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Out of sight, but certainly not out of mind

From the moment my son signed his enlistment contract with the United States Air Force and took his oath, I had known the day of departure would surely arrive. After it became obvious the “quick ship” program wasn’t going to materialize, I even knew the exact date. On May 31st, he would begin the next phase of his adult life, but being prepared for it in my heart was entirely different.
An entire gamut of emotions have assaulted me since he loaded a big bus in Bristol headed to Knoxville to catch a plane to San Antonio, Texas. One moment I am immensely proud, and the next I am filled with anxiety to the point of being nauseous. My head aches as my mind pictures him marching in dress blues in the hot Texas sun just before flashing back to him as a three year-old in a baseball cap heading off to the fishpond on a summer afternoon.
I was finally resigned to the fact that he was tough and everything was going according to plan and then the telephone rings at 3 a.m. and I get a two-minute call, his first, which totally freaks me out. The mom in me is ready to swoop in and pluck him out of trouble. It is automatic. It has been my mission since he was placed in my arms some 19 years ago, and sitting idly by while my child is suffering has never been an option for me. That is perhaps the most difficult aspect of the entire trial.
I seriously do not know if I would survive the ordeal if I could not rely on my faith, my friends and my family. Knowing that my son and I, and many others, are praying everyday is an unexplainable comfort. Knowing Cindy Pardue is a mom going through the same thing is also a big help, especially since our “babies” left on the same bus heading to the same destination. We stay in touch, compare notes, carry on about how much we miss our boys and count the days until their graduation from basic training becomes reality.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect, for me at least, is the unknown. I am wired to know. I’m a news junkie. I Google just about everything. I hardly spend an hour away from a computer on any given day, so although I have researched all of the “ins” and “outs” and basic schedules, not knowing how he is fairing is possibly the worst, at least for me. With a brother-in-law in the process of retiring after a 22-year stint in the Air Force, I have some general idea of what is going on, but it is extremely difficult to let go and let someone else – someone I don’t know and have never met – mold my child into an airman, and make him ready to face the world, or possibly war and ensure an orderly transition from civilian to military life.
Ultimately, my child made the choice to join the military ranks and serve his country. Yes, this may be an end to the life I once knew and possibly the son I once knew, but it helps to know there are plenty of moms going through the same thing. I salute not only them but the thousands of servicemen and women who have made this weighty decision. While you are marching in the hot Texas sun and while you are being inundated with new information concerning customs, courtesies and basic procedures, always remember how much you are loved.