Graduation for the Class of 2015

Graduate Sadarius Lucas and I take a selfie together after graduation

Graduate Sadarius Lucas and I take a selfie together after graduation

I had the honor of attending the graduation of the Class of 2015 last weekend. A young man I’ve known since before his Matriculation Day, Sadarius Lucas, invited me to be there for his big day. I arrived early in the afternoon Thursday before the Saturday graduation. It was fun to see cadets and families in the bookstore and on campus getting ready for the big weekend.

Friday morning I took my time getting to campus but had the opportunity to watch as the newly commissioned officers in the Air Force, Navy and Marines were rendered their first salute. While standing outside Summerall Chapel I was thrilled to see my long time friend, Gwen and her extended family. I wrote about Gwen a while back. We went to the same high school in New Jersey and ran around with the same friend group. When Gwen’s oldest was a knob she found my name in the Citadel Family Association list of volunteer and emailed. We picked up right where we left off 30 years before. It is just one story of many of the friendships that have been renewed between the parents of cadets. I say it often, I never expected that I would end up with so many new friends because my son chose to attend The Citadel. In this case it was a true gift to reconnect with Gwen.

I had the opportunity to finally meet a few people in the administration that I had not met before. We were all outside the chapel at the same time. I was floored to find out they all were familiar with this blog and also that I administer Facebook groups for parents of cadets, but not as surprised as I would be the next day after graduation.

2016 SUmmerall Guards enter the parade fieldAs the afternoon went on the weather was looking pretty iffy. Rain was in the forecast. The Summerall Guards began their performance and got through the entire series before the rain began. I noticed that the Secretary of the Veterans Administration, Mr. Bob McDonald was sitting next to President and Mrs. Rosa. I had met him briefly after a Town Hall meeting he held at the Atlanta VA in the fall. I went over to say hello. He continues to impress me with the work he is doing for our veterans. Right after he introduced me to his wife and his sister, who is the mother of a 2015 graduate, the rain began. Out of no where secret service men appeared with large black umbrellas. I’ve decided having “people” in the midst of a rain storm is a very nice perk.

The Class of 2015  form the Long Gray Line

The Class of 2015 form the Long Gray Line

Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

Members of the Class of 2015 turn to face the Corps of Cadets.

I scooted to my car to wait out the rain. Fortunately after a 30 minute delay the rain died down and the final parade of the year, the Long Gray Line began. If you are ever in Charleston on the Friday before graduation, you owe it to yourself to be on campus for this parade. The rising cadet officers take their command and then the senior cadets leave their companies and stand shoulder to shoulder the length of the parade field to form a long gray line. At the designated time they march forward to the families and friends at the other side of the field and away from the Corps of Cadets. The seniors are grinning ear to ear as they march forward. They turn around and as their companies pass them on their way off the field they give a final salute. It is a very moving experience just to watch. You can catch a glimpse of the long gray line parade and the other events of the weekend in this video produced by the school.

Celebrating with the graduate and his mother.

Celebrating with the graduate and his mother.

Saturday, the BIG day, began early. Seating is first come first served so we arrived at 7:30 am to secure decent seats close to the podium and not too high up. It turned out we were only three rows behind Cadet Lucas. The commencement speaker, Keller Kissam, did an outstanding job of delivering an inspirational address to the Class of 2015. Take the time to listen to his address. You’ll be glad you took the time.

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

Class of 2015 Dismissed!

A highlight of graduation at a military college or academy is the final announcement by the president, Class of 2015 Dismissed! last Saturday we were not disappointed. The white covers were high in the air and the graduates were busy hugging and shaking hands. They were all heading out to points around the globe. Some will meet while deployed others may run into each other while doing business. After tolerating quite a few photos Sadarius and his mom and friend were off to Columbia, SC because he had to get to a 3:00 job interview! He is such a gifted young man I expect to see wonderful things from him in the years to come.

My final gift came as I was walking to my car near Mark Clark Hall. A golf cart approached and driving it was Captain Geno Paluso, commandant of the Corps of Cadets. He stopped his cart and said hello to me by name. We only met once before, briefly last fall at a football game. He went on to thank me for the help I provide to parents of cadets. I was floored that he knew my name. I was shocked to find out he knew that I do any type of volunteer work with parents. He ended up giving me a ride to my car. I like to tell folks he was my chauffeur for the afternoon. Fortunately a friend was right there to take a photo.

