As the Mom of a current C3C, I wanted to share my personal experience as I sent my son off to become a USAFA cadet! From the day we received the infamous BFE, I was filled with questions and emotions. I followed the forums closely and was always excited to come across a post where someone had shared their personal experience. My hope is to provide the same and maybe help a few upcoming 2015 parents prepare for their journey. If any of you are questioning whether to attend I Day, I believe it’s an experience no parent should miss if they can possibly be there! I flew to Colorado with my son. His dad wasn’t able to attend, but I have a brother in the Colorado Springs area so we had plenty of family to see him off. For me, seeing my son off on I Day was a life changing experience. Mike is my oldest of 2 children, and the first to leave home. He and I have always been very close and in many ways, I was literally dreading this day. It was, without a doubt, the toughest day of my life, and one I will never forget! We went thru the morning process with great anticipation, tho I was fighting back tears the entire time. After all the preparation and planning for this day, I believe my son was just ready to “get it started”. I, on the other hand, was just not ready to let him go! When it came time for our final goodbyes, my heart was breaking and I definitely had a hard time letting him walk away, but I stayed strong and through teary eyes I watched my son take his first steps up the stairs to a new life. Believe me, I wouldn’t trade that moment for anything! I’ve never felt so lost, yet so proud in my life… it was such a strange mix of emotions! I held myself together and we watched the rest of the process from across the lawn catching a nervous smile from him here and there until he stepped onto the bus and I watched him drive away. Then, somewhat unexpectedly, I totally lost it! The rest of the day was filled with tears, actually to the point of little panic attacks, literally wanting to go pick him up and undo the fear and loss I was feeling. I honestly wasn’t emotionally prepared for the intensity of that day, but here’s the good news… I survived!! I had made many great academy friends for support, and everyone told me it would get easier, and I’m happy to report that you can find strength in believing that is true! It DOES get easier… I promise!! Ok… back to my story. After a sleepless and tear filled night, I woke early and traveled out to the Chapel wall eager to see my boys face during the swearing in ceremony. We were smart enough to bring binoculars! And there he was, forth row Demons, and I could watch his every move. Again, mixed emotions on my end… here was my strong, independent son, captain of the football team, state wrestler… suddenly looking lost and confused, which only led to more tears on my part as I watched him march off the field and away from me. But again, in hindsight, it was an amazingly proud moment I would not have wanted to miss. Also, I knew he knew I was up on that wall, and I knew it somehow helped him thru that first difficult day. I guess my point is this… if there is any way to attend I Day, I think every parent who wants to be there should go! Regardless of how difficult that day was for me, and probably my son too, it was one of life’s moments I’m happy I was a part of. After a long and lonely flight home, I put all my energy into supporting my son through this tough transition. That helped. I wrote him each and every day, keeping my letters supportive and up beat. I never let on to him the loss I felt from that day, but I did let him know he was loved and missed and filling his family with pride. My days were filled with work, a few hours scanning Webguys photos for pictures of Mike, and always ended with a long letter from home. I remember him telling me during one of his many phone calls home on Doolie Day “In” just how much my letters were helping him, and to keep them coming, the longer the better. That made it all worth it!! Originally we weren’t planning to attend A Day knowing the limited time we would get to spend with him, but that decision changed a couple weeks into BCT. Watching him thru pictures, and reading the letters he sent home, I knew it was important to him that his family be there when it was all said and done. I was very excited to tell him on Doolie Day In that his father, sister and I would be there for A Day! It was a great boost for him, and I know it helped him thru the rest of BCT! And being there to watch him march out in his cadet uniform, running out onto the field to give him that first hug, and standing by his side as he received his shoulder boards was PRICELESS! Again, one of life’s moments not to be missed if you can make it happen! So there you have it, a somewhat quick summary of my experience and how I, as an emotional Mom, sent my boy off to become a cadet. My motto with my son has always been “I’m not letting you go, I’m just letting you grow.” And I’m happy to report that I have adjusted well, and my son is a successful and happy 3 degree who is looking forward to his “Cadre” assignment for BCT1 this summer. He is truly happy at the Academy. He has made amazing friendships that will last a lifetime and he knows in his heart he is exactly where he belongs. I hope some of the more sensitive parents will find strength in my story. Even though my experience with I Day and BCT began with heartache and what felt like incredible loss… I’m able to look back on it today with a new understanding. I don't think anything can prepare you for the day your child walks away from your side and into a new life, but rest assured, in time, your pride will override your pain! Today, we talk on the phone quite often, I’ve traveled out there for Parent Weekends and amazing ski trips, and our relationship has grown thru sharing this experience. I know that I am extremely proud of my son and all he has accomplished in his short life! So, to all the upcoming parents of the Class of 2015… Congratulations… and as many will say, you are in for the ride of your life… good and bad. Best wishes to all of you!