The Citadel: Class of 2019, Matriculation Day Count Down

Featured guest speaker Captain Eugene “Geno” Paluso, II ’89 USN (ret.), Commandant of Cadets, with Colonel Hutto '87, Citadel Alumni Association,  Dorie Griggs and the ACC Officers

L-R: Andy Frey, ACC president; Colonel Laurence Hutto ’87, Citadel Alumni Association; Featured guest speaker Captain Eugene “Geno” Paluso, II ’89 USN (ret.), Commandant of Cadets; Dorie Griggs, Michael Escoe, ACC VP and Gregory Horton and James Stevens, ACC Board of Directors.

Capt. Eugene “Geno” Paluso, commandant of cadets was the featured speaker at the Atlanta Citadel Club‘s annual cadet send off dinner. A group of alumni incoming knob and their parents heard the vision and goals of the commandant. If you have some time I highly recommend you listen to his talk and the Q&A afterward.

The pre-knobs in the Class of 2019 who attended the Atlanta Citadel Club dinner in June.

The pre-knobs in the Class of 2019 who attended the Atlanta Citadel Club dinner in June.

Right now the Facebook group for parents of the class of 2019 is right at 260 members and is growing each day. The topics in the group range from clear plastic boxes, shoes and shoe polish to computers and wireless set up. It is an exciting and nerve wracking time for the new families.

My son started in 2007, before Facebook. Fortunately the Atlanta Citadel Club has had a group for parents for years. I am still in touch with a few parents I met at that first send off dinner the summer of 2007. While I didn’t have Facebook groups to help me I did correspond with The parents of cadets I met at the dinner and also the Citadel Family Association (CFA) volunteers. The CFA is for parents of current cadets and is a great resource for all parents. In the time leading up to matriculation day you can look up your area representative. After matriculation day, when you find out what company and battalion your cadet is in, there are company and battalion reps who will be very good resources for you.

Right now the incoming knobs, or pre-knobs, should be breaking in their shoes. This year it has been tough to find the proper shoes as some styles are changing and brands some cadets have bought in the past are no longer being made. The Bates brand plain toe black leather oxford with rubber heel is the one the school recommends. As long as the shoes meet the published criteria on the Matriculation Headquarters page the shoes and boots will be fine. Pay particular attention to each link on the Matriculation Headquarters page, including the Commandant’s Matriculation Information page. In addition to the list of required items in the Success Packet which is listed in the Matriculation Headquarters page, parents and their pre-knobs should review the  Citadel Family Association’s “Nice to Have List.”

Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.

Entering knobs place their belongings on the side walk outside the barracks and go to check in. Family members wait by the belongings.

The items to bring hasn’t changed much over the past few years. The clear plastic boxes seem to cause some amount of stress for moms looking for the exact sizes listed. Please don’t stress over these. You do need to be sure they are no larger than the sizes listed, but it really isn’t something to lose sleep over.

I am going to repeat myself here, but it can’t be stressed enough, you and your pre-knob should read the Matriculation Headquarters page and click on ALL the links on the page, and all the links on the pages you will navigate to. Before arriving on campus I suggest you print out the Matriculation Day schedule from the Matriculation Headquarters page and also the Traffic Diagram from the Matriculation Information page.

This year I have plans to be on campus over the matriculation day weekend for meetings with various staff members. I look forward to meeting some of the parent sI’ve corresponded with as well.

You may find the following entry, located on the left hand side of this blog page, helpful as you get ready to report:

Matriculation Day: Reporting in that First Day

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Signs You Were the Parent of a Knob at The Citadel

Members of the Class of 2019 from the Atlanta area gather after the Atlanta Citadel Club's annual send off dinner.

Members of the Class of 2019 from the Atlanta area gather after the Atlanta Citadel Club’s annual send off dinner.

The Class of 2019 will report to The Citadel in August. The Facebook group for the parents of the Class of 2019 already has over 170 members. I met several families and incoming knobs this past week at the annual send off dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club. I began to ponder the unique experience parents of cadets at The Citadel go through their son or daughter’s first year. I decided to write down a few of my observations about being the parent of a cadet who used to be a knob. Feel free to add your insights in the comments section.

