Andrew recently graduated from Military Combat Training at Camp Pendleton. We were going to drive out for his graduation ceremony and would get to spend a couple of hours with him before he was shipped out to MO to continue his training.
“Would you like for me to bring anything for you, son?” I asked.
I was thinking maybe he’d ask for me to bring food, or his favorite candy.
“Please just bring my guitar so I can play for a little bit before shipping out.” he replied.
I was so moved by his simple request.
I brought his guitar as he requested. After the ceremony was finished and photos with the family had been taken, my son was able to play for a few minutes before shipping out to MO.
I can’t wait until I can hear him play again. Hopefully in time for Christmas.
Our son has been home with us for twelve days. Having him home here with us has been wonderful. We’ve gone out for pizza with friends. We’ve gone out to breakfast. We’ve gone thrift store shopping. We’ve sat on the couch late at night and reminisced about the past. We’ve watched our favorite T.V shows together. We’ve eaten our favorite foods together. We’ve visited with friends and family. We’ve laughed. A LOT.
My son is definitely a changed man, but the core of who he is has remained unchanged. He’s still kind, loving and hilarious. He’s been transformed into a confident, strong, focused individual. He’s also not ashamed to admit that he is proud– proud of what he’s accomplished, proud of who he is. As his mother, this brings me immeasurable joy.
His time here at home is short– there are only five days left until he has to leave us again for another three months. (He has Marine Combat Training for thirty days, followed by his specialty training in Missouri for two months.) When I think of him leaving, my heart aches because I know I’ll miss him like crazy. However, I’m better prepared emotionally this time around. Even though I will miss him, I won’t allow myself to be consumed with fear and worry this time around. My son is no longer a little boy who can’t take care of himself. He’s a strong, capable, brave man. Not to mention, a freaking U.S. Marine.
Over two months ago, I kissed my son goodbye and left him to begin his journey to become a Marine.
The first few days of his absence were the most difficult days I’ve faced as a parent. I cried too much, I ate too much, I didn’t sleep much and I cried some more.
Luckily, I have an amazing family and support system. So many of you were there for me, sending me emails, texts and comments, letting me know you were thinking of me and praying for my son.
On August 9th, I got to see my son again. On August 10th, he graduated and we brought him home. It was the proudest, most meaningful moment.
I wanted to share this video I created and to say thank you to every single person who was there for me and my family during this amazing journey.
I am so grateful for your kindness.
And I am so proud of my son.
There are so many things to tell you about these past two days, but for now, I will share with you the first moment we saw our son for the first time in three months.
More to come soon…
I want to write every single day, but all I want to write about is how much I miss my son. No one wants to read about how much I miss my son every single day.
When I received two letters from him earlier in the month, it was like opening the most amazing gift on Christmas morning. Even though I was sad and I missed him, I had his handwritten letters that I could read and know that he’s okay.
I have accepted the fact that I won’t be able to hear his voice, but I still need to know how he’s doing. I want to know how he’s holding up to the intense training. I want to know if he had his wisdom teeth pulled. I want to know if he has pneumonia like several other recruits in his platoon. I want to know that he’s getting through this and hopefully, that he’s thriving.
But the last time I received a letter from my son was on May 14th. Every day I wait for the mail. I think I hear the mail truck and I go running to the window to see if it’s there. My heart starts pounding. Surely, there’s a letter today. But for the past eleven days, there hasn’t been a letter.
So, I read the two that I have, over and over and over again.
“I miss you a lot. I didn’t think that I would, but I do.” He wrote. “I hope I hear from you soon.”
He didn’t know at the time he wrote that letter that I had started writing and sending letters to him daily. And I’ve been writing every day since.
But I’ve heard nothing from him in return.
The silence is hurting my heart.
“Hopefully today” is what I say every morning when I wake up.
Our son has been gone for two weeks. For two weeks, I’ve not heard his voice, or his laughter. There has been no sound of sweet music coming from his bedroom. No hugs, no arguments, no text messages.
The only thing we have are his handwritten letters. They are comforting, they are heartbreaking, they are the greatest joy of my life right now. I’ve only received two so far, but I read them over and over again. Even though he’s going through an intense, difficult experience, he’s managing to keep his sense of humor. I find comfort in that.
He’s not yet received our letters and that hurts my heart a bit. He desperately wants to hear from us. I hope our letters arrive sometime this week.
We’ve written so many letters.
Because that’s all we can do. Write. Wait. Read. Write again.
Hurry up, July 27th.
Yesterday I received the first letter from my son, Recruit Valtierra.
My daughter was thrilled, I was relieved.
Inside the envelope was a two page letter from his Senior Drill Instructor. Although it’s a standard form letter, I found it to be quite comforting. The portion of the letter from my son was addressed to “mother and father” and basically told me his platoon number and his graduation date.
July 27, 2012.
