What a drive!!!! 9.5 hours…and we only stop once to use the restroom and for gasoline. The last three hours, was survival mode, we were all tired and annoyed, but we made it. We rested for a couple of hours and the woke up bright an early to attend Family Day at Fort Jackson. My mom and I were anxious to see my youngest brother. We arrived on post, after figuring out where to be and how to get there, and we parked, sat down and waited.
All of the sudden while I am getting my camera ready I heard this loud bang…the demonstration had just begun, the soldiers demonstrated how to approach a suspicious vehicle and how to take down terrorists. Very well-played and of course the crowd got loud. Then, we see all the soldiers marching, coming towards us, from the woods…tears, laughter, joy and pride was all I could see around me.
I was able to spot my brother right away, he was part of Alpha Company…I did shed a tear when I saw him. I could see the wear and tear from all those weeks in training. Once they gave us the go, the entire crowd rushed towards the formation to grab their loved ones. I began to walk slow, caring for my kids and my mom, but the closer I got to him the faster I moved.
We locked eyes and he teared up and so I did. I asked him to come towards me, he mentioned that he couldn’t that I had to come to him…I pushed my way in and embraced him in a big hug and told him how proud I was. He held on tight for a few seconds, then he asked for our mom. To see them embrace in a hug was priceless, emotions were raw, and we were all so happy to be reunited. We knew we only had hours we each other, so we made the best of it.
It was so nice to talk to my brother about his recent experiences during basic combat training. I was in shock to hear that our training was so alike. I don’t know, I figure that since it’s been so long, they would modernize the training, but based on what my brother was describing I realized that it was the same training. We spend the day on post, we ate and ate, and ate some more. I introduced him to Starbucks and he ate Popeye’s chicken for the first time. I saw the struggles on his face when he communicated with others in English, and I told myself, that was me 15 years ago. I told him he will be alright, that it is a cultural shock, and that he will hit plenty of walls (language barrier), but that he will learn more and more everyday. I encourage him, I explained to him that been afraid will only hurt his goals, I encourage him to speak up, to keep learning the language and to use the language.
The second day was the actual graduation day, after graduation we were able to take him off post. I drove him around in SC, showing him some of the places I used to hang our, our old house and then we settled for a movie. We tried to stay up beat, but as the hours passed, the realization that we had to say goodbye became the now. We drove him back to the barracks and we laugh and took lots of pictures. Then I hugged him, told him I loved him and again that I was super proud of him. He then moved on to hug our mom…heartbreaking, they both were trying to be strong but their voices betrayed them, the say goodbye and he walked away..never looking back.
Fort Lee, Virginia is his next destination. He will spend 9 weeks in Advanced Training and then will be assigned to his first duty station. His plan is to take leave when he completes his AIT then go back home to see the rest of the family.