VMI Rat Post Thanksgiving-Ideas?

Discussion in 'Publicly and Privately Funded Military Colleges' started by easter2, Nov 27, 2011.

  1. easter2

    easter2 Member

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    DS Rat was back for Thanksgiving break...good trip overall, let him do whatever he needed, whether sleeping in, taking him to breakfast, etc. At times you could tell he was stressing himself out about going back, which to me is somewhat expected. WhenI mentioned that most likely there are fellow BR's feeling the same way, he stated it didn't help to know that. I distracted him as much as I could-we talked about the upcoming Holiday break and things to do, people he was planning on meeting up with then during the time (including his Dyke who actually lives in the area).
    He was relatively stoic going to and at the airport. Host family retrieved him and brought him back to the house for a couple of hours before taking back to the I...he called from the host families house distraught because of the return. I don't placate and don't feed into it...I support.
    My question is this---esp asking those that have been there, done that regardless of school---is this 'normal'? I expected some type of stressing but criminy, he isn't even there yet....anything I can say or do, or should I just leave it? We don't want him to make any decisions about next year until after he gets through break-out but him not shutting the brain down is not helping :frown:
     
  2. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Easter2: it's not so unusual. 35 years later I can still recall the sinking feeling Thanksgiving coming back from my cousins house (didn't go home for Thanksgiving) and even worse after Christmas as the NY/NJ club bus crested the hill going south on Rt 11. As you saw the barracks looming on the hill on the other side of the river- I can distinctly recall having to choke down the feeling of nausea and homesickness (mixed with a couple of beers back in the era of the 18 year old drinking age). Those were probably the two lowest points in my Cadetship, and we lost a fair number of brother rats to those two events. But you get back in barracks and are back in the swing of things- life still bites, but it's the bite you know anyway, which is never as bad as the anticipation. He'll get over it.
    My son headed back this morning- first time he has come home for Thanksgiving- and his last Thanksgiving holiday (God and the Dean willing:rolleyes:) as a Cadet. Time flies bye. I'm stunned at all of the "lasts" this year- it was our last Parents weekend, last Thanksgiving break and last time we really will have our "kid" for Thanksgiving- after that it will be up to the Army and his schedule whether he comes back and it won't be his home anymore (acckk- I am depressing myself:sadwavey:). If your boy hangs in thru the Rat line- the rest will fly by faster than he or you will believe possible.
     
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2011
  3. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    First of all, YES, this is normal! My poor mother... we used to get into terrible fights just before I'd return to the Institute (even as an upperclassman) because of my poor stress management skills. :frown: I know that she was only trying to help, but I'd snap over stupid stuff because I was so anxious about the return. It's a wonder she continued supporting me at all! I'm not sure why, but I didn't snap at my dad nearly as much. God bless VMI Moms!

    It's really, really hard going back after that first furlough. You're nervous before Matriculation, but there's still an air of bravado because you really have no idea what you're getting yourself into. After Thanksgiving, you know what you're going back to. Each rat-tie responds to this differently, but it typically involves some measure of dread and nausea.

    As Bruno mentioned, he'll be back in the swing of things before he knows it. The anticipation is always so much worse than the actual event. He'll be hating life so much as he hits Jackson Arch and then strains back up to his room on the fourth stoop, but then he'll look around and see his Brother Rats. As much as you love being at home, you never realize how much you miss your Brother Rats. And in the end, that's what it's all about.

    Besides, they've made it to the best time of year in barracks: the three weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Cadre and RDC will still be there right up until exam week, but the mood is completely different in barracks this time of year. Upperclassmen can put up Christmas decorations, so barracks looks festive. Something special happens after Taps each night, too, but I won't post any specifics yet so as not to ruin it for any rat-ties who might be reading this thread. :smile:

    Don't be surprised if the goodbye's don't feel like they're getting any easier. But know that he will be stronger for it, because part of life is facing stuff you dread. It's the hardest thing in the world to focus on the long-term benefits when you're in the short-term suck, but he'll get there. The goodbye's won't get much easier, but they will start to feel more normal, if that makes sense.

    And trust me... your love, support, and calm reassurance means more to him than he can communicate. I still have all the cards my mom sent me, and they still provide a source of courage when I'm having a bad day.

    Hang in there,
    Jackie M. Briski '09
    First Class PVT (Ret.)
     
  4. easter2

    easter2 Member

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    Thanks Bruno and Jackie...I anticipate that now he is back and in the routine so to speak again he will simmer down. He took a couple days to recover from when we were there for Parents Weekend and figure he will be back in the groove in less time than that this go-around. When he would turn to belly-aching I would remind him that home ain't that exciting and he WAS getting something valuable out of being at the I, much more than his HS pal who stayed in town and going to the college here... :redface:
     
  5. Lawman32RPD

    Lawman32RPD Member

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    Post Thanksgivin and the SMC's

    After watching a heck of a game between the Texas A&M Aggies and the University of Texas at Austin Longhorns (tu in Aggie-speak) our Fish joined me in New Mexico for a day and a half. I drove our Fish back to TAMU yesterday. During the brief visit I'd heard about the 'joys' of Brass Week and pride of the Fish who earned their Corps Brass, there was excitment about Christmas and decorations, and the impending Christmas break - there are after all just 7 class days left before reading days and exams. Then, about 15 minutes from campus, our Fish was on the cell with Mom/Wife and I heard for the first time that the Fish wasn't, oh how shall we say it, filled with joy at the prospect of getting back in the Fish routine.

    The point being, yup, strikes me as a outsider as a pretty normal reaction.

