Last week I traveled to Charleston for the Monuments Men event on campus. Several months ago Professor Tiffany Silverman asked me to serve on the advisory committee for the event. It was a great way to learn more about the Fine Arts program at The Citadel and to meet some fascinating people.
It was a big event weekend in Charleston and the hotel rates were super high. I am grateful to my good friends for letting me stay at their home in Johns Island. Having the free accommodations meant I could stay through the weekend for the celebratory gathering after the event on Saturday.
Like most visits to The Citadel my time was packed with activities. Top on my priority list after attending the Monuments Men lecture by the author, Robert Edsel, was to finally meet Duane Wittman, father of SGT Aaron X. Wittman who was killed last year in Afghanistan. Aaron was a Citadel graduate and soldier in the same battalion as my son. If you’ve followed my blog you’ll know I attended the burial for Aaron at Arlington National Cemetery last winter. Since that time I’ve been in touch with Aaron’s friends and Duane to help get word out about the scholarship set up in Aaron’s name. The Wittman’s gave Aaron’s ring to the Band of Gold program at The Citadel. His ring was melted down and is part of the rings the Class of 2014 wear. Finally getting to meet Duane and a couple of Aaron’s friends was a big highlight of my weekend. They were in town for the Cooper River Bridge Run. About 150 people ran or walked in Aaron’s memory this year.
I managed to get some fun visits with cadets in as well. Some were planned an others were spontaneous meetings on campus. I was sure to get photos of cadets I know so I could share them with their moms. I also took a ton of photos of the parade Friday afternoon in the hope their family would catch a glimpse of their cadet. Friday evening I spent dinner with two knobs. It was fun to get to know these young men. After dinner and dropping them off on campus I gave rides to a few cadets who were heading to town. While they appreciate the ride, it is fun for me to meet these cadets and learn about them.
Saturday was a nice quiet day. The weather was great so I spent a few hours at Folly Beach writing before I had to get ready for the party. It was a terrific evening. We were hosted by the advisory committee chair at their home near the battery. I had a great time meeting the other guests including cadets from the Fine Arts program. I even had the chance to chat with Bill Murray. The basketball game was one so we talked basketball. I was thrilled to learn he knows of my alma mater, the University of Richmond Spiders. Unfortunately I think I was a bit too chatty and BIll soon made his excuses and headed for the food.
My traditional last stop before leaving Charleston is brunch at the Marina Variety Store. This trip was no different. I then go to campus for a rest stop and usually head home. This year a variation of my tradition included giving some knobs a ride into town and then three back to campus. It was a fitting end to a great weekend.
I am not sure when I will be able to visit Charleston again. Right before my trip last week I received a call that will change my life, and that of our family, for the next year. Back in January I interviewed for a residency position in the chaplains office of the VA hospital in Decatur, GA. When I interviewed they told me the funding should come through in February. Since it was April I had assumed they filled the four spots. It turned out they had not. The supervisor called last Wednesday morning and offered me one of the four residency positions. I will begin June 2. (that is, if I pass the physical and background check)
Clinical Pastoral Education or CPE is a program people go through for a variety of reasons. I’ve wanted to do this for years. It does take a lot of time and can be very demanding. Until now family obligations have kept me for applying. I’ve framed the support for Citadel parents as a type of chaplaincy. For years I’ve offered encouragement and support to journalists in much the same way as a chaplain would. This will be an opportunity to be in a group environment to learn and to grow. The VA is the only program I applied to. I felt the experience there, to work in an environment with veterans, will enhance the experiences I’ve had to date with members of the military.
I am feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I am excited for the opportunity and nervous because it will be a whole new experience. Ultimately I hope this experience will help me be a more informed and effective caring presence to the people I am in contact with in various roles.