Remembering My Sailor On Veterans’ Day

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking of what I wanted to post for Veterans’ Day. I have so many family/friends to thank for the service and have the fear of leaving someone out in my thanks. So, instead, I have decided to tell ALL Veterans THANK YOU for your service, all branches, throughout the USA. I then pulled up my old blogs from my own son’s boot camp days. I share them with you now. It’s been six years and so much has changed over these six years. My Navy son is now a veteran, at the age of 25. It is amazing how quickly time passes, but time does not take away the heart, soul and commitment of our military men and women. To that end, the friends we make along the way we will hold in our hearts and minds forever. We share a bond. For me, especially with my navy moms. Thank you to ALL of our Veterans!

Navy Camp – Ship 12, Division 377

Blog #1, September 24, 2009.

Numero Uno Son, Alex, left for Navy Boot Camp two weeks ago this past Tuesday. We have just received his first “real” letter. I am sure that, by now, my husband has confirmed that I am manic. Last night, I was beside myself because I hadn’t heard from
him. Today I am beside myself because I have.

The letter is great. He sent one to us and enclosed two others in the envelope to close friends. One of those friends leaves for Navy Boot Camp this coming Monday. The opening line was, “Dude, I feel so sorry for you,”

His letter is short, but full of the good, bad and the ugly.

“Hi, How is everything at home? This place sucks. Our Division is the worst on the base. Literally, other divisions laugh at us.”

“Ever have 87 room mates? Well, its hard when there are only 6 toilets.”

“I like the new boots they gave me. They are big and stompy and make me want to kick something because they are steel-toed.” (Does it sound like he is 17?).

“This place isn’t bad, but its kind of stressful. Other than that, its actually really funny. The RDCs use every war/boot camp movie joke i have seen.

Alex is totally bummed he is “this close” to Chicago and hasn’t had a deep dish pizza. Its on his list for graduation along with a good movie (Where the Wild Things Are.) Ah, my son is still my son. His writing it still sloppy and his written grammar terrible.

Everything he said sounds so typical of the book I am reading,
“Honor, Courage & Commitment”. All Divisions think they are the worst. I am just so thankful that he has not gotten sick. He is counting the days just like we are.

More later. Thanks to all for your good wishes, thoughts, prayers and hugs

Blog #2 – October 6, 2009

Got a phone call from Alex last Wednesday. So great to hear his voice. Frustrating, as I had all of my phones lined up in front of me and the one he first called had a dead battery. That’s what happens when you try to plan.

He told his dad that during the first week of boot camp all he could think was “Man, maybe I should have gone to college!”. His Division is down 11 recruits due to medical issues/not passing their general assignments. He is holding his own and as of tomorrow is 1/2 day through his 8 weeks of boot camp. He has received many letters from family and friends and I know he will continue to do so over the next week as he is celebrating his 18th birthday. I am so blessed to be surrounded with great friends and family who have so generously and unconditionally offered their prayers, support and written letters to Alex.

As I looked up at the sky this weekend (On my way to the bathroom, in the dark in the beautiful camp ground in Big Sur, CA), it was filled with millions of stars. I hope Alex realizes that if he looks up at night he can see the same stars that we see here in California. I hope that he feels our presence as he walks (marches or runs) through his day.

A little reading bit from the Navy4Moms posting below. I have read it before, but it never fails to move me to tears. We are lucky to live in a Country where we can celebrate our freedom and are able to do so because of the men and women who put themselves out there to serve and protect us. Alex’s PIR (Pass In Review) is on Friday. I just found another reason to go buy a new outfit!

Cheers, my friends. God Bless and watch over you SR Alex.

Red Shirt

If the red shirt thing is new to you, read below how it went for a man…

Last week, while traveling to Chicago on business, I noticed a Marine sergeant traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two and two together.

After we boarded our flight, I turned to the sergeant, who’d been invited to sit in First Class (across from me), and inquired if he was heading home.

No, he responded.
Heading out I asked?

No. I’m escorting a soldier home.

Going to pick him up?

No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Iraq , I’m taking him home to his family.

The realization of what he had been asked to do hit me like a punch to the gut. It was an honor for him. He told me that, although he didn’t know the soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier’s family and felt as if he knew them after many conversations in so few days.

I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, Thank you. Thank you for doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do.

Upon landing in Chicago the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had the honor of having Sergeant Steeley of the United States Marine Corps join us on this flight He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his family. I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door to allow Sergeant Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign.”

Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the sergeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize that I am proud to be an American.

So here’s a public Thank You to our military Men and Women for what you do so we can live the way we do.

Very soon, you will see a great many people wearing Red every Friday. The reason? Americans who support our troops used to be called the “silent majority.” We are no longer silent, and are voicing our love for God, country and home in record breaking numbers.. We are not organized, boisterous or overbearing.