My "chauffeur " for the afternoon, Capt. Paluso.

My “chauffeur ” for the afternoon, Capt. Paluso.

I made one last stop at the boat house and the dock before leaving campus to head to Savannah to see my oldest son. It was a wonderful weekend. I am now very busy screening the requests to join the Facebook group for parents of the Class of 2019. If you know someone with a student who will be a knob this fall, please pass along this link. And please ask them to email me for message me to confirm they are a parent of an incoming knob. My email address is in the “About Dorie” section of this blog.

I love visiting the dock behind the boathouse whenI am on the campus. It is always so peaceful.

I love visiting the dock behind the boathouse whenI am on the campus. It is always so peaceful.

As The Citadel Turns

The Class of 2018 marched into Marion Square and affirmed their oath. Photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

The Class of 2018 marched into Marion Square and affirmed their oath.
Photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

It was a busy weekend for Citadel cadets. Recognition Day for the first year knobs happened Saturday. It’s the most anticipated day of the year for knobs. They cease being knobs and become full member of the Corps of Cadets when at the end of a morning filled with physical challenges they stand with their classmates to hear an address by the Regimental Commander that ends with the sweet words, “The 4th Class System in no longer in effect.” After the announcement the upperclass cadets in the company recognize the 4th Class cadets by using their first names for the first time all year.

A 4th Class cadet carries and upperclass cadet at one of the stations during the "Gauntlet."

A 4th Class cadet carries and upperclass cadet at one of the stations during the “Gauntlet. photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

I heard some grumbling from parents of upperclass cadets and alumni that the changes instituted this year for Recognition Day would undermine the bond the classes formed. I also read several comments by alumni who said that the day has changed so much from their time at The Citadel it doesn’t seem like it has the same significance. Once the day came and went I heard from scores of people who attended and talked of the espirt de corps they witnessed and what a terrific day it was for all cadets.

Before I continue I must acknowledge that I never went through a 4th class system, my son did. It also needs to be brought to everyones attention that recognition day used to be at the very end of the year. The grads from the ’60’s wonder why it is so early before final exams. Others point out that parents would never have witnessed their recognition day. There was no gauntlet, or march to  Marion Square in years past. Those activities started in 2007.

Knobs crawl during one of the exercises as part of the "Gauntlet." photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

Knobs crawl during one of the exercises as part of the “Gauntlet.”
photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

Carl Carraway, the father of a 2018 cadet and a 1983 graduate of The Citadel wrote a very good review of this past Saturday’s events and posted it to the 2018 parent group. He gave me permission to post his thoughts here:

We all know things change over time. The system moves up, down, left, right, here, there, back and forth, but it is still an intense and demanding system. Recognition Day is different than the one we experienced in ’80. Yesterday our son was recognized along with the rest of the Class of 2018. Prior to yesterday, I had the same opinion (as many alumni) about parents watching the Gauntlet on the parade ground – it should be a closed, private event – based ONLY on my experience in ’80. I initially decided to not attend, but fortunately I changed my mind on Friday. Even though the event is held in public view, it it still a very private event for the cadets – knobs and upperclassmen. Their focus is still just as ours was during our own respective Recognition Days.

Recognition Day started with a PT run at 0530 hrs, leadership classes (yes, leadership – imagine that), followed by the Gauntlet on the Parade Ground at 1030 hrs, a “running tour” of the campus, and finally the class set of pushups. As one who had joked about the Gauntlet in the past, I was very impressed with the intensity, demands, and duration of the Gauntlet and how professionally The Citadel now handles Recognition Day. From the prospective of an alumus, I was proud to watch the Class of 2018 going through the paces. The social media world in which we live allows parents to hover over their cadets during their knob year… and their upperclass years. Yesterday the knobs took the scissors away from the doctor and cut the social media umbilical cords. Many parents witnessed their sons and daughters facing physical and mental challenges they could never image – the cadets proving to themselves and not the world that they are on a road less traveled. That is one of the many outstanding outcomes of The Citadel.

The icing on the cake was the freshmen marching to Marion Square in their dress whites at 1500 hrs to reaffirm their cadet oath. The 2 mile march (each way) was an impressive exclamation mark for the day’s events! In case you are wondering, yes, I walked the entire march down and back on the sidewalk along with a handful of other parents.

