WOW!!! What a day!!!!
Well, it was a very organized and internally emotional day. Very quiet 2 1/2 hour drive from home to the academy. No one really said anything. Not me, my wife, my daughter, and most of all my son. I think he was realizing that it was getting ready to actually happen.
Luckily for us, the football team put together a continental type breakfast; donuts, bagels, fruit, coffee, juice, etc... for the new cadets who also happened to be recruited on the football team. It was held at the press box at the stadium. Started at 7am until disbanding around 9:30 so everyone could take a bus together to in-processing, or drive themselves if they had their parents with them and a car. It was nice. Something familiar to start the day off with. Coaches and players that our boys had already met months ago. It was nice.
Finally got to Doolittle Hall and got into a very long line. But it went quite fast. We worked our way into the AOG and chatted with our son for a few minutes. He finally looked at me and said; "I'm ready to go". Those were about the most painful words I have ever heard. Our family is pretty close. And while I love my wife and she is my best friend; and my daughter and I are also very close. But, I have a very special relationship with my son. He is a part of my life. Since he was about 6 or 7, we've been involved together with all kinds of sports, music, hobbies, etc... Having him say that he was READY to go really affected me. I promised him I wouldn't cry; but instead I got totally choked up and watery eyes. I couldn't speak. He hugged me. Then his mom and his sister. We let him go upstairs.
I know this is great. I myself having spent 21 years in the Air Force and leaving home at 17 yrs old, just like him, is understood. I know we will see him as often as possible. (We are only 2-3 hours away). We have season football tickets, parent's weekend, "A" day, etc... There's all the holidays, breaks, etc... just like a normal college student. But with my daughter at a normal school, I knew she could come home anytime she wanted. I could go there anytime I wanted. When she graduates next year, I know she will come home. Even if it's only for a week, month, year, or however long before she finds her own job, apartment, and her own life. With my son, assuming he makes it through BCT and 4 years; (I have no doubt he will); he has pretty much started his new life today.
Anyway, the process was very organized. After he left to go upstairs at the AOG and start his processing, we waiting outside and watched he exit the building. He and others worked their way to a memorial to honor those before them who gave their lives for our country. They then proceeded to the "Bridge". On one side, they were explained how their life was going to change. (For the good). Once the crossed the bridge, the military discipline was going to kick in. And boy did it. All of them lined up; walked to pick up their backpacks/luggage that they had placed in a holding area earlier; got back in line at attention, eyes straight ahead, and no talking. Just waiting for the bus. We were taking pictures like crazy. At least one of the cadets running the show came up to me and my wife and said; "If you want a REALLY GOOD PHOTO OP, just point out your child to us". He smiled and knew that we knew that we didn't want to do that. He was kidding. I'm sure he wouldn't have gotten into my son's face. However, we did see some in line getting chewed out for all sorts of things. After that, we watched him get on the bus and pull out. WOW!!!!!
Then, we decided to take our daughter to the visitor center to the gift shop. Also to see the chapel. While looking over the cadet area from the chapel lookout, we actually believe we saw my son and the other "Rainbows" (That's what we called them when I first came in because of all the different colors of clothes being worn). They were just coming up the tunnel into the cadet area. Anyway; gave my daughter the nickel tour of the academy and headed home. Of course, we had to stop off at some of the outlet malls on the way home. The girls weren't going to let me get away without stopping for them. We are lucky that we are only about 2 hours away. (Depending on Denver traffic). We're also lucky that he is involved with the football team. Not that the athletes have it easier; they don't. Just that they have met each other; knows who's in which squadron with them; met ahead of time; and is there to support each other.
Anyway, it's been a very emotional day. I am so proud of the decision my son made. I will indeed miss him, but I know it's right. We'll keep sending letters to him so he can feel that we are still there for him emotionally and spiritually. Thanks again everyone. Later.... Mike....