Signs you were the parent of a knob at The Citadel:

You know the best places on campus to wait for your knob without their cadre seeing them.

You know how to pack a very small box from the U.S. Post Office with lots of goodies and still pay a low flat rate.

The workers at your local post office know you by name and ask about your knob by name.

You know where to find white T-shirts at the best price.

You stay up for hours combing photos of hundreds of knobs, all dressed alike, just to get a glimpse of your son or daughter.

You have shared a photo of a group of knobs because you thought your child was in it, only to find out that was not your child.

You know the importance of condiments and chocolate milk.

You’ve ever referred to a teen aged cadet as “Mr.”

You’ve found T-pins in your laundry.

You know insect repellant is a necessary item when you visit the campus.

You’ve combed the internet for the best prices on plain toe black oxfords, shirt stays, socks and underwear.

You drive onto campus in the silent procession before midnight to drop your knob off before “All ins.”

You know what “All In” means.

You know how great it is to have your knob with you, even if they are sound asleep for most of the visit.

When you hear MRI you think “morning room inspection” before “magnetic resonance imaging.”

Sallyport, SMI, rack, brace, sir sandwich, are part of your normal vocabulary.

You’ve known exactly where your college freshman is Sunday through Thursday evenings and after midnight Friday and Saturday.

You’ve made great friends with the parents of your knobs classmates.

You recognize a Citadel sticker on a car from 50 paces.

You are pretty sure you are the reason The Citadel Bookstore has met their monthly sales goals.

Dorie and Nelson right before leaving the hotel for The Citadel. Matriculation Day, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary.

Dorie and Nelson right before leaving the hotel for The Citadel. Matriculation Day, 2007. photo by Stanley Leary.

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Matriculation Day check inWe are approaching the annual rite of passage at The Citadel known as Matriculation Day, the day the first year cadets, or knobs as they are called, report for their Challenge Week, formerly called Hell Week.

To help families prepare for this day the alumni groups in several area host send off events. In Georgia there is a parent orientation meeting. I started a group for new parents only on Facebook called The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2017 to help parents prepare their knob to report while also helping them learn to let go of the day-to-day aspects of their child’s experiences.

The hardest part of the experience for parents is letting go. The knobs have a tough time, but they are busy learning the system and going to classes. It is tough and they manage it well. The parents, on the other hand, tend to have a very tough time the first few months. They worry about their child, mainly because the system is so foreign to them and therefore, it is scary.

The Facebook group for new parents is there to assure parents that they, and their child, will get through this. Each year over 700 knobs report to the school. 2,000+ members of the Corps of Cadets are on campus each year. The parents of graduates in the Facebook group act as coaches for the new parents. We try to give them the tools they will need to support their cadet’s process instead of intervening.

The cadre march the Class of 2016 to their first lunch in the mess hall.

The cadre march the Class of 2016 to their first lunch in the mess hall.

Parents, you are sending your child to a military COLLEGE, not to war. I know the difference now since my son just returned from Afghanistan. My early worries seem silly now. Allowing your knob to take control of their experience and work out their problems is the best gift you can give them.

I do understand the anxiety though. I was in your shoes in 2007. At that time there were no Facebook groups. The Atlanta Citadel Club does have a send off event and the parent orientation was very helpful. I resourced with a local mom of a cadet and also the Citadel Family Association chair couple at the time. In 2007 knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester, so we didn’t get a call at the end of the first week. If we were lucky we received a quick email.

In 2011 I was asked to contribute to a blog called Off the Base , my son’s senior year. The blog is the project of Bobbie O’Brien of WUSF in Tampa, Florida. She thought my voice as the mom of an Army ROTC cadet soon to be officer would be helpful to her readers. I hesitated to write about The Citadel because I really couldn’t speak to the cadet experience. My son was the one who attended, not me. In the end I agreed. The entries trace my experience from a mom who couldn’t understand why in the world my son would want this type of experience, to a mom who knows it is not the experience I could have gone through, but The Citadel was exactly where my son needed to be.