If I had not observed the Recognition Day activities, I would have missed an outstanding opportunity to watch The Citadel at its best. Next year I plan to be on campus to watch the Class of 2019 go through their paces and take another “walking tour” down and back from Marion Square. 

Cadets work together to flip a tire during the "Gauntlet." photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

Cadets work together to flip a tire during the “Gauntlet.”
photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

As I wrote in an entry a while back, the only constant is change. Some will resist change, others adapt and move on. The cadets at The Citadel are being given the tools to succeed in business and in life. The Class of 2018 was recognized yesterday after a full day of physical activities.

Before you know it August will be here and the Class of 2019 will matriculate. I guarantee you someone in the class of 2018 will complain that the class of 2019 is getting off easy. The cycle will continue. I’ve volunteered to help parents of cadets for eight years now and I’ve seen it happen each year. Parents need to remember, your cadets are going to vent to you out of frustration, the key is not to join them in their laments. Allow them to vent, offer them support and encouragement. You can even steer them to the place to work out their issues, but don’t join them in their complaining and don’t try to fix their problems. Paul Tamburrino, the VP of the Citadel Alumni Association wrote a blog post for me in September of 2014 about change and The Citadel when the cadets began to complain about the changes the new commandant was instituting. today is a good time to review that entry: The Citadel: Tradition and Change, A Guest Contribution.

4 class cadets crawl toward the company guidon while upperclass cadet try to keep them from the guidon. photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

4th class cadets crawl toward the company guidon while upperclass cadet try to keep them from the guidon.
photo by Stacy Carter Photography Studios

Some Days are Really Fun

I was so excited to be able to meet 1991 graduate of The Citadel, Morris Robinson. photo by Stanley Leary

I was so excited to be able to meet 1991 graduate of The Citadel, and opera stand out, Morris Robinson. (Note THE ring on his right hand)
photo by Stanley Leary

Last night my husband and I attended the Atlanta Opera’s presentation of Rigoletto. It is not normally a topic I would write about on a blog mainly dedicated to helpful information for parents of Citadel cadets. But this opera actually has a tie to El Cid, the person cast as Sparafucile, Morris Robinson, is a 1991 graduate of The Citadel! (see this video of Morris talking about his time at The Citadel then becoming an opera singer)

Due to a really fun turn of events we not only attended the opera, but my husband and I went backstage afterward and met Morris after years of following him online. We also met a few other cast members.

Today was definitely a fun day.

Dorie and Todd Thomas who played the lead role of Rigoletto. photo by Stanley Leary

Dorie and Todd Thomas who played the lead role of Rigoletto.
photo by Stanley Leary

Dorie with Scott Quinn who played the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto. photo by Stanley Leary

Dorie with Scott Quinn who played the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto.
photo by Stanley Leary

For a real treat see these videos:

O Holy Night, Morris Robinson, Bass

Chicago Live Performance of Old Man River

Social Media, Parents, and Cadet Life

Padgett-Thomas Barracks at The Citadel photo by Stanley Leary

Padgett-Thomas Barracks at The Citadel
photo by Stanley Leary

2015 marks the 4th year that I have posted and will moderate a group for new parents of incoming knobs at The Citadel. The group for parents of the Class of 2019 has over 30 members already.

The original intent of these groups still stands, to offer parent to parent advice to incoming parents of knobs. Attending a senior military college is a strange process for parents with no military background like me. The Facebook groups are an easy way to get general information out to fellow parents.

The Facebook groups for the individual classes of parents were started by me, and are supported by a few select friends who each bring a unique perspective as a parent of a graduate. I started with the 2016 class. There are now groups for the classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019. I am no longer the administrator for the 2016 and 2017 groups. members of the class are moderating those groups now. By this summer I’ll pass on the reigns to the 2018 group to a couple of parent members. I also administer the Military Parents of The Citadel group.

The Citadel is a military school and a leadership school. That means that the cadets are expected to learn to advocate for themselves. In this environment more so than nonmilitary schools, the students are expected to take ownership in their process. Social media can be a blessing and a curse for the parents and the cadets.