The letter was typed, but he did sign his name. I cried when I saw his handwriting. Tears of joy, tears of Oh My God, I Miss Him So Much.
My cousin is a Marine and he gave me some really good advice on writing letters to my son. He said that when you’re in boot camp, you’re extremely home sick. He said to keep the letters positive and encouraging. As I wrote my first letter back to him, I resisted the urge to be all “I miss you so much that I cry every and life is so sad without you.” Instead, I spoke of how proud I am of him, reminded him how strong he is and told him to always believe in himself and that HE CAN DO THIS. And then I told him how I cleaned under his bed yesterday and found 4,302 empty water bottles and why you gotta be such a slob, boy?
I just feel so much better about everything knowing that I can finally communicate with my son.
Related: How many letters is too many letters? One a day? Every other day? I don’t want to overwhelm him, but I also want to be sure he knows we’re here thinking of him, supporting him as best we can.
I was sitting at my desk, working. My son walked into my room, laid on my bed and began playing the guitar.
“Have you heard this song, mom?” He asks.
I feel the ache in my chest as tears start to form in my eyes. I answer his question, fighting back the tears.
“No, I’ve never heard it. Play it for me.”
He does. I close my eyes and listen. He sings, he plays. I think back to when he first started playing guitar. He was just a little guy, with a little guitar that his Grandpa had bought for him as a Christmas gift. I remember the day of his very first lesson. He packed his guitar carefully into the case and carried it outside with such care and much pride. Playing the guitar became a passion of his. He plays with his brother in the garage, he plays with his church worship band. He learns his little sister’s favorite songs and plays for her while she sings along.
There isn’t a day that goes by that he doesn’t play his guitar. There have been times where I’ve asked him to go play in the garage or to close his door because mama needs silence to watch Real Housewives of Orange County. But the truth is that the music he makes with his guitar is a source of great happiness.
In just thirteen days, the sound of my son strumming on the guitar will cease. I don’t know if my heart will be able to stand the silence.
When your kids are little, one thing you can’t help but wonder is what are they going to be when they grow up?
A teacher? A fireman? A veterinarian?
When my first born was little, I would ask him what he wanted to be when he would grow up and he always had a different answer. He never had a passion for a specific career. “He’s little. He’ll figure it out as he lives his life.” I’d tell myself.
When he was a junior in high school, he had to make up credits for failing a class. He enrolled in a criminal justice course. After week two of the class, he decided he wanted to be a police officer. Of course, that made me both proud and also kind of sick to my stomach. Such a courageous choice– to protect and serve– but one that comes with great risks. But, I was happy that my son finally had decided on a path for life after high school.
He had a plan.
And then, one day after graduation he went with a friend to the Marine Corp’s recruiting office.
The next day, he informed me that his plans had changed.
“I want to join the Marines.”
My heart sank. I tried not to panic. I told myself once he researched and talked to people who had been through boot camp, he’d change his mind!
He started going to physical training at the recruiting office every day with his friend.
One thing I’ve learned is that when you tell people that your kid wants to join the military, they tell you that you should be proud! How brave! SUPPORT THAT BRAVE SON OF YOURS! The truth is that was not my first reaction. My first reaction was “No. Not my son. Never my son.”
Over time, it became clear to me that my son wasn’t going to change his mind. In fact, he became more sure with each passing day. We had many conversations about why he wanted this for his life. He articulated “why” in a thoughtful, intelligent manner. After one particularly intense conversation, I decided that I would stop saying “not my son!” and support the hell out of him.
Earlier this month, he went to LA for two days to go to MEPS. He passed his test and the physical. He was sworn in as a Marine Reserves recruit. He’s just waiting for an official ship out date for boot camp. Yesterday, he was told it’s very likely that date will be March 19th. (But possibly as late as August.)
So, how am I feeling about his decision at this very moment?
I’m a mixed bag of emotions. I feel proud– My son is courageous and brave. I feel nervous– My son will be away for 13 weeks at boot camp where he will be challenged physically, mentally and emotionally in ways that I can’t even begin to comprehend. I know he is strong and that he is smart, but I can’t help but worry about what he will go through during those 13 week. I feel sad, I feel excited, I feel unsure, I feel SO MANY THINGS.
The other night I was sitting on the couch with my husband watching TV. During a commercial, my husband turned to me and said “can you believe our son is going to be a Marine?” I could see that he had tears in his eyes. “STOP IT.” I said. “JUST STOP IT.” We both just sort of lost it. We started to cry and talk about how quickly our first little baby grew up and remember how we used to just hold him and look at him and be in awe of him and kiss his fat little cheeks and sing to him and rock him and just LOVE OUR SWEET LITTLE BABY?
That baby is all grown up now and in a few weeks, he will be a changed man. I am looking forward to the day I can say that I am The Proud Mom of a Marine.