Because of my blog contributions to Off the Base, and my own blog, some parents get the impression I never had doubts about the process. To these parents I suggest reading the first few entries from Off the Base. I assure you I was extremely anxious about the whole experience. The first entry, The Making of a Military Mom and the second, Mom Readies for Son’s Military College trace my early journey. The following entries, The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents and Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, describe in part the transformation I went through as I saw the changes in my son from a young high school student to a responsible adult.

The Cadre lead the Class of 2016 from the mess hall to their first meeting. The first week this process is repeated over and again.

The Cadre lead the Class of 2016 from the mess hall to their first meeting. The first week this process is repeated over and again.

The best gift a parent can give their knob is helping them prepare for Matriculation Day, then let go. Let your knob be the one to reach out to you. They have no control over their time so if you call and they don’t answer the phone, know that is completely normal. Send them encouraging cards and messages. When they do call, be supportive. Remind them of the strength they have within them to tackle their challenges. If they have a problem with a classmate don’t try to fix it for them, but remind them there is a chain of command and a protocol to go through to address concerns.

You can use the time to learn more about the school and the 4th Class system when your knob cannot call or email you. The Citadel external affairs office does a great job of posting photos and updates to the web site and also to their Facebook page for new parents to try to get a glimpse of their knob. Read through the Office of the Commandant page and all the links to learn about the school and the process your cadet is going through. This knowledge is not to intervene, but to see how they are trained.

As a parent it is tough to resist the urge to fix things for our children. Come April and Recognition Day, the knobs, and their parents, will see they have made it through to be full members of the Corps of Cadets and you will each feel a sense of accomplishment and pride of what you have come through.

The Class of 2016 lines up to enter the chapel the Sunday morning of Matriculation Day weekend, 2012.

The Class of 2016 lines up to enter the chapel the Sunday morning of Matriculation Day weekend, 2012.

Welcoming the New Cadets and Honoring our Fallen

The Atlanta Citadel Club hosted the annual Cadet send off event June 13. The dinner is the best attended event each year and usually features an address from an administrator on campus.

L-R Cadet Luke Cathy, '14; Tyler Smith, '13; Mike Rogers, CAA; Collin Hicks, '14 Regimental Commander; Michael Escoe, VP, ACC; Col. Leo Mercado, Commandant of Cadets; Col. Joseph Trez, Director Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics.

L-R Cadet Luke Cathy, ’14; Tyler Smith, ’13; Mike Rogers, CAA; Collin Hicks, ’14 Regimental Commander; Michael Escoe, VP, ACC; Col. Leo Mercado, Commandant of Cadets; Col. Joseph Trez, Director Krause Center for Leadership and Ethics.

A few months ago I joined the club as an affiliate member. Due to travel schedules the leadership of the club asked me and the current chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group to help with registration. It was a terrific way to meet everyone as they arrived.

I looked forward to this event each year. I am still in touch with the family I met when I arrived at the send off event before my son began his knob year. As part of the tradition, I take a group photo of the knobs in attendance. See the video the Citadel Alumni Association compiled of the evening.

The Citadel Class of 2017 incoming cadets from Georgia

The Citadel Class of 2017 incoming cadets from Georgia

This year I requested a few minutes on the agenda to ask for support for the homecoming needs of my son’s battalion. Then something really neat happened. I heard from the college roommate of Sgt. Aaron Wittman, a Citadel grad and the fallen soldier from the 3-69. I attended Aaron’s burial in February at Arlington National Cemetery.

A few months ago I read about the foundation set up by his classmates in Aaron’s name. I bought a t-shirt that was made for participants to wear in memory of Aaron during the Cooper River Bridge run. At the time I offered to help get the word out to Citadel parents about Aaron and his Foundation.

Aaron and his parents have been in my prayers since I received word of his death early this year. We have never met, but I felt connected to them once I learned of their connection to The Citadel and because our sons served in the same battalion together. I wanted to write to them, but I never did. That changed the week of the ACC dinner.

