There is no profession more honorable in this country than serving on one of the branches of the Armed Services. It’s unfathomably difficult work, which very few of us could possibly understand. When your loved one ships off, you are whipped around on a roller coaster of emotions. Here’s what happened to me when my brother shipped off to basic military training for the US Air Force.
1. I thought the waiting would never end.
The room they stick family and loved ones in to wait for the military processing to be over is doctor’s-office-white and chilly. The floors are shiny and there’s a half-stocked vending machine in the corner. There’s no television or music playing, and it seems disrespectful to other families to talk loudly, so there’s a dull roar of nervous whispers bouncing off the bare walls.
2. I was so anxious.
Before trainees ship off, they have a large barcode-looking sticker attached to their shirt and a million thoughts run through your head. With 45 minutes left before their entire life changes, what do you talk about? Talk about the Red Sox? Tell them how proud you are? Ask if they’ve got everything packed for the zillionth time?
3. I didn’t think it was possible to have so many emotions.
He looks too young to be standing at attention, taking the oath! The tears come fast and they come out of nowhere. You think you’re doing well, you’re holding back those tears and smiling so big to show how proud you are, but then they come to the, “I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” part of the oath, and all self control dissolves in a puddle of tears and mascara.
4. I was confused…wait, he’s leaving NOW?
We’ve only been waiting all day, all year, for this, but now it’s here. They call the shippers over the PA system, say it’s time to report. You steal one last hug, share one last laugh and all too soon they are turning away, walking down the hallway, away from you and toward a new, challenging and exciting life.
5. I check the mailbox obsessively.
I love getting mail, always have. But once Week 3 comes along and trainees are allowed to write home, you rush home after work, check the mailbox and hope there’s a letter inside. You also end up checking the mailbox when you leave in the morning, during the commercial breaks during Scandal, and pretty much any other time you don’t have something super important to do.
6. I joined every social media group possible.
I’m all about social media. It’s like 90% of my job. So when my brother shipped off to Texas, I went right on Facebook and Instagram, found my fellow trainee families and joined them all. Just like the mail, I end up checking it 30 million times a day, because God forbid I miss out on some crucial info!
7. I am emotional every day.
I’m a generally emotional person, but now every time a commercial comes on TV or a service member stands up at a Red Sox game, the tears start rolling. It’s a mix of pride, joy, missing them and apprehension and it’s nearly impossible to stop those bad boys from messing up your mascara.
8. I’ve become a military expert.
No amount of research on basic military training is enough, and I find myself spending my downtime Googling basic training and trying to figure how what they are doing every day. For someone who is generally “in the know” it is SO HARD to deal with not being totally informed. So I do the next best thing and investigate.
9. And now I want to forget what I’ve learned.
It’s impossible to understand what trainees are going through, but you can find some videos online that will show you how difficult things are. Once you see one, you’re good. Nobody wants to think of their loved one going through all that (especially not my baby brother).
10. I have so many countdown apps.
There are currently two and a half weeks until graduation and it seems like FOREVER. I have it marked on my calendar, in my countdown app on my phone, even in my work calendar. I’ve checked and re-checked my flight plans, written down my packing list, everything. Now all I need is for Veteran’s Day to get here!
11. I’m networking.
With a loved one in basic training, your world opens up to all of the families whose loved ones have also gone through or who are currently going through basic training. Without even trying to, you make connections and create a new network of people whom you can rely on during this emotional roller coaster.
12. My family has gotten closer.
As with any difficult situation, when a loved one ships off, your family grows very close. The group message is always dinging, with someone sending more info on this or that, planning for graduation and deciding which banner design to go with for graduation. Your trainee will miss his family most, and becoming closer with your family is both an inevitable and welcome development.
13. I’ve learned how to write letters.
What’s important enough to put in a letter to someone at basic training? You can hardly relate to what they are going through, so you resort to Patriots recaps, political updates, and Cliff-Notes versions of the most recent Walking Dead episodes. When you sit down to write a letter, you just have to let yourself go, because all they need and want is some semblance of normalcy, so even the most mundane updates are welcome.