Reaching Out to Military Families Helps

Family Day at Fort Stewart, Oct. 2012
photo by Stanley Leary

It’s been a busy month for me. Most of it related to things other than The Citadel or Army mom involvement.We are very close to the deployment date of my oldest son so staying busy is a good thing. I find I am choking up or tearing up at odd times throughout the week.

We did attend his going away party in early October and then visited Fort Stewart for the Casing of the Colors ceremony and family day. I wrote about that experience for the military blog site Off the Base.

Some fun with family at the pre-deployment party. Quite a contrast to the photo at the top of the entry.

There are so many thoughts going through my mind it is hard to decide what to write about now. So much of it is extremely personal. I am an extrovert so many times what is in my head pops out of my mouth with very little screening. In this situation, however, I am more guarded about what I share with a nameless faceless readership.

Fortunately I can channel my anxiety into projects that help not only my son and his battalion but other military families and military families in training at The Citadel.

For the senior Army ROTC cadets at The Citadel it is a time of anticipation. They received their branch notices at a meeting recently. Their parents are now researching the next steps, including what BOLC means. The training for young officers is called Basic Officer Leadership Course or BOLC and is pronounced bullock. Our son attended Armor BOLC at Ft. Benning. The courses for the various branches of service are taught at bases throughout the country. If you have a cadet at The Citadel you can resource with other military parents through the Facebook group, Military parents of The Citadel. Most likely someone there will know something about the BOLC your cadet will go to after graduation.

If you or someone you know is a cadet or graduate of The Citadel and is currently deployed, make sure The Citadel Heroes Project has their APO/FPO address. You can contact Susie Maghakian with the name and address. Her contact information is below. This group of volunteers sends care packages to deployed cadets and grads a few times a year. They rely on the families to send the addresses. They have an immediate need for personal care items, including items for female soldiers, for the boxes that will be packed November 10 and financial support to cover postage. Items received after November 10 will still be sent out to the soldiers. Make checks payable to: The Citadel Heroes Project

Please send your donations to:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 171 Moultrie Street, The Citadel Station, Charleston, SC  29409

or if you are sending items via UPS or other carrier use the physical address on campus:

Susie Maghakian, Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics, 201 Richardson Ave, 171 Moultrie Street, Charleston, SC 29409

Phone: 843-953-5815

Care packages ready to be shipped to deployed cadets and graduates of The Citadel.
There are many nonprofit organizations that support the troops throughout the year. One organization I volunteer with is the Military Families Ministry. Co-founder, Tracie Ciambotti, is also a contributor to the blog Off the Base. She wrote a book called Battles of The Heart for new Army families.
This past August I enrolled in the Level II Comedy Writing Class taught by Jeff Justice. It was just one more way for me to stay busy and positive as we face the first deployment of our oldest son. In the routine I joked about Army Moms and their cell phones. During a deployment they keep them on their person at all times. Just today I was reflecting on how our life will be the next nine months. I imagine there will be times when I tick someone off on line at the grocery store or at an event when I answer my phone at an inappropriate time. I will not apologize if this happens.
The Family Readiness Group leadership at Ft. Stewart will send the contact information soon for anyone who would like to support our battalion while they are deployed. We already know they will need hand warmers, packets of hot chocolate and instant coffee, protein foods, and baby wipes. I’ll post the address to send donations when they send it to us.
Remember, if you are the parents of a deployed soldier it is completely normal and expected to be more emotional while they are deployed. If you do not have a family member in the military, but know someone who does, remember to check in with them and ask how they would like to be supported during this time.


Fun Friday

Dorie performs her comedy routine at The Punchline Comedy Club as part of the graduation show of The Jeff Justice Comedy Workshop.
photo by Stanley Leary

The official video from my comedy writing class graduation arrived today. The Jeff Justice Comedy Workshop is a great way to learn to put humor into your every day experiences. Many of the graduates have gone on to become stand up comedians too.

I lecture on traumatic stress so I thought this would be a good way to learn how to lighten up a very important, but heavy topic. We are also preparing for my oldest sons first deployment to Afghanistan. Taking this class was a great way to combat the stress his departure.

Enjoy this short routine that includes a little Army Mom humor at the end.

Our graduating class plus Jeff.
photo by Stanley Leary

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.

Working Through The January Blahs

My mother used to talk about the January blah’s. It’s that time of year after the holidays when the days are short and cold and not much is happening. I love the spring time with its longer warmer days and the leaves and flowers begin to blossom. This thought came to me this morning while I was doing a morning writing exercise recommended in the book, The Artists Way.

Jeff Justice and the February 2011 graduating class. photo by Stanley Leary

Each January I try to do something a little outside my comfort zone.  This year I’m working through The Artists Way with a small group of ladies I met through a writer friend whom I really admire. Last year I enrolled in a comedy writing class taught by Jeff Justice. It was a wonderful way to learn how to put more humor into my presentation, but it also gave me a fun outlet to be around some fun people too. Our graduation was at The Punchline Comedy Club in Sandy Springs.  We each did a 4 minute stand up routine of original material that Jeff helped us develop.

It occurred to me this morning that my oldest son, and his buddies at The Citadel, didn’t need to do this type of motivational exercise. They each had some type of driving force within themselves that kept them moving through 4 years of a very ordered life. Even in the toughest time of the year, January, the cadets get up early for morning physical training (PT), go to their meals together, go to class, than participate in some type of activity on campus in the afternoon or evening. Mandatory study time in the evenings on top of the duties that come with their rank is like having a full-time job on top of a very full course load. Just thinking about their schedule makes me tired!

Dorie Griggs at The Punchline Comedy Club for her comedy class graduation photo by Stanley Leary

In reflecting back over the past four years I realized each January after my sons first year as a knob I would get a phone call from a concerned parent. The call usually came after the parent had an upsetting call from their knob. The first week back to El Cid (a nickname for The Citadel), is tough on all the cadets. Knobs, or first year cadets, seem to have the hardest time.  They return to school after spending a month at home with good food, good friends, long hot showers, and a comfortable bed. They return to getting up before the sun and training outside in the cold and damp weather. Anyone would get a bit down in these conditions.

From what I’ve observed over the years is that the cadets who succeed have an inner drive to push them through tough tasks. This inner drive doesn’t go away after they graduate. The graduates who enter the military continue on with similar physical training and the mental toughness to carry out their demanding tasks.  The graduates in the work force remain highly motivated and are often sought out by employers who recognize the value of the leadership training they’ve gone through.

I did not attend a military college and honestly don’t think I could have succeeded at one. I have learned a great respect for the individuals who do attend them and succeed.

For now I’ll continue in my small group plugging away at the tasks outlined in The Artists Way. When I start to make excuses why I can’t do something, I’ll remind myself of the young men and women who by 8:00 A.M. have already been up, exercised, showered, eaten, and are in class.