Mom in need help supporting son's decision

Discussion in 'Coast Guard Academy - USCGA' started by how2know, Apr 4, 2015.

  1. how2know

    how2know Member

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    GOOD MORNING - This from the mom of someone who has been offered a uscga appt that intends to take it. I need a way to come to some sort of support for him and am struggling with that. I do not intend to offend. Just really trying to receive some ideas on how to overcome my concerns about the military environment and support my son's decision.
    I'm proud of him and his accomplishments, which are many of course, in my estimate.Because there has been so much conflict in our home over a first serious girlfriend these last couple of months, he is very guarded with me. He has made a decision to accept the appt. Because I thought I'd raised a bit of a rennassaince man and like to think military force is a poor decision and I am peace lover at heart, it feels like a sock in the stomach to me that my son has elected to join the military over take advantage of studying at one of 11 civilian schools he has been accepted at and offered combined scholarship monies of over $650,000.00, leadership and honors programs. I worry about him being treated so cruelly and then having the duty of turning around to treat others that way. I recently opened the alumni journal for support in supporting him... to turn to the first page of a book review detailing how the uscg is losing innovative and creative leaders to the private sector who are unwilling to stay within a defunct system of promotion based on waiting in line and compliance/butt kissing. I am so concerned that instead of learning about himself and learning to problem solve and think for himself that he will be told what and how to think and be limited as an individual. Can anyone help set my mind at ease that this is not a poor decision that will limit his individuality, ability to think and not be dependent on the social circle of the military for his life so that I can support and celebrate his decision? Thank you for your help. Not intending to offend, just feeling so very sorrowful at the idea of my son not living up to his unique potential. If I should have posted this elsewhere for more response please advise and thank you again.
     
  2. Falcon A

    Falcon A Member

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    how2know -- Not offended.

    Where does your opinion of the military environment come from? I assume your opinion does not come from first hand experience as a military member or as an immediate family member of someone that served?

    One book review, or a book that is advertised and reviewed in an Alumni Journal, should not be treated as an absolute authority on the state of the Coast Guard -- a service with a very noble mission.

    I recommend you read this thread. http://www.serviceacademyforums.com/index.php?threads/whip-sawed-parent.41726/ You are not alone.
     
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  3. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Thank you for not taking offense! My opinion comes from the fact of not being a military family to any significant degree. Think my Dad was in the army 2 years and then went to college on gi bill. A half brother is a captain in the army from enlisted entry and he claims, and it seems really, that its been a good life for him. My opinion comes from the negative reactions I experience in hearing how military programs are run and knowing the greater power behind it that often chooses violence which I am opposed to, etc...probably a long discussion which really is not my emphasis at this moment.
    One of my next steps is understanding it's mission. I am so grateful for your recommendation of the thread above. I have read a few entries and will return to reading them. As in all things, knowing you are not alone is often a great comfort. Thank you so much!
     
  4. grevar

    grevar CGA Admissions Partner

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    Not offended either. I am from a military and law enforcement background, father served in the navy, grandfather served as well. Son is a freshman (4/C) at CGA now.

    Here is my take on what you said and please forgive in advance if it is harsh as I don't intend it to be that way....

    Bottom line is that this is your son's decision. It appears that this decision was made not for any financial reasons, but perhaps because he sees his personality aligned with the mission of the Coast Guard. Pretty noble and to be respected. There are those that go simply for the "free" education which whey soon learn is not "free" at all. The mission of the CGA is to train up quality officers and it seems your son has proven he has what it takes to make a go of it. My advice to you it to put (or try to) aside your personal feelings of what you may think the military is and give him 100% of your support. He will need it in the months and years ahead.

    Now, I will tell you that "Boot camp" in any of the military branches including Swab Summer at CGA is not like it was in years past. They are many safeguards in place nowadays to prevent the hazing and cruelty that was once commonplace. You can rest assured the leadership and cadre are well trained. Do mistakes happen every year? Sure they do, and some are recognized and some are not. No service is perfect and no summer training program is flawless. Let's keep in mind though that it is meant to be tough, and it will be. Tougher for some more than others, but it will be a challenge nonetheless. The major difference between "basic" training at any academy is that it is conducted by kids only two years older than those they are training. Both are being evaluated and both want to succeed. "Boot Camp" for enlisted folks is usually conducted by seasoned NCO's with several years of experience under their belts.