Robby Jackson, Aaron’s good friend and classmate emailed me before the dinner. He asked if I would help get the word out to current parents about the Aaron Wittman Foundation. He told me that Aaron’s parents had donated Aaron’s ring to the Band of Gold program administered by the Citadel Alumni Association. His ring will be melted down and be part of the ring the Class of 2014 will receive this Fall. Robby then put me in touch with Duane Wittman, Aaron’s father, so I could learn more about the scholarship fund the foundation will support.

SGT. Aaron X. WIttman photo used with permission Aaron Wittman Foundation

SGT. Aaron X. WIttman
photo used with permission Aaron Wittman Foundation

I was so happy to finally be in touch with this family whom I’ve prayed for. During my recent visit to Fort Stewart my daughter and I took time to stop at the Warrior’s Walk where trees are planted in memory of the Ft. Stewart soldiers who were killed. We went to pay our respects to Aaron and to Rex Schad another 3-69 soldier who gave his life for our freedom. It was an honor to be able to share the photo I took of Aaron’s tree with Duane.

Aaron’s father Duane sent me the following information about the foundation:

First, the Aaron Wittman “07” Scholarship Fund was the wonderful idea and effort of Aaron’s classmates.

The Wittman’s agreed that a Memorial Scholarship was the best way to honor Aaron and his selfless sacrifice and teamed up with his Citadel Classmates to create the Aaron X Wittman Memorial Scholarship.  The Scholarship Operating Board consisting of Aaron’s classmates and the Wittman Family signed the official MOU with The Citadel Foundation on 5 April 2013. 

To date, the endowment level was achieved by 1 June with $52K + on hand and the jump start scholarship dollars are available and will be awarded this year. 

We should reach our goal of  $100k by 31 Dec 2013 and a life-long goal of $250k.

The Goal of the Scholarship is to provide a rising Sophomore Cadet financial support for three years/graduation. 

 Selection criteria:

·         Financial Need is First Priority

·         Achieve 2.0 GPA for Freshman Year

·         Must maintain a 2.5 GPA to maintain Scholarship after award

·         Member of National Guard (desired but not required)

·         Prefer a Cadet who desires a future in the Armed Forces. 

If you would like to support this effort please visit the website: SGT. Aaron X. Wittman, ’07, Scholarship Fund

This video is a great overview of the foundation. The Birth of the Aaron Wittman Foundation

You can also join the Aaron Wittman Foundation Facebook page to receive regular updates.

SGT. Aaron Wittman's tree on Warrior's Walk at Fort Stewart.

SGT. Aaron Wittman’s tree on Warrior’s Walk at Fort Stewart.

 

My daughter takes a few moments to reflect.  Warrior's Walk, Fort Stewart.

My daughter takes a few moments to reflect.
Warrior’s Walk, Fort Stewart.

 

A Tribute to Veterans

The Placemat for the Veterans Day Luncheon at Roswell Presbyterian Church.

We just returned home from the Veterans Day Luncheon at Roswell Presbyterian Church. The luncheon was hosted by the Wit and Wisdom group and the Military Ministry committee. Wit and Wisdom is a group for adults over 50. The Military Ministry group is made up of Veterans, family members of someone in the service and anyone who would like to support military members, veterans and their families.

As part of the luncheon the members of Prayers and Squares ministry brought 6′ x 6″ prayer squares for us to pray over. The squares will be shipped to the chaplain of the battalion my son is part of. Some of the prayer squares will also be sent to the rear detachment chaplain to be distributed to family members who will find comfort in knowing a church family is holding them in prayer.

Prayer Squares made by Joyce Pettit and the Prayers and Squares Ministry.

The Roswell High School JROTC color guard opened the program by presenting the colors. That was a special treat for me. My oldest son was part of the Hornet Battalion color guard in high school. Then the Rev. Dr. Bill Nisbet moderated a program where the veterans at each table interacted with members of the middle and high school youth at their table. It was a fun afternoon. The students learned quite a bit from the veterans From the level of conversation in the room I know the veterans enjoyed talking to the youth too.