Many Americans, like you, me and all our friends, simply want to recognize that the vast majority of America supports our troops. Our idea of showing solidarity and support for our troops with dignity and respect starts this Friday — and continues each and every Friday until the troops all come home, sending a deafening message that … Every red-blooded American who supports our men and women a far, will wear something red.

By word of mouth, press, TV — let’s make the United States on every Friday a sea of red much like a homecoming football game in the bleachers. If every one of us who loves this country will share this with acquaintances, coworkers, friends, and family, it will not be long before the USA is covered in RED and it will let our troops know the once “silent” majority is on their side more than ever, certainly more than the media lets on.

The first thing a soldier says when asked “What can we do to make things better for you?” is, “We need your support and your prayers.” Let’s get the word out and lead with class and dignity, by example, and wear something red every Friday !!!

Blog #3 – October 7, 2009

Newsbulletin in todays news:

The Navy ship, USS George Washington is currently sailing through Typhoon Melor off the coast of Japan. The winds are ranging from a sustained level of 98 mph to 121 mph.

A prayer was posted on Navy For Moms. I thought it rather fitting,

“Oh yes. I will pray. God, put your angels around that ship. Go before it. Go behind it. Make the way safe for them. We trust you to do that as we ask this in Jesus’ name. You calmed the winds and the waves before. You are the same yesterday, today and forever and your love and protection are unending. Thank you, Lord!”

On a lighter note, today is Alex’s birthday. The Big 18! I am stalking the mailbox for the mailwoman in hopes of a letter. I hope his Division recruits help him through this day with birthday wishes and good cheer. Maybe they will even sing to him. If you didn’t know, they do a lot of singing in Boot Camp. They have no access to music, television, telephone, etc. After being plugged into your ipod practically 24/7, the recruits find it a great way to pass the time when they have down time or are in the “head” (restroom – i.e., showers/shaving/dressing.) Alex gave way to a bit of dancing during one of the singing sprees. He is still a SR, so he must have not been too bad.

I think I hear the mailwoman.!

Blog #4 – October 15, 2009

Great letter this week….3 pages… WOWIE.. He finished painting his division flag and it is near perfect. They order Division shirts and had a vote between one side of the flag vs. the other (Alex vs. another Sailor). It was a tie. They flipped a coin and Alex lost. Michael Jackson is on their division flag. Is it just me, or doesn’t MJ has his own legacy? I regress….SR Alex was a good sport. In fact, he has been (unofficially) designated as “most artistic/most insane (due to his dancing moves). He has now been asked by most in his division to design their future tattoos. He is quite proud as the youngest in his division….

His locker is overflowing with b-day cards. He is thrilled and overwhelmed at the same time. I have offered to send a large brown envelope in which he could ship back home what he can’t fit in his locker. It is being mailed out tomorrow. He loved his poster from Big Sur but is also having issues storing it.

He misses his dogs. The only dog he has seen since boot camp is the dog who came through their bunks sweeping for contraband…..

The day of his birthday, his division went to Marlinspike. Marlinspike is the indoor navy ship that they re-reate line handling training on. For his birthday at boot camp, he was pretty thrilled and didn’t get any grief from his leaders for his birthday. Thank you, God!

He has given us descriptions of some of his crew mates: Juggernaut, The Lerch, Old Guy, Then other mates that only go by their last name. One has just recently had a baby. One is from Texas. He is bonding with his mates through drills/daily living/dancing and singing (they love his dancing and this ties with his being voted “most artistic/most insane”. The 7′ Lerch has voted him least wanted to meet in a dark alley.” Go figure. Our guy is holding his own. They had a Johnny Cash day last week and Alex passed 100%.

He pumped out 99 push-ups in two minutes during training last week rendering his own self speechless.

His Division has earned their Athletic flag and their Compartment Inspection Flag – Nifty was the word he used.

As I mentioned, he has received numerous b-day cards and is getting crap from “Old Guy” for how many letters he gets from his Mama.

Battlestations will be the last week of October. BIG week. He seems to have done well through Hell Week, but we will hear more next week.

I thank you all for your cards, wishes, emails, postings as does he. God Bless and we’ll see you on the flip side.

Blog #5 – October 15, 2009

Hell week wasn’t so hellish after all. He said the only different was having to get up earlier.

The weather is getting cold. His “mates” are wondering why he isn’t freezing his fanny off in Chicago being the California Boy. Alex is ready to run in the snow. He is enjoying the cooler weather (when you are sweating like a dog during your drills I can only imagine I would, too).

His entire Division was put on quarantine over the past weekend because 70+ were sick. Alex was one of the 10 healthy ones. They were locked in their compartment, shining their stompy boots and writing letters (and Alex still designing tattoos for his ever growing fan club). They all had to wear doctors masks. They also ask him why he is in boot camp vs. art school. He LOVES that!

