in the bags we sent.

Delta Company Christmas photo.
Delta Company Christmas photo.
Delta Company Christmas photo #2
Delta Company Christmas photo #2

New Year’s Eve 2012 marked the 19th year of working in the press box as a volunteer for what is now called the Chick-fil-A Bowl. No matter what changes I am going through in a given year the one constant for 19 years has been this activity. It is like a family reunion each year. My favorite person to catch up with is a gentleman our daughter calls Mr. Walter. He works for the Georgia Dome security during the bowl and his station is right next to the information table in the press box where I work. He is a wonderful, caring, man who is a wiz with statistics of all kinds. He was profiled in the Atlanta Journal Constitution in the past few years. He is an Atlanta celebrity among event goers since he works at multiple venues. I always enjoy our time catching up together at the Bowl. It is also fun to see the various reporters and others who attend the game.

Dorie and Walter catching up during their annual reunion.
Dorie and Walter catching up during their annual reunion.
Members of the press getting ready for the start of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Members of the press getting ready for the start of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Before Christmas I put word out that the soldiers in our son’s battalion needed some basic supplies. While they had the basic necessities some are stationed in remote areas and could use a few more basics. The response has been amazing! Checks began to arrive right away. I am told more are in the mail now. To date I have received $1,200 to go toward supplies. Several other people said checks are on the way. I am working with the family readiness group to determine what is needed and the items should be on their way next week. An initial shipment of military cold weather socks are on their way to our son’s platoon along with another shipment of the coveted soft toilet paper.

I am overwhelmed with these gifts in addition to the many people who have sent boxes to our son and his platoon. Many of these people I have only met a few times, or only know through online networks like Citadel parent Facebook groups. Some are teachers and have sent boxes of goodies and needed items along with letters from children. My son tells me the guys really like the boxes I send the best. I really think he means the boxes of items I and our friends send. In a very real way I feel we are a small part of a huge family that includes: Citadel families, Army families, childhood friends, college friends, church friends, and a few caring people who read the blog and I have never met.

This past week a package arrived from a Citadel mom. It included a card and check and a very special gift for my daughter and me. A picture frame with two patriotic angel pins. Tears came to my eyes when I read the card. The sender is a military spouse. She has a first year knob at The Citadel and has given me some very helpful tips the past few months. She told me that while the Citadel parents are like family that the military family is even larger.

A beautiful gift from a Citadel mom who is also a military spouse. She is also our angel.
A beautiful gift from a Citadel mom who is also a military spouse. She is also our angel.

I am so blessed to have so many wonderful and supportive friends. I am beginning 2013 with the firm knowledge that our family is blessed to have such a wonderful group of people surrounding us with their care and their prayers.