I returned to Los Angeles from Columbia, South Carolina, Saturday night. Words can NOT say how glad I am that I was able to attend Family Day and Graduation Day to see my nephew become a Soldier. My nephew graduated from Basic Combat Training (also known as Boot Camp) at Ft. Jackson on Friday.
Family came from Los Angeles and Oklahoma City. We all “converged” in Columbia at the same motel and attended the two days of ceremonies together. I could go on forever about the challenges we faced to get there and back home. None of that matters.
What matters is that my nephew arrived at Ft. Jackson a great kid. He left Ft. Jackson a fine MAN. He left Ft. Jackson a Soldier in the United States Army.
Without further yammering on my part, I want to tell you about the ceremonies.
FAMILY DAY CEREMONY: Family members were in the stands. A field was before us, and deep pine woods beyond that field. Suddenly, an explosion blew up in the woods. That got our attention! Red, white & blue smoke started billowing up from the woods and drifting onto the field. Out of the woods, out of the smoke, came a Batallion of young people, in perfect formation, marching towards us. We went WILD. It was a total surprise. It was perfectly executed.
I remember my brother and I saying: If I were an enemy of the United States and saw this coming towards me, I would run like hell in the other direction. These are kids. These are kids who have been trained very well.
There was a naturalization ceremony that day. Eleven people from other countries became citizens of the United States of America. I saw young people from around the globe (including China) denounce their birth citizenship, embrace United States citizenship, and pledge loyalty to the United States.
THEN: We got to be with our Soldier on Family Day. Finding him on the field, seeing his face … it was wonderful. He couldn’t leave base, but had free time with us for the day. We had a great time together. Our Soldier talked about his experiences in Basic Training. We caught him up on family news. We laughed a lot. We hugged each other a lot. The stories were flying, both from our Soldier and from us in the family. We saw his barracks, drove around the base while he told us what was what. We ate a lot of food. I think his favorite thing (aside from seeing family and showing us around) was being able to shop at the main PX.
HE made sure that we got him back to his barracks on time.
THEN: Graduation Day. Goodness. The grandstands were full. More full than Family Day. Judging from the license plates on the cars, family drove to Ft. Jackson from nearly all of the lower 48 states. This ceremony was more formal. Awards for achievement were given. Speeches were said. The band marched. The Batallion spoke the Soldiers’ Creed:
I am an American Soldier.
I am a Warrior and a member of a team.
I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.
I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.
I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.
I am an expert and I am a professional.
I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the
United States of America in close combat.
I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.
I am an American Soldier.
Then we got to sign him out and take him back to our motel room in downtown Columbia. I’ve never seen anyone so happy to put on a t-shirt, sweat pants, and comfortable shoes. I’ve also never seen anyone so happy to eat a good old American burger.
Speaking of burgers: One of the many things he realized during basic combat training was how he used to take for granted the “little” things in life. Seeing or talking with his twin sister any time he wants was high on the list of “little” things he used to take for granted.
The Family Day and Graduation Day ceremonies were both awesome. Don’t know when I’ve had a bigger lump in my throat or cried so much with sheer pride … for my nephew, my country, or the United States Army.
There is strong. Then there is Army strong.
PS: One of the left-wing America haters in the family attended. She left Ft. Jackson fundamentally changed. Hooah!
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