He needs stamps. I have sent him two books, and he is still racing through them. Those who want letters, send stamps. I think that will shift your priority level on his ever growing correspondence list. ha

He is making some friends. Alex and the guys laugh that their MOM’s are talking on Navy 4 Moms about THEM.

They have 4 flags total – scholastic, marching, compartment & athletic. I heard that they have become one of the best in their PIR group (Pass in Review) and that they are marching and singing their cadences loud and with pride.

He loved Live Fire (shotguns, etc.) All of his buds threw out their earplugs when they finished their drills. Alex kept his. He uses them to sleep (The best decision ever, he says!). With the exception of oversleeping last week, and having his RDC yell in his face to get up….In which he then proceeded to fall out of bed………from the TOP bunk…….DOH!

Only bad news, He is now on regular watch. He has to wake up in the middle of the night and stand still in front of a door for two hours while writing down everything that happens. (What happens in the middle of the night? Who talks in their sleep? Who farted? Who snored? Who scratched?) Interesting they put a newbie 18 year old on watch for the Division….hmmmmmmm……Meanwhile, makes me glad that I sent him all the verses to all of our Jolley Family Drinking Songs… (Oh! I used to work in Chicago! DA DUM DA DUM DA DUM).

He is loving the letters/cards/pictures. I’m prretty bummed today that some jacka$$ stole my letter to him from my mailbox. Karma shall prevail. Good thing I type them all. I can just reprint and resend. It will just take an extra day to get there.

Starting today is their final big week – Battle Stations. I told him, “Just pretend like you are in your favorite video game and let ‘er rip!”.

Thanks for tuning in. My best.

Blog #6 – October 28, 2009

So, this week, Alex does his battle stations which is the final live test of his skills. Its great stuff.

My husband had a Navy lunch today with four other parents who work for the City of Fremont. Great stories. One of the moms brought and shared (and even loaned us) her son’s Navy “year book”. I opened it immediately not being able to wait to see what was inside.

I was not prepared for the emotion that the book would bring, the memories it would hold. I was overwhelmed with tears and emotion throughout the book. The Sailors Creed, the pictures of the Navy of Old, pictures of processing days (when they first arrive and shed their civilian clothes for SMURF sweats (their first line of navy blue sweats that they work and live in for their first few weeks), they pack up their clothes/shoes to send home in a brown box (some parents open these boxes up outside, and other parents, moms in particular, open the box and lift out the smelly clothing and bury their nose in it hoping to smell their child who is now hundreds of miles from them), an aerial picture of the Great Lakes Base which resembles your local prison, 1st haircut, clothing issue. I don’t know who looks most tired – the males or the females (Navy Jargon). At this point they have been up for 24 hours. Their compartments are sterile (going back to the resemblance of prison). They eat like prisoners, they stand like prisoners. Their medical checks are like prisoners. Please don’t get me wrong. The pictures are sterile, and I give the resemblance of a prison setting; however, I am also a mother who has been missing her son for 6 weeks and while I have and will continue to be his biggest fan of his decision,I ache for him and the fact that i have not seen him for 6 weeks and have not spoken to him since September 30th. My trade off is knowing that while I find this environment looks lonely at this time, he is thriving in it and taking the good with the bad. In the year book, there are pictures of them getting their physicals, their dental check ups (if no one tells you, often times they yank your wisdom teeth in boot camp so it doesn’t interfere down the road), There are pictures of them learning to REALLY tie ties, learning how to fold/iron their clothes, How to salute appropriately, scrubbing bathrooms (GOD BLESS AMERICA!), writing letters while cross legged on the floor next to their bunks.

Their swim survival test, carrying their hard earned flags (each added on a weekly basis based on their achievements), polishing their shoes, polishing parts of their ships. Morning colors – the daily raising of the flag. Hands on training – line handling on the Marlinspike (the pretend ship on base). Physical training, team building, religious time on Sunday, Live Gun Fire, the Captain’s Cup, (group competition), Gas Chamber training, all building up to Battle Stations which is what I mentioned at the very beginning — The Final Live Journey to their Success in the Navy which takes them to their Hat Ceremony — where they switch out the Recuit Hats for their Navy Hats and where they are all given the right to call home to announce that they are a US Navy Sailor.

They will show their uniforms, their flags and their pride at the PIR on November 6th. Some will where yellow scarves showing higher honor/achievement; but all of them should be shown honor and achievement. These men and women have been shaped and molded for our future and our protection and to serve our Country proudly.

They have worked hard to act as a team, to still be an individual to make a difference, to appreicate their loved ones who they miss from home and to call themselves a dedicated professional of the US Navy.

Hopefully, we will get one last letter tomorrow, and then the momentus phone call on Friday. Keep him in your thoughts. God Speed through Battle Stations, SR Alex…We are all waiting for you!!!!

