Know When to Fold Them

Accepting the Award

“Know when to fold them…”

In his classic song, The Gambler, Kenny Rogers sang “You have to know when to hold them, know when to fold them, know when to walk away, and know when to run.” It is a great song and applicable to many situations… including the one I am writing about today.

As longtime readers of my blog will know, I never intended to be connected to the life of cadets of The Citadel after my son graduated in 2011. I passed along the leadership roles I held as the Georgia Citadel Parent Rep, and the Area Rep Coordinator for the Citadel Family Association before he graduated. What I did not anticipate were the many new parents who found my previous blog posts for the military blog site, Off the Base, who would then send emails and even call me to ask for advice. I certainly never expected to be connected to the school seven years after “my” graduation day.

I tell people I am basically lazy. After getting a few emails and calls post-graduation, I decided that since most of the early questions from parents are the same, it would be easier and less time consuming to just post the tips and information to my own blog. It then became apparent that a more interactive platform was needed for parents to ask questions and get answers, so I started that with the parents of the Class of 2016.

While my son was a cadet, I was a company rep volunteer and then area rep for the Citadel Family Association. During that time, Facebook groups were developed. In the early years those groups were helpful, but, unfortunately, also a source for rumors, bullying, and misinformation perpetrated by individuals who sadly harbored personal agendas.

Keeping in mind the harmful and insensitive interactions I saw happening in the groups that included parents of cadets of all classes, and knowing some basics in counseling and pastoral care, I developed the first parent group by class in 2012. The idea was simple, start a group for parents of students in the class of 2016 only and add a few of my trusted friends who were parents of recent graduates to offer guidance, support and advice.

The first year the group grew to over 350 members. It was a learning process. Not everyone was on board with the concept of straight information. Drama and/or rumors became a need for many. As the years progressed, rules and guidelines developed. Advice was tweaked and I built relationships with key staff on campus to ensure the information shared was accurate and current. Each year when the new packing list was published in the “Success Packet” I’d review it to make sure the new parents stayed with the school sanctioned list and not be conflicted by random advice given by parents of previous cadets. Today there are parent groups for the classes of 2016 to the current knob Class of 2022.

In 2014 my alma mater, Columbia Theological Seminary, gave me the “Pioneer in Ministry Award” for my ongoing work with cadet parents. I wrote about what I considered my unique call to serve in a blog post you can read HERE. From June 2014-2015 I was a chaplain resident at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. It was a rewarding and educational year. While I was extremely busy with my work there I was still maintaining the support groups for new parents. I also tried to let staff at The Citadel know there was a real need for the school to be more involved with proactive communication with parents. The Citadel Family Association is only for parents of current cadets and there was no place in the CFA for parents of graduates. I met with staff in The Citadel Foundation Office, then later met with the new provost at the time, Dr. Connie Book. A couple of years ago, Dr. Book brought Navy Capt. Taylor Skardon over to the Provost office where he became the parent liaison among other duties.

Each year in the parent groups leading up to matriculation day I offered a dinner invitation for first year parents who might want to get together in a casual environment after a stressful drop off matriculation morning.. We usually had a group of 40-50 meet at Tommy Condon’s restaurant. The summer the Class of 2020 was matriculating the numbers outgrew Condon’s. With the help of The Citadel Club of Charleston and The Citadel Foundation, we held a BBQ dinner at the Holliday Alumni Center. It was successful, over 230 people attended. After I planned this first dinner at the HAC, Capt. Skardon assumed the matriculation night dinner planning for the next two years.

I wrote Capt Skardon in the fall of 2016. I had authored a white paper on how and why the parent groups by class were formed. I explained why the groups have the rules they do and why only parents of graduates are in the group as advisors. Since Capt. Skardon was the new parent liaison, I offered to pass the groups along to him. He called a meeting with the staff liaison to the CFA and the CFA leadership. I attended the meeting fully expecting I would relinquish my leadership role of the groups. I was surprised when Capt. Skardon asked me to continue my volunteer work because the current staff did not have the required time. After that meeting, we developed a system of communication between the communication chair of the CFA, Capt. Skardon and me to disseminate accurate information to parents.

Here we are almost two years after that meeting. The groups have grown in size each year. There are over 980 members in the group for 2022 parents. There are more than 3,250 members in the four groups for current parents. The work is rewarding. Many wonderful connections and friendships have been made. The groups are so active that they caught the eye of the corporate office of Facebook in California. I was invited to attend the first ever 2017 Facebook Communities Summit in Chicago as one of 100 group admins who created successful Facebook groups and are building communities.