    Yes, he will be told how to think, how to act, and how to put others before himself. That's all part of it. The goal of summer training is to break them down, then build them up as a unit where they don't think of themselves first. As he matures as a leader, there will be plenty of opportunity for him to demonstrate the leadership skills he has learned and developed as his own style. I know that for someone who has never lived under a military chain-of-command, this is a hard concept to grasp.

    So, while it may not have been your choice, it very obviously is his. Put all the support you can possibly muster behind him. When he is down, let him vent, but don't attempt to solve his problems. We've learned that most of the time venting is all that they need. The problems work out themselves and they learn how to solve them. (this is/was always a hard part for me). We learned that after venting, they have long since moved past what they were venting about while we were still worried about it. As hard as it may be for you, never ever encourage him to quit in those times when he is down...(even when inside it is what you want). Have those real conversations with him now about finishing what he started. He needs that from you now more than ever because trust me...there will be times he wondered if he made the right choice.

    So welcome to a close knit group of parents of CGA Cadets. I encourage you to join the Parents Association and class specific Facebook groups for parents. For the Class of 2019, the group is located at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/USCGAPARENTS2019/ It is the parents that have traveled this road before you that will be the most help to you in the coming months/years. Trust me...we depended greatly on some experienced parents this past year.

    Hope this helps!
     
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  5. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Thank you for your kind words which I did not feel were harsh. I will talk to him about finishing what he has started to this point. It is an idea I only have heard of since August. Personally, I thought it could be his safety school for financial reasons if he was otherwise prepared and excited about it. I believe there is a financial component. Money we have to put towards college is limited and his best offers at fine schools still leave $20-25 k annual costs with Rm and bd. I thought he may have what I might have considered "better offers "but he did not apply to more than one school considered to be well endowed. He indicated that he thought the choice would give more money for his younger brother, which is honorable. But what has he started with his life and does he want to finish it with a military life commitment of almost a decade? He thinks he very well may choose to make a career of it at this point. I have never witnessed a military calling in my son, so it is all new.
    I will have the discussion with him about what he has started and about what he is about to start to try to help align his values. I know he will be in need of support going through USCGA or any other choice he makes and that is a good reminder. I truly want to help support him and I truly want to do all that I can do and more to guide him in an appropriate decision. Agreed, the USCGA academy is in no way a free education. There is a cost to everything. Thank you for the leads and your time in caring to respond. It is so very appreciated!
    Ok here is where my fear kicks in. Be prepared for one of my more mild rants, not directed at you in any way just more like venting if you please.In terms of support, how does one know when one really needs to quit?! How can you know your deepest self when you have been trined up to be something other than what you've been. How can you hear that intuition inside you to tell you it's not working and you'd be better suited to something else. How does a parent know when to say keep a stiuff upper lip, or it appears, you need a new direction?Then what do we all have, cadets disappearing and dying in car accidents or suicides ( fell onto the forum AFA suicide posts and am now even more scared and read a horrible post about how a cadet death is treated in academy with no info offered to peers and a final not talking about death of that cadet once a formalized service is concluded!!! How is that humane? It it aligns with some of my greatest fears of how the military treats matters of humanity andgrave importance. Forgive me I am typing through my tears.
     
  6. AlexT

    AlexT Banned

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    How2know,

    You need to stop finding excuses to fail to support your son. In each successive post, you are given tons of information disabusing many of the stereotypes you have. At the same time, you seem to believe that a non-military civilian education is all roses and sunshine. Having never been in the military, I can tell you that the alternate which you are idolizing is filled with every shortcoming that you cite for the military. You've never worked for an incompetent boss?

    Now suddenly you notice that cadets die and somehow imply something dark about how the academies deal with it. As Capolo13 said, you need to open your mind. Some on this forum are particularly sensitive to it...and contrary to your assertions about "not talking about it", the Corps of Cadets knew about the Coast Guard tragedy within hours. They knew all of the details that they needed to know. The corps of cadets was given everything they needed to cope with the loss. The issues and fears you cite are not unique to a service academy. Do you honestly believe that students at regular universities don't die?

    Your son sounds like an amazing young man. He is exhibiting all of the characteristics you seem to want him to have. He clearly is thinking for himself in the face of great pressure. Support his decision and let him work through it. Your job here is actually very simple. Give him a shoulder to lean on, a few words of encouragement and the firm resolve to let him know that you are proud of him. He is the one that has the hard job. Don't make it any harder for him. Don't try to talk him out of it...he will only resent you. Don't say "I told you so...." if he calls or writes home about how hard things are and how unpleasant things are...He must know he is not alone. His shipmates and classmates will be there for him. You must also be there for him. The career path he has chosen is difficult. Why would you make it any harder on him than it has to be.
     
