Time flies by. Two years ago I was gearing up for graduation weekend at The Citadel. My graduate is now a first lieutenant in the US Army and on his first deployment.
Two years ago I had no idea I would still be in regular contact with parents of current cadets. Once I posted the information for Citadel Parents to this blog I thought that would be it. Parents could find the information and I would move on to other activities. I was wrong.
What I didn’t expect were the emails and phone calls from Citadel parents. By the spring of 2012 I found it was easier to answer the questions of new parents by posting a Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016. A few friends who are now parents of graduates joined the page too. The group grew. It now boosts over 300 members. A group for the class of 2017 parents is now up and running.
Once your cadet gets through the first year at The Citadel you can volunteer with the Citadel Family Association. It is a great way to help other new families learn the ins and outs of having a cadet at The Military College of South Carolina. It is also a terrific way to make friends. This blog is just one way to learn about The Citadel experience. Any number of parents of current cadets can help answer questions as well. The Citadel Family Association is a great place to find supportive parents.
Next week I will travel to Charleston to be with a few of my Citadel Ya Ya sisters, and visit with a number of families with graduating cadets. In a way I feel like a distant aunt to some of these cadets. Little did I know in 2007 when my son matriculated I would become good friends with the parents of his fellow cadets. And I never would have guessed that I would reunite with an old high school friend from New Jersey.
One day four years ago I received an email asking if I was the same Dorie Griggs who went to Sparta High school. The note was from Gwen, a friend with whom I spent many a weekend with in high school. Who would have guessed that thirty years after leaving high school in New Jersey we would be reunited in South Carolina at The Citadel. Her oldest son is now a graduating senior and will begin his training in the US Army and Gwen will be a Blue Star mother.
Next week I will enjoy being a spectator at the annual rite of passage from cadet to graduate during the Long Gray Line parade. I’ll spend time catching up with good friends and meeting some of the parents I only know through Facebook.
Matriculation Day at The Citadel is just over 2 weeks away. If I didn’t have a calendar I could tell you it was getting close by the search terms used to find this blog. One search in particular tugged at my heart today. One person searched for “how to cope with your son going to the citadel.” When I read search terms like that I wish I could reach out to the person to give them in the information they are searching for directly.
I would let them know they aren’t alone. So many parents feel totally alone in their feelings when sending a cadet off to The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina. It IS a scary process, especially if you have no knowledge of the school or military. That is one reason I posted this blog, to help new parents navigate what seems like a totally different culture with its own language and traditions. Just look to the navigation topics to the left of this entry to find helpful links and advice.
When a cadet enters The Citadel they not only will get a great college education, but they will learn to take charge of their actions. It is a leadership school. One of the hardest thing for the families to learn is that once you drop a cadet off at the school the cadet is then the one expected to handle their affairs. Of course if the family is paying the bills there are certain expectations that should be met by the cadet. The cadet does need to be the lead in all their affairs and will be the only one to be recognized for accomplishments, or their mix ups once on campus. You may find this entry and the links in it helpful: The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents
Early this spring I started a Facebook group for the parents of cadets entering the Class of 2016. The group is for new parents only. I invited a few friends who are also parents of graduates as well so they can help answer the varied questions of new parents. The Files section of the page includes advice and tips for new parents. The questions asked by the new parents are ones that all of us asked when we sent our students to the school.
This type of support wasn’t available in 2007 when my son matriculated. I did find the email of the chair couple of The Citadel Family Association and sent them a note with my questions. At the annual Send Off dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club I met a mom of an upperclassmen who was particularly helpful. Not every parent has that opportunity because not all areas of the country host a send off event.
It is my belief that sending a child to a military college is scary enough. When helping get your child ready to report I don’t believe you should feel isolated. I’m an Army mom now. In the Army they have Family Readiness Groups (FRG) to help family members navigate the preparations for deployment. The military has found if the family members are familiar with the deployment process they will be less anxious and more able to support their soldier. That is how I feel The Citadel Family Association and the various parent Facebook groups work as well.
Attending The Citadel is tough for the cadets going through the fourth class system. I don’t believe it should be as tough for the parents. I encourage all new parents to make contact with the CFA area rep and/or join the Facebook group for new parents. Once your cadet is on campus you can join the Facebook group for your Battalion and/or contact the CFA Battalion and Company representative. Some companies have Facebook groups as well. Look over the links on this entry for other Facebook groups related to the school. They are a great resource for information and support.
I do recommend that you join the groups, but only post general questions to the parent groups. Ask specific questions in private messages to a CFA rep or other parent. If you have specific questions about policy or other official school business call the appropriate office on campus. Learn to use the search window on the schools web site to find the answers to your questions. They also have an A – Z site map. I’ve compiled a list of Helpful Web Links for frequently called departments.
One word of caution, years ago before cell phones, email, and Skype, parents would drop their cadets off in August and not see them until parents Weekend or Thanksgiving. The cadets could only call from pay phones once a week. If you talk to an alumnus who went through during that time period, don’t expect a lot of sympathy if you complain about the lack of communication.
If you have friends with children who enlisted in the military, realize that they don’t hear from the soldier much at all during boot camp. It can be 10 weeks with only an occasional 3 – 5 minute call or regular letter. If you meet the parent of a soldier in boot camp or deployed know that they too are going through a stressful time.
We are all proud of our children. We also owe it to them to learn what we can about their process, not to intervene, but to support them.
Remember you are not alone. There are many Citadel parents who are available to answer your questions. My biggest surprise of my son’s four years at The Citadel was that I gained life long friends as well.
To read more about my process of sending a cadet to The Citadel visit this blog entry: