Friday, December 17, 2004

The Touch of The Drill Sergeant's Hand

I'm taking a little poetic license here. I just came across an old poem called "The Touch of the Master's Hand" by Myra Brooks Welch and I've adapted it to the drill sergeant. It's hokey, but I had fun playing with it. Enjoy!

THE TOUCH OF THE DRILL SERGEANT'S HAND

He was scrawny and scared, and the Brigadier
Thought it scarcely worth his while
To waste much time on the young recruit
And he tried to suppress a smile.
“What do you reckon, good folks,” he cried,
“How long will he last, let’s see?”
"One week, one week”; then, “Two!” “Only two?
Two weeks, and who’ll make it three?
Three weeks, once; three weeks twice’
Going for three---” But no,
From the room, far back, a stern man came
and circled the greenhorn, slow.
Then shaking the dust from the young recruit
and training him night and day,
In nine short weeks he created a man,
A soldier in every way.

The training ceased and the Brigadier,
With a voice that was quiet and older,
Said “Now what do you think of this young recruit?”
And he stood tall next to the soldier.
“A decade he’ll last,” “and who’ll make it two?”
“Two decades!” “And who’ll make it three?
Three decades, once, three decades, twice,
and going and gone.” said he.
The people cheered, and some parents cried,
“We do not quite understand
What changed his worth.” Swift came the reply:
“The touch of a drill sergeant’s hand.”

And many a boy with life out of tune,
And battered by the high school brute
Is auctioned cheap to the thoughtless crowd,
Much like this young recruit.
A “toke of pot,” a glass of wine;
A game - and he travels on.
He is “going” once, and “going” twice,
He’s “going” and almost “gone.”
But the drill sergeant comes, and the foolish crowd
Never can quite understand
The worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought
By the touch of the drill sergeant’s hand.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Who Is That Man Wearing Sprout's Skin?

My son is now a soldier. The graduation ceremony was quick and powerful . Hearing six hundred-plus young