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  7. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    I'll just throw in there that you don't "raise a rennassaince man"…. he either is one or he isn't and either way, he determines it….. not his mom or dad.
     
  8. Freda'sMom

    Freda'sMom Parent

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    This post seems......familiar.
     
  9. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Thank you for sharing your thoughts ALexT. I know that the civilian path is not all rosy and there are times I need reminders of that. I do not think I've ever heard the military described as a rosy path. I also have had the learning experience of working for an incompetent boss. My intention was not to be insensitive but my thoughts were stirred from something I read on a different part of the forum that described what I felt to be an inhumane and unfeeling way of dealing with the death of a cadet in a different branch that reflected my sterotypical and unconfirmed belief that the military may deal with matters of great significance by reserving knowledge only for the privileged few. I admit that I may be incorrect. My hearts go out to the recent CGA cadets who lost their lives and to all of those who knew them and surely miss them. I'm struggling with support for my son's decision and looking for support which I have received in one way or another through each post I've read.
    Yes, of course I am pleased to have a son who thinks for himself. I want to support him and your post is helpful to me, thank you for takin ghte time and caring enough to respond.
     
  10. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Thank you for sharing LineIn the Sand. I have saved a number of your posts to share with my son.
     
  11. LineInTheSand

    LineInTheSand USCGA 2006

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    OK, I'll take a shot now that I have some time.

    First, you're going to experience what other parents experience (some better than others)… letting go. Where ever your son goes will offer challenges. At CGA he may be yelled at. He may be miserable. He may not enjoy his time. He may tear his ACL playing soccer (like my buddy) or bump his head standing up from his desk (like I did) or any number of other things. And you know what? You won't be there. You won't be there to nurse him back to health or to tell him he'll be OK. But that's not unique to CGA. If he goes to other civilian schools, all of those things could happen. He could get beat up, or hazing pledging or he could get drunk and fall down an elevator shaft (like at Vanderbilt). You never know. And this isn't something new… it has ALWAYS been the case. At some point your baby bird will leave the nest.

    CGA is not a safety school. It is "free" so I guess that is one aspect, but it's hard to get into and it's hard to graduate from.

    The rumors about the military being a robotic organization that turns your little boy into a blood-thirsty killing machine are likely overblown. Yes, the guns Coast Guardsmen carry are meant to kill people, but you'll also want to remember the rescue side of the house (which should appeal to your peace loving self). First, officers, like middle managers in any organization, make decisions. They weigh what is known, develop a path to achieve a goal and implement it. I now working in an organization with lawyers and accountants. I do less "thinking" now than I did in the Coast Guard. I had to manage people, which isn't that different from the private sector, except that their performance reviews impact their careers to a greater degree.

    What did the Coast Guard do to and for me? Well, it made (or helped make) me more confident and assertive. At times I think it may have hardened me a bit more than I would have liked, but that's in large part due to how I reacted. It tested me and allowed me to understand that I wasn't as limited as I believed I was (aka, I could do more than I thought). That's a lesson that helps in the future, in or out of the military.

    Yes, I drove a boat and learned how to shoot a gun. Yes, I learned how to do take downs and pressure points. Yes I was yelled at and broken down. Yes I yelled at others and broke them down. I was also built up and built others up. I drove a boat, but I also managed the marine mammal program, monitored weather, engaged politicians and members of the media, etc etc etc.

    And what do I do now? Am I a rennassaince man? I'm not really sure, nor am I sure I care. I play hockey, racking up penalty minutes and goals. I play the five-string banjo and I'm into the bluegrass community. I've picked my trumpet back up. I read….. economics books, bluegrass stuff, spy thrillers, etc. I work in public affairs. I'm a teaching assistant in a public relations master's program (from the program I earned my master's degree). I still keep track of the Coast Guard, the military in general, and politics. I'm regarded by my friends as a very independent thinker.

    I'm not entirely sure what your hopes and dreams are for your son, but I do know a few things…. he will achieve his hopes and dreams because he wants to, and not because his hand is being held as he goes down that road.

    It's clear from your comments that you know little about the military, less about the Coast Guard, and even less about the Coast Guard Academy. That's not all that surprising or abnormal. My recommendation, check it out. Google it…. take a trip to New London and actually visit CGA… talk to cadets, talk to officers. See how normal and impressive they are. And after you experience how wrong your opinions are, I think you'll be more comfortable with his desires, and he'll know a little better what he's getting into.