Blog #7 – October 31, 2009

This morning on Navy 4 Moms, one of the moms asked, “I have tons of nervous energy today..I feel like I am on the verge of either tears or pure excitement. Does anyone else feel like this?”

One word, “Yes.”

The last 48 hours have been a total adrenaline rush as our SR Alex began his final boot camp test – Battle Stations. I have never felt this way before – excited, anxious, emotional.

We knew he would start Battle Stations at approximately 8:00 pm, Thursday, October 29th. It is a 12 hour exercise where the recruits team up and tackle re-enactments of past Navy disasters (both war disasters and natural disasters) on a simulated Naval ship. Everything they have learned over the last 7 weeks will be put to the test – and make or break their status as a Navy Sailor.

With crazy work/family schedules, I continued to peek at the clock to see if it was 8:00 yet (it would only be 6:00 CA time). No luck, it is only noon. I have had to cut down on my caffeine, because I am so amped up. The day continues to pass by, I watch the clock, check the N4M website, work some. Finally it is 8:00 pm in Illinois. I bow my head, say a prayer, and then look up to the Heavens and ask my grandfather, Jay Jolley, and my favorite cousin, Bob Steele, both former Navy Sailors, to watch over SR Alex from Heaven above and carry him and his Division thru a successful mission. I head to bed, bow my head, then look up to the Heavens. Woke up at 12:00, 2:00, 4:00. Each time. I bowed my head and then looked to my grandfather and my cousin. Finally, 8:00 am – the end of Battle Stations – I repeat my steps above and whisper a thank you to God and my family members above.

The recruits have been up for over 24 hours. They have not eaten in over 12. Most, if not all of them, are soaking wet from the battle stations, the weather and just sweat and tears. The team showers, is fed a meal and then our initiated into the US Navy through the Cap ceremony, wherein they exchange their Recruit ball caps for their Navy ball caps. Some say that this is more emotional and more important to them than the actual formal dress graduation.

Again, I am watching the clock. Us parents all know that once they complete their Cap ceremony, the Sailors are allowed to call home to announce, “I am a Sailor.”

Too much coffee, not enough sleep, my body either unwilling to recognize or just too stupid to know the word tired….. I sit at my desk trying to work, two conference calls, emails, reports, the clock, the clock, the clock. It is almost noon in IL and no call. My friend, Jane, comes by to pick up some work. She waits patiently through my conference call. Roger calls. I peek on the N4Ms website and the threads have started, “I GOT A CALL”, “I am on the phone with my son/daughter”. “OMG – I am on the phone”. Tap, tap, tap, tap goes my foot. Finally my cell phone rings.

It is SR Alex. His voice comes through the payphone he is allowed to call from. It does not sound like him. Aside from being tired, he sounds different. I know, over the last 7 weeks, he has changed. I wonder if I will recognize him when I see him next week.

I congratulate him, tell him I love him.

His response, “Ummmm.”. Some things will never change.

He is not forthcoming with information. I ask him about Battle Stations. How was it? What did you do?

He replied: I can’t tell you. Its against regulations.

I reply: Well, I pretty much know what you did. Tell me how it was?

SR Alex: How do you know what we did?

Mama: Well, if you had read the Honor, Courage and Commitment book I bought you at Christmas, YOU would know what you were going to do, TOO!

Finally, he laughs. Ah, I do hear my old Alex in there.

He tells me about the “Old Guy” (Oldest guy in the Division) and how he did not pass Battle Stations. My heart breaks for the Old Guy (who by the way is younger than me). However, he will have one opportunity to re-do Battle Stations early next week. So there is still hope. He has already been moved to a different Division. Move them in, Move them out.

The next few days, we understand the recruits will be treated more like Sailors vs. Recruits. They will have free access on base (vs. being escorted everywhere) for the weekend. The recruits will be allowed to take naps and go to Ricky (Navy nickname for the Recruits) Heaven (Arcade center with computers/internet access, a Subway, KFC and Taco Bell). If the farting was bad before, God help them now. This is all news to Alex. He knows nothing about how his weekend will be spent.

I thought after the call, my adrenaline levels would die down. Not the case. I crashed early last night, but was up at 4:30 this morning wondering what my Sailor is doing.

Less than a week until I see SR Alex. I hope I still recognize him. I looked into my 9 year olds loving face this morning. He looks so much like Alex did at that age.

Where has the time gone? In the blink of an eye, Alex has gone from a baby boy bundled in blue to a Navy Sailor. What will the future hold for my other two children?

Children are such an amazing gift. Its like opening a new package every day of the week. As a parent, you think of yourself as a lot of things to your child, but one of them is a teacher. At this point in my life, I am beginning to think that THEY are the teachers and that I am learning more from them than anything I could possibly teach them.

BRAVO ZULU, SAILOR ALEX and all other Graduates of PIR 11/6.

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