The goal of the groups has always been to provide a safe place for anxious parents to get accurate information. The groups are most active knob year. The activity picks up again second semester junior year leading up to senior year and ring weekend and graduation. To help with the volume of information that is shared, parents from within each group were added to help administer and moderate the groups. A private group was formed for the moderators. I continued to stay in close contact with Capt. Skardon to help provide accurate timely information to parents. I did tell Capt. Skardon that management of the groups had outdistanced my volunteer capacity and I’d either have to receive small monetary compensation or I’d have to move on.

Subsequently, a decision has been made for the school, through the Citadel Family Association volunteers, to begin moderating groups for the incoming parents of the class of 2023. I am the creator of the current groups and have promised that no staff would be added to them. I will continue to be a member in the groups I created, and the parent volunteers will take over the day-to-day administration of them. A staff person or two will be added to the private group for administrators so information can be shared from staff to the admin group then shared with parents in the 2019 – 2022 parent groups. Beginning with the class of 2023, the parent group will be maintained by the Citadel Family Association and their volunteers.

I like to think the groups have served the original purpose, to provide a safe space for new parents to find support and information. I look forward to following the cadet careers of the young men and women I’ve had the honor getting to know, some of whom have become my “adopted” sons and daughters. I’ll still be in the groups I started but as a silent member there to support the parent administrators and facilitate introductions between admins and staff.

So as the song goes, I’ll be walking away (but watching from a distance).

Go Bulldogs!

 

 

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Corps Day and Recognition Day Tips

UPDATED 03/16/2017

The Citadel is combining two big events for cadets the weekend of March 17 – 19, Corps Day and Recognition Day. The school website mentions three events which includes the Leadership Symposium. Since most families who come to town do so to see the Summerall Guards ceremony on Saturday morning, and this year for Recognition Day, I’ll focus on those two events.

The schedules are available online for the weekend. For a more detailed schedule for activities parents will want to attend, go to the parents page of the school website and read through the Corps and Recognition Day 2017 page.

Rifle exchange

the 2015 Bond Volunteers prepare to take their rifles and become the 2015 Summerall Guards.

Tips for parents of Bond Volunteers and Summerall Guards:

The crowd begins to form on the parade field about 30 minutes before the scheduled ceremony. The schedule lists the time as 8:45 – 9:45am. So arriving  by 8:15am to find your preferred spot along the roped off area is a good idea.

Be sure to ask your cadet where they will be as they march onto the field to know if you should be on the side closest to the barracks or the other side closer to Chapel side of the field. For instance my son was the 5th squad back on the end closest to the barracks side of the field. We stood at the roped off area closest to the 2nd battalion across the walk way from where General and Mrs. Rosa sit for parades. (Of course cadets and grads will refer to theses areas and line up for the Summerall Guards by their proper terms. Since I’m a mom and not a grad I’ve developed my own way to describe the areas to help other parents know where to stand.)

Another must is insect repellant for the morning. The entire ceremony only lasts about 20 minutes or so but after it is over you’ll want to snap photos with your cadet. It is a bit of a scramble after it ends. Ask your cadet the best way to find them after the ceremony ends. Many of them will be talking with the Summerall Guard whose rifle they now carry and receiving their Summerall Guard patch.

Most years they’ve had a luncheon for the Summerall Guards after the parade. It is at the luncheon where we purchased out Summerall Guards parent t-shirt. It is a fundraiser for them to help with expenses. Check with your cadet for the plans for this year.

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Members of the Class of 2019 begin their march to Marion Square on Recognition Day for the Class of 2019.

Tips for parents of the Class of 2020:

The schedule this year is completely different from previous years since Recognition Day has been moved from April to the same weekend as Corps Day. Stories from parents of upperclass cadets of what they did on Recognition Day won’t really apply to your experience this year.

This weekend is not like Parents Weekend where the emphasis is on spending time together. The Recognition Day part of the weekend is really about the Class of 2020 and their time together, parents while welcome to watch are not the focus. If you are planning to be in town, remember you may not see your cadet Friday afternoon and evening. They have meetings and will need to get their rooms in inspection order for the open barracks Saturday morning. If they do have time off to see you for dinner consider it a bonus visit.

Saturday will be jam-packed with activities. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes for the day. Look over the schedule to see just how busy you’ll be and make your plans for lunch based on your family.