    Lawman32RPD
     
  6. pennak

    pennak Member

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    That was sure true for my DS Rat. He couldn't wait to get out of Lexington and actually enjoyed the 3 hour delay caused by the horrible traffic on I-81 going back on Sunday --- it meant a few more hours of freedom from the Ratline. All normal. But he realized that the worse of the Ratline is already over, as it is only about 3 weeks to the Xmas break and only two weeks after that to Breakout. Resurrection week is causing some dread but nothing these kids can't now handle now that they are no longer playing deer in the headlights.
     
  7. CAVCDR

    CAVCDR Member

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    I remember those days last year. Chrismas break will be a little easier because the will have an idea when their break out will be (a light at the end of the tunnel). I remember taking my rat back last year along with a BR. They would be laughing and joking until we hit Virginia and I could feel the stress build until it was tearing even at me. I always felt bad dropping them off even a half hour early. After break out, there was not even an issue going back a little early so I can make it back before midnight. Besides, according to my rat, the rats this year had it so easy (just kidding).

    On a side note, that traffic was insane. It made my 5.5 hour ride 7.5 hours.
     
  8. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Traffic was indeed insane -- it doubled my drive time going down I-81 from 2.5 hours to 5.5 hours. And it was all volume -- I didn't see any accidents. Your Virginia point hit home. For my Rat, the stress started when we entered Virginia and *really* started to build as we hit (finally) Rockbridge County as he fixed his collar on his gray blouse (which don't look very comfortable at all). He exploded in dread when the Institute appeared as we entered Lexington. I too felt bad about getting him there much before 10:00, but I really don't much like driving really late at night anymore. I am glad that all is well after breakout. I understand that the place is much more relaxed on the Ratline after exams start on the 16th. Guess that the upperclassmen cannot fool with the Rats with sweat parties and the like during exam week.
     
  9. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    One thing VMI does really, really well is the balance between the rigors of the Ratline and the rigors of the academic program. Yes, sweat parties take place on school nights--but not until 11:00pm (Taps is at 11:30pm). RDC meetings also take place on school nights, but typically not before 10:00pm. This means the rats have at least two solid hours of uninterrupted study time, but most nights they have closer to three or three and a half. (Not all rats are fortunate enough to be invited to visit with the RDC on a school night... the only time all of the rats turn out is for regular sweat parties.)

    While there are certain rat restrictions (only using the far sidewalk, not talking outside barracks, etc.), the Ratline itself ends and begins at Jackson Arch, unless they're on an official, regularly scheduled RDC function. Rats don't do pushups in academic buildings, and (typically) nobody really yells outside of barracks, although they will still correct deficiencies and breaches of rat restrictions. I worked with upperclassmen on group projects in class when I was a rat, and even met with them in the library for study sessions before tests and exams, in some cases.

    Spring semester of my rat year, I walked into my Survey of American Lit class (a 200-level English course) on the first day just to see that my First Platoon Sergeant (one of the Second Class Cadre members) had arrived before me. I was really nervous for the first two class periods, but then I realized that he never even acknowledged my presence in the room, so I didn't need to feel uncomfortable.

    During Res Week, I went on Guard Duty as a Day Sentinel, and one of the classes I had to miss that day was Survey of American Lit. I was astounded when I returned to my room after one of my shifts and found the handout from English class sitting on my desk. I figured it had come from a friend of mine who was a Third Classman at the time, but she said it hadn't been her. After Breakout, I asked my First Platoon Sergeant if he had been the one to drop it off. He looked slightly embarrassed as he said, "Yeah, it was me. I knew you were on guard and I figured it had to be hard being a rat in an upper level class, so I didn't want you to get too behind. I had to do room inspections that day, anyway." He and our Master Sergeant regularly checked in with us about our grades and gave us advice and study tips throughout the Ratline. Typically these conversations took place at SRC, around the supper table.

    They'll continue having Cadre Training Time and RDC meetings this week and next week, and they might have a sweat party on the Sunday night before Reading Day. But from that point on, things will be deathly quiet in barracks. Upperclassmen are still allowed to stop rats on the stoop and make them do pushups during exam week, but most of them are too busy studying themselves. And those whoare jerk enough to be out on the stoops will get flamed by their own BRs if they make too much ruckus while everyone else is trying to study or sleep. :shake:

    VMI is arguably one of the toughest undergraduate institutions in the nation, but it's still a college. There will always be a few who get distracted, but things always work out in the end. The one guy I remember from the Class of 2008 (Third Class when I was a rat) who messed with rats during exam week ended up failing out. :rolleyes:

    -jmb-
     
  10. pennak

    pennak Member

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    It is interesting how that works. My DS is in at least a couple of upper level classes with upperclassmen (he APed out 24 hrs of classes) and he confirms that upperclassmen are actually normal human beings in class, including Firsts! The wonder!
     
  11. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    Part of why I settled in after only a couple days of having my First Platoon Sergeant for a classmate spring semester was my experience in upper level classes fall semester. This rat arrived early for the first U.S. Government class and followed the advice of her Ac Advisor, choosing a seat in the front row so the preponderance of upperclassmen wouldn't be so distracting. A few minutes later, she was joined in the front row by Cadet Captain Mark T. Searles, an International Studies major from Woodbridge, VA.

    At least, that's how his name was announced every Friday during parades, since he was the Regimental Commander and Vice President of the Honor Court. :eek: :eek: :shake:
     
  12. pennak

    pennak Member

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    That's a hoot. It's a different world at VMI. :thumb:
     

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