Everyone should experience the graduation of a soldier, I’ve decided. It’s a good way to understand the patriotic service at the heart of our military.
When my son, shown in the photo above next to the South Dakota flag, graduated recently from basic training in Fort Jackson, S.C., our family sat with about 3,000 other people anxiously waiting to see our children for the first time in just more than 10 weeks. The anticipation was high as you can imagine. The soldiers walked through a colorful smoke display, and everyone welcomed them with yelling and cheering. Those first hugs on family day were amazing. They were our loved ones becoming soldiers for the United States Army.
The next day they graduated in dress blues in a class of 1,200. Again, the families gathered in the bleachers at Hilton Field to watch, to catch a glimpse of “their” soldier and to hope that they weren’t among those who passed out in the Carolina heat and excitement. But graduation day seemed different. While our children were still ours, they also have entered into a life in which they will serve all of us and our nation in good times and bad. One mom sitting behind me softly sang all of the words to the patriotic songs being played over the speakers before the ceremony started. Other parents have served or still are serving in the military themselves. These are ordinary people volunteering for our country. There is no question as to how proud all of this makes me as a mom of one who has joined the S.D. Army National Guard and as a citizen of the country being defended by all of them.
Several times, people told my son and others thanks for serving. Thanks, indeed.
Here’s our first glimpse of our soldiers on family day at Fort Jackson.
The nation’s newest soldiers on graduation day at Fort Jackson.