The barracks open at 8:00am. Check with your son or daughter to see if they want any food brought to them. They will have a VERY strenuous workout after the parade so they may not want anything too heavy.

The Rifle Legion and the Summerall Guards will perform on the parade field that morning. Check with your cadet to see if they will be attending both or either of those events. My son’s senior mentor was a Summerall Guard so he wanted to see that ceremony.

After the Summerall Guards exchange rifles the Corps of Cadets must prepare for the 10:00 parade. This would be a good time to have a light snack. The Canteen will be open but to avoid lines you may want to pack your own snacks or lunch. You’ll also have time after the parade and before the Gauntlet begins to grab something to eat or sit in the reception room in Mark Clark Hall between events.

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Members of the Class of 2019 participate in the gauntlet as upperclass cadets guide the activities.

The Gauntlet begins at 11:30. It is a series of physical challenges the 4th Class cadets go through together by company. They will be either on the parade field or the WLI field. Some years the school posts a map. I haven’t seen it posted yet. To get an idea of how Recognition Day was handled in the past I’ve found the PowerPoint from 2015 on the website.

The past several years after the gauntlet is over and the 4th class cadets are in the barracks and hear the announcement “The 4th Class System is no longer in effect.” The newly recognized cadets would come out to give a hug to their family members. The timing is very tight this year and the cadets may not have time to come out. The training schedule has the cookout in the barracks beginning at 1320 and the hygiene time to get ready for the retaking of the oath on the parade ground at 3:00. The March is on the schedule for 1500.

If you haven’t ordered a meal through the school (the ordering time frame has past), pack a lunch or eat in the Canteen the school.

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General Rosa and Provost Dr. Connie Book visit with class of 2019 family members at a lunch held last year after the gauntlet. This year boxed lunches will be available to purchase.

Cadets who saved an overnight and followed the protocol can take one Saturday night. Most of the cadets are too exhausted to want to do much Saturday night. If you want to go out for a nice meal Sunday is the better day to do that.

I’ll be helping my youngest daughter at her high school musical that weekend so I’ll have to miss the excitement. I look forward to seeing everyone’s photos. Next year I’ll have my own college freshman, just not a knob at The Citadel.

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L-R Provost, Dr. Connie Book, Dorie Griggs, Mrs. Donna Rosa, General John Rosa

 

Recognition Day for the Class of 2020

Recognition Day, March 18, is the day The Citadel Class of 2020 will hear the words, “The 4th Class system is no longer in effect.” The knobs have worked very hard to get to this point in the year.

Many parents have asked if there is a traditional gift to mark this milestone. While there isn’t one “have to get” item, over the years many families have given their 4th Class cadet a company t-shirt  from the campus bookstore to mark the occasion.

In the past few years an alumnus has offered a special Recognition Day t-Shirt. The sales benefit the Col Harvey M. Dick, ’53 Memorial Ring Endowment. A photo of the shirt is below and it is available on the Senior Private Etsy site. Sunday, February 20 is the last day to order this shirt.

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The decision what to give a 4th Class cadet, if anything, is up to each family. What is really important is the pride they will feel in accomplishing the toughest goal they have faced to date.

Hotels That Offer Discounts to Citadel Families

The Boat Center at The Citadel.

The picnic tables by the boat house. My favorite place on campus.

Each year I am asked about the best hotels to stay in when parents visit the school. The city is a very popular tourist destination and there are a wide variety of properties to choose from that range from luxury hotels to discount properties. Some families prefer to rent a home or condo and stay at Folly Beach or Isle of Palms. Vacation Rental Buy Owner vrbo.com is one good resource or check out any number of realtors in the area.

The following are a list of properties that offer discounts to Citadel families.

The Citadel has a link on their website to a page with hotels that offer a discount use this link to access discounts to eight hotels.

I’ve called each of the following hotels. They all have a special rate, but you need to book early and call the hotel directly to get a hotel room in the discounted block. Discount sites like hotels.com and using your AAA card can help too.

Charleston Marriott Use the link for a discounted rate. (click on the highlighted hotel name) Their phone number, 843-723 3000

Hampton Inn Airport 843-554-7154 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Hawthorn Suites call 843-225-4411 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Home2Suites call 843-744-4202 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

LaQuinta Inn & Suites Charleston Riverview 843-556-5200 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Red Roof Inn Plus 843-884-1411 select the Front Desk option ask for “The Citadel Rate”

Wingate by Wyndham 843-553-4444 ask for “The Citadel Rate”

If you have a favorite property you stay at during visits, leave a comment on this post.