    I'm not going to lie, I did not enjoy CGA. Often I hated it. But I would do it over in a second. I would have been successful at any school I attended, but CGA allowed to to understand my weaknesses and better myself (by tackling those weaknesses). I had some of the hardest, best experiences of my life and I made some of the best friends I could ever hope for.
     
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  12. shellz

    shellz Parent

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    USCGA was an awesome experience for my compassionate and soft spoken son. He survived swab summer just fine, can think critically for himself, is living up to his potential and beyond ( how many 24 year olds are left in charge of millions of dollars in assets with minimal oversight), and has nothing but kind words for his classmates and co workers.

    It is a privilege to attend a service academy, and I think your son would be lucky to attend CGA. As for the death at USAFA...it has not yet been determined to be a suicide. They are being cautious in releasing information to protect the cadets family, as well as the rest of the cadet wing. It will be dealt with publicly when all the information has been properly reviewed. The cadets are bonding together and will rally together to get through this. At my daughters civ college, a suicide on graduation day was never explained. So it happens in civ schools as well.
     
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  13. AlexT

    AlexT Banned

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    Which finally made me realize why the swabs got screamed at when they forget to turn the lights off in their rooms. Baby steps. Room lights first, cutters and helicopters later.
     
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  14. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Thank you again, Line in the Sand.

    Of course all of the terrible things that can happen, can happen anywhere and I appreciate your reminder in this emotionally charged time of my life. I acknowledge I am a parent who struggles with letting go, perhaps more so than others. I am not hardened and I care deeply. I had hoped for a college path that would soften and open my young adult to new thought and acceptance of others and to be a bit less rigid than he has appeared to become in the last couple of years. Perhaps openness will come to him at some point in life and perhaps that will be nice for me. But it's his life, yes.

    Thanks too for trying to lend some clarity to the varying types of operations USCG participates in.

    A hardening of the person, a shutting down of a person I might say, or lack of openness stemming from military experience has been a concern of mine, founded or unfounded. I am curious as to how one's reaction may enhance the hardening that comes from this or any experience. I wonder why people leave the amazing opportunity that is USCG, I imagine the reasons are as varied as the people who sign up.

    My son drives and sails boats and shoots guns, all of which will differ from those same activities in USCGA. Yelling from and towards people will be new. I imagine my son may not care much in the future if he performs brilliantly in many fields or not, but as his mom it has been a source of both pride and joy, not necessarily in that order to see him excel in some areas, coincidentally in his 12 year relationship with bluegrass music.

    We have 2 trips to USCGA behind us and I still struggle. However, posts from today have been a big help in making me feel more positive about the situations he will encounter there and better prepared to support his decision. I own and honor my continued struggle - there are likely many CGA grads who don't enjoy and even hate their experiences, yet remain there, perhaps making careers out of time spent in such an environment. The same could be said of people in other life circumstances not associated with any military, where they remain in a situation they don't enjoy: because they want to make a change or somehow prevail, or they don't know what else to do... Who among us would not understand the internal struggle that a mother faces with that constraint?
     
  15. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Thank you SLELLZ for taking the time to comment and offer the perspective. Unexplained circumstances of suicide are hard wherever and whenever they may occur. I am happy that your son has had a positive experience and has surpassed what was believed to be his potential.
     
  16. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Does this mean you've gone through similar feelings?
     
  17. Freda'sMom

    Freda'sMom Parent

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    No, it means your post reminds me of a very similar thread a little while ago where a poster pretended to be a "concerned father" who said basically the same things you say, sort of an underhanded way to knock the military while pretending to be a parent with fears about his son becoming a killer in the Army. The only real difference in the feelings you've expressed is a change in the branch of service.

    I believe he was outed as a troll.

    There was a lot of good advice in that thread, a wise concerned parent like yourself should probably re-read that thread to gain good insight on dealing with feelings like you are having.
     
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  18. how2know

    how2know Member

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    I wonder how I would go about finding that thread, seems like it could be a needle in a haystack.
     
  19. AlexT

    AlexT Banned

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  20. how2know

    how2know Member

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    Well that was quite a bit of info. Some of it I wish I could have recording and playing to me to help sink in all the positive in a decision such as this. The topic certainly seemed to become heated. I think that is unfortunate. I hope that does not happen here on the thread I have begun. I have tried to precede comments that may be offensive with an indication of that not being my intention. It is an emotional time for me and I am thankful that I could log on here and gain a different perspective to consider.
     

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