The Roswell High School JROTC Color Guard.
photo by Stanley Leary

An added bonus for me was sharing a table with Col. Bill Buckley, U.S. Marines, Retired. Bill and I met a few years ago at a dinner hosted by the Atlanta Citadel Club. Shortly after that dinner Bill and his wife joined our church. He has been a terrific resource for me as I learn the ins and outs of being the mom of an active duty second lieutenant. He is also a faithful member of the Military Ministry, which this month is one year old this month.

Dorie visits with Col Bill Buckley, U.S. Marines, Retired. He is also a graduate of The Citadel.
photo by Stanley Leary

The Citadel and the Fellowship of THE Ring

The Ring
photo by Stanley Leary

When I was 13 years old my brother gave me The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. Years later my oldest son became interested in the tales of J.R.R. Tolkien. The books involve a tale of the One Ring that controls the others.

Years later I was struck at the similarities and differences between the One Ring and The Ring the senior cadets at The Citadel receive their senior year. The One Ring is one of power over people. The Citadel ring that a graduate wears is also one of power. The Citadel ring’s strength is in the power of friendship forged through the tough training the cadets endure over their four years. The power of The Citadel ring goes beyond the graduates and in many cases influences the families of the one who wears the ring.

One of the most moving accounts of the bond forged by the graduates who wear the ring is told by Pat Conroy. He told this story in his book, My Losing Season, and he also told the story in his commencement address in 2001. I can’t read the story without tears welling up in my eyes. Talk to many graduates and their families and they can tell you their own story of the Ring. In her book In the Company of Men, Nancy Mace details her father’s story of recovering his lost ring in the swampy fields of Vietnam.

Two weeks from now the Class of 2013 will receive their rings. It is a huge weekend for seniors and their families. My son used to say that the ring, and what it symbolizes, is more important to him than his diploma. Everyone who graduates from a college or university gets a diploma. Not everyone can earn the right to wear The Citadel Ring.

Over the past five years I have had the privilege to see what the power of this ring can do. As the chair of the Georgia Citadel Parents Group for a few years I had the honor of witnessing the kindness of the members of the Atlanta Citadel Club when they heard a cadet was in need. One had trouble meeting the out-of-state tuition and was helped by a graduate. Another family had a crisis and weren’t sure they could get their cadet home, the alumni offered to pay for a flight. If a knob needed a ride back to campus from Georgia I just posted the need and within minutes offers to help would pour in.

This giving nature also applies to the families of the cadets. A family suffered the death of a grandparent. Their cadet couldn’t afford to travel to the funeral. A ticket arrived in the mail paid for by another family who heard of their need. When a cadet or graduate is deployed the moral support for the family of the soldier pours in.

Each year cadets and graduates are sent overseas to war. When one Citadel Mom learned that current cadets were going to war she founded The Citadel Heroes Project. Volunteers donate items and cards that are sent to the deployed cadets and graduates a few times a year. It is a huge effort that means so much to the recipients.

A young graduate died just months after graduation and before he reported to his first duty station. The roommate of the deceased was left behind to tie up the loose ends. A few of us attended the memorial service in Summerall Chapel. I was asked to read a poem during the service on behalf of the Citadel Family Association. A few of us moms learned it was difficult for the surviving roommate to go to the mail box each day and see mail to his deceased classmate/roommate/good friend. The Citadel Moms each took a week and sent baked goods gift cards for coffee shops and food. For eight weeks the surviving roommate went to his mailbox to find these gifts of love and support from his Citadel Moms.

Recently it was brought to the attention of a group of alumni that a few seniors, due to a number of circumstances, couldn’t afford to pay off the balance on their rings. Within a matter of hours alumni of all types, young and old, male and female, came together to donate the money needed to pay off the rings for these deserving seniors. When parents of current cadets and graduates heard of this effort, they too wanted to help. It was an amazing show of support by the members of The Citadel family. On October 12 the qualified cadets will receive their rings with the rest of their class.