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

Dining in Charleston: A Wish List

photo by Stanley Leary

The bar area of Coleman Public House photo by Stanley Leary

Each time we visit Charleston we try to find a new place to eat. On a recent trip we enjoyed dinner at The Coleman Public House in Mt. Pleasant. A good friend recommended it and we were not disappointed. You can read about a few other restaurants we enjoy in this previous blog post: Where We Dine When We Visit The Citadel

Traveling with a 16-year-old who is fairly picky means there are some restaurants I’ll just have to try when my husband and I visit. On that same weekend visit I hoped to eat at S.N.O.B. but one look at the menu, which looked fantastic to me, and my daughter asked if we could go somewhere else to eat. The manager was very nice and offered some kid friendly options, but she decided she really wanted a more casual meal. I was so impressed with the manager and staff that I wrote to their main office. They sent me information on all three of their restaurants. They are all on my list to visit on future trips to the city. Gift cards to these restaurants and others would make a terrific thank you gift to host families, cadets or friends.

High Cotton, Maverick Bar & Grill, 199 East Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401; 843.724.3815

High Cotton Charleston is high steppin’ Lowcountry living. It’s a feeling of warmth and celebration that begins the moment you step inside. You’ll find it in our gracious, knowledgeable servers, expertly paired dishes and a remarkable wine and cocktail program. Brunch served Saturday & Sunday. Dinner is available seven nights a week.

Slightly North of Broad, 192 East Bay St., Charleston, SC 29401; 843.723.3424

Slightly North of Broad, an eclectic Lowcountry bistro that brings together local ingredients and thoughtful, expert presentation with a contagious energy. The dining room, an extension of the kitchen, where culinary skill, considered wine program and warm service meld together. Lunch served Monday-Friday. Dinner is available seven nights a week.

OVPH exterior Shot Old Village Post House, 101 Pitt St., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464; 843.388.8935

Old Village Post House is a neighborhood tavern and inn nestled in Mount Pleasant’s historic Old Village. In feel and décor, it’s as comfortable as your best friend’s home – from the original worn pine floors to our lively tavern. Brunch served on Sunday. Dinner available seven nights a week.

Gifts for Citadel Cadets and Graduates

Wearables

Each year around this time I am asked about gift ideas for cadets. While each cadet and graduate will have different likes and needs, I’ll post a list of suggestions. I have not purchased from all these companies and this post is not an endorsement of their company, just a listing of companies who offer Citadel related products. These ideas also hold for graduation gifts, and appreciation gifts for senior mentors, classmates and recent graduates. The Citadel Bookstore is a great place to start for gift giving. The photos in this entry of the bookstore were taken over parents weekend, 2014.

Here is the list in no particular order:

The Citadel Bookstore – Diploma Frames, gift frames, glassware, jewelry, etc.

Citadel Alumni Association Merchandise – Alumni gifts of all types Including the Big Red Flag

The Citadel Miniature ring and pendant

For junior and senior cadets: Citadel Alumni Association Lifetime Membership

LaHart – jewelry, crystal and glassware

Football Fanatics – wearables

Original Collegiate Art by Brenda Harris Tustian

Summerall Guard merchadise

Philanthropic giving – various cadet related funds. Give in honor or memory of someone. See this previous blog post for links.

Citadel Bulldog apparel by CBSSports

Citadel Sports gifts by Planet Sports Team

Citadel Golf Accessories

SoCon Gear

Bulldog embroidered pants, shorts, shirts and skirts by Pennington and Bailes

Palmetto Boards ‘n Bags – Customized corn hole boards are a popular gift for any Citadel fan.

Bottle Breacher – A fun gift for a graduate in the military

Spirited Signs – A company owned and operated by a Citadel alum.

A decal by Spirited Signs.

A decal by Spirited Signs.

Historic Nutcrackers – Citadel Cadet Nutcracker to be available after January 2015. Contact the company for more information.

Combat Humidor a great gift for a deployed alum.

Through Their Eyes – a new book by George Steffner

I have learned that Carolina Cadets is not currently stocked with their full range of nutcrackers and ornaments, but she does have the 48″ Cadet Nutcrackers. You can contact her through the Facebook page for her cake decorating business.

Diploma frame Diploma Frames Citadel Book F-Troop Book Citadel/Military related books Gift items Jewelry watches License plate frames Artwork Sketches Stuffed Bulldog mascot Photo frames

 

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