With the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others, we’ve become accustomed to instant information. Skype, Facetime, and smart phones are wonderful tools to stay in touch. In years past when the knobs had a bad day, or hour, they had days before they could vent to family and friends. By the time they did get to phone the problem had worked itself out. The rules have changed over the years and knobs are expected to carry cell phones with them now. This change happened out of an interest in increasing security. All across the country after the Virginia Tech tragedy campuses changed how they handled security.

2007 was the last year knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester. That is the year my son was a knob. The knobs did have access to email and Skype. The difference I’ve seen in the knobs and parents now versus eight years ago is that with instant communications the parents worry more, not less. The knobs can now text their frustrations to parents in real-time. The big problem is they rarely let their parents know when a problem has been resolved leaving the parent to worry. With the increase in connectivity some parents get overly involved with their cadet’s experience at the school.

I am not advocating no communication. I am telling new parents that it is important for them to remember not to join the knobs on their emotional roller coaster. They will need a loving ear to vent to once in a while, but will also need their parents to serve as a rock to help them stay the course when it gets tough.

Each knob is different, and will process the experiences differently. Each year during the first “challenge week” formally known as “hell week” knobs leave, but far more stay than go. It is a tough time for the knobs and their parents. I do remind parents that knobs are at a college, not going to war. It is a very tough system. The knobs are yelled at throughout the year. They are not given encouragement and must find the strength internally to deal with the 4th class system. There is no universal experience there, but everyone who has gone through four years at The Citadel will tell you it was tough.

The school offers several resources for cadets and parents if they have questions or encounter problems on campus. While I encourage parents to let their knob or cadet handle their problems with minimal intervention, I also tell them that they know their child and if they have a concern to address it with the appropriate person on campus. The Ombudsperson’s office is a good place to start if you are not sure to which person or office to direct your question.

A big mistake parents of all classes of cadets make each year is posting too much information to the parent Facebook groups. While each group encourages members to keep the information shared to the group private, the fact is, some groups have hundreds of members. There is no way to keep members from sharing information with their cadet, a spouse, and others.

The best rule of thumb is not to share specific information about your cadet to any group. It is also not a good idea to air grievances to any group. You never know who will see your post. There is the very real potential that what you post to a group will reflect poorly on your cadet on campus. It should not happen, but every year it does. I post a warning to the groups I administer each year not to post specific information about your cadet, even a prayer request about your cadet because they are sick. Each year someone over shares and there is negative repercussions for the parent and/or their cadet.

If you have a grievance with the school send a note to the appropriate department on campus. If you need to vent about a situation send a private message to a friend or a group of trusted friends.

To find help on campus, you can see this link.

Graduation 2015 Notes for Citadel Parents

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Gray Line.

Seniors in the Class of 2008 march in the Long Gray Line.

Graduation for The Citadel, Class of 2015 is just a few months away. The questions about graduation week are picking up on the Facebook groups and in my private inbox. Most of the questions parents have including the schedule, ticket information, etc., can be answered on the Commencement 2015 page of the school website.

A few important tips follow:

  • If you haven’t done so already secure your hotel or lodging accommodations ASAP.
  • The seniors have to be out of the barracks before Friday. Check with your cadet about  their plans to move out.
  • Events for graduating seniors begin Thursday before the Saturday graduation. See the Schedule of Events prior to arrival to plan your trip.
  • For Legacy graduates, Commissioning cadets and cadets who receive Lifetime Memberships to the Citadel Alumni Association, see the Special Events For Selected Groups schedule for important information.
  • Baccalaureate is Thursday, May 7.
  • General Information about dress, parking, accessibility, etc.
  • Some cadet companies have parties planned for graduation weekend. Check with your cadet and their friends to see if something is already planned. Some families rent beach houses and host a gathering too.

The cadets who will commission into a branch of the military traditionally give a silver dollar to the person who renders their first salute. You can find helpful information about that tradition on several web sites. Marlow White: The First Salute – the Silver Dollar Tradition, A site that sells coins for the first salute: First Salute You can also find them on Amazon.com and coin dealers.

In the next several months the commissioning seniors will also have to purchase their dress uniforms. My son handled this on his own. I’m sure if your cadet has questions they can get information from their ROTC office on campus.

The commissioning service for the Army is usually the largest group and they start off early Friday morning. Be sure to arrive up to an hour before the scheduled start time to get a seat. The chapel fills up early. The cadet and the two people who will pin their bars on sit in a designated area, the other guests sit behind the commissioning cadets. The services for Navy, Marine and Air Force cadets are not as crowded.