Wearing the ring is something I will never experience. It was my son and his classmates that proved they were worthy of the honor of joining the Long Gray Line of graduates. They are family, not just classmates. I can tell you being a family member of the person who wears the ring makes you part of their extended Citadel family.

Pat Conroy used the sentence “I wear the ring.” in The Lords of Discipline to summarize the importance of his time at The Citadel and the bond he shares with others who wear the ring. The cadets who went through the rigors of the 4th Class System understand that sentence differently than any one else who reads it.

The parents and family members of the cadets and graduates can only get glimpses of what it means.

Bravo ’11 wear the ring. Photo by Stanley Leary

A group of friends who met through their cadets time at The Citadel.
photo by Stanley Leary

Citadel Parents: Just like Hogwarts, Help Will Always Be Given At The Citadel to Those Who Ask For It.

Each year about this time the Atlanta Citadel Club hosts a gathering to welcome the new cadets and their families. Each year I walk away from the event impressed by the alumni and their support for their school. The dinner last night was held at the Georgian Club and was attended by at least 145 people.  The president of The Citadel, Lt. Gen. John Rosawas the honored guest along with quite a few members of the administration.

Lt. Gen John Rosa addresses the dinner guests.

Sitting at the dinner last night brought back memories of the first cadet send off dinner I attended in 2007. I experienced an interesting mixture of feelings. I was excited for the Class of 2016 and their parents because in hindsight I know the challenging, but rewarding feeling of accomplishment and pride the cadets and parents feel.

Five send off  dinners since the first one I attended in 2007, I am now feeling a different anxiety. I am preparing myself for my oldest sons first deployment to Afghanistan this fall. In many ways this anxiety  is similar to how I was feeling the summer of 2007.

My son is the one who took the road less traveled and successfully navigated the rigors of the tough 4th Class System of The Citadel. I have been a spectator and student of how to be a supportive parent of a cadet. I continue to be impressed at the loyalty cadets and graduates have for THEIR school.

In 2007 I learned about the 4th Class System from scores of parents, mostly moms, of current cadets. Today, thanks in large part to my new friends through The Citadel, I am learning about  the U.S. Army and how to be a supportive parent to my son.

As a parent you spend your child’s early years protecting them from harmful situations. At some point during their teen years you begin to realize they need to spread their wings and begin to learn about life, including the difficulties, on their own. It is like a mother bird watching their chick make their first flight. Sending my son to The Citadel was like watching him soar off into the world.

I watched the new families at the dinner last night with a mixture of feelings. I remember my own anxiety at sending a child to a tough program. But I also have the benefit of hindsight. I know the funny knob year stories that will be told. I know the feelings of accomplishment these almost cadets will feel when they reach the end of Recognition Day the end of their knob year. And I know what sheer joy looks like on a cadet their senior year when they have earned The Ring.

My son was on an Army contract. For the past several years I have gone between feeling proud of his service to being anxious about what that service entails. As a non-military person trying to learn about a complex organization with a zillion new terms to learn, the whole situation can be overwhelming.

While a military system like The Citadel can be intimidating for a non-military person, I’ve learned that like at the fictional Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame, “help will always be given to those who ask for it.” The volunteers of The Citadel Family Association and the staff of the school are a terrific resource and helped me learn about what my son was going through. Just remember, The Citadel is a “no fly zone” for helicopter parents.

I am now learning about the U.S. Army the Family Readiness Groups and organizations like Blue Star Mothers and Blue Star Families. Support groups for parents and spouses are plentiful on social media sites, but you do need to reach out and ask for support. Knowing I am not alone on this journey doesn’t take away the anxiety completely, but knowing I stand in a long line of families that have sent their sons and daughters to war gives me strength.

Best wishes to The Citadel, Class of 2016 and their parents. As the graduates say, “You spend 4 years waiting to get out and spend the rest of your life trying to go back.”

Members of the Class of 2016 pose for a photo at the end of the dinner.

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