Previous blog posts about graduation:

Senior Parent Notes

The Citadel: Recognition Day and Ring Weekend

Celebration, Tradition, Ritual: The Long Grey Line

Citadel Parent Crafts Her Own Graduation Ritual

Graduation Day: No Longer the Mother of a Cadet

 

 

2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 53,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 20 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Reflections on the past, looking forward to the future

The front of our annual Christmas card this year featured our daughter in her Hogwarts robe casting a spell on her brother, while I, in my clerical robe and stole, held up my hands to stop her and Stanley documented the action with his camera. A totally silly photo. Taylor's sign reads, "I should have been adopted." since he is always shaking his head at our silly antics.

The front of our annual Christmas card this year featured our daughter in her Hogwarts robe casting a spell on her brother, while I, in my clerical robe and stole, held up my hands to stop her and Stanley documented the action with his camera. A totally silly photo. Taylor’s sign reads, “I should have been adopted.” since he is always shaking his head at our silly antics.

The past two months have been filled with activity, some good some difficult. My health and the demands of my chaplain residency have kept me from writing as often. I hope to be back on a regular posting schedule with the start of 2015.

The Monday before Thanksgiving while at work at the VA hospital I began to feel funny. To make a long story a bit shorter, it turns out I was experiencing atrial fibrillation. My heart raced up to 160+ beats per minute and stayed that way for 4 hours. Since that day I’ve had a few other trips to the emergency room, several tests and I meet with the cardiologist this coming Tuesday, which also happens to be our 19th anniversary. While I am still learning what all this means, it does appear that it is a fairly commonly condition. One that can be managed fairly easily.

I am now looking to the next six months and starting to explore what will be next for me when I complete this residency. The path for many people after finishing a year of clinical pastoral education is to become staff of a congregation or to go into full-time chaplaincy. My stated goal at the beginning of this year was to start a nonprofit and continue my call to be a supportive presence for journalists and also for parents of cadets at The Citadel. I am not ordained, and do not plan to pursue ordination, in any denomination so full-time chaplaincy with an established organization is not a possibility.

The first step in starting a nonprofit is to find who else is meeting a need. There are several organizations that provide training and professional support for journalists. The Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma being the leader in that area, and the Ochberg Society provides peer-to-peer support. I’d like to see a network of clergy, all faiths, and therapists, who are trained in the particularities of the world of journalism so that they can be an effective, caring presence, when a journalist needs support. I’m not sure how that will pan out. I’ve learned that by me stating an intention or an idea, it may spark an idea in someone else and before you know it, a team is formed. I may end up pursuing guest lecturing to journalism programs and newsrooms.

The same idea applies supporting new parents at The Citadel. This next academic year will be my 8th year of supporting a new class of parents of knobs. The first three years I was the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group and also the Cadet Retention and Recruitment Chair for the Citadel Family Association. Since my son graduated in 2011 I’ve continued to help new parents, but not as a CFA volunteer. Once your cadet graduates you are no longer a CFA member. I posted the information I shared with parents in Georgia to this blog site the fall of 2011. I began getting a lot of emails with questions and decided to start a Facebook group for the Class of 2016 parents to make it easy to answer questions in one place. Three years and three Facebook groups later, for the Classes of 2017 and 2018, I’ve just added one for the parents of the class of 2019.

While I do feel a call to do this type of support for new parents, it is very time-consuming and completely unpaid. I’ve begun to wonder if I could make this a nonprofit venture and ask for some financial support from the parents who join the groups. Since I am still in the investigative stage I welcome any feedback my readers have on this matter. I’m not looking to make tons of money from this venture, but at least enough to make it a part-time venture and cover some of my expenses. In simple terms if each member of the Facebook groups donates $10, I’d have a decent part-time income. Let me know what you think in the comments section or send me an email with your thoughts on starting a nonprofit. If I do go the nonprofit route, I will be looking for potential board members with expertise in nonprofit law, fundraising, and other areas.

Please join me the next several months as I explore the next steps in my journey. I’ll continue to post helpful tips for parents of cadets at The Citadel, but will add entries about my own journey as well.

Best wishes to each of you for an exciting year!

A more "normal" portrait of our crew.

A more “normal” portrait of our crew.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,309 other followers

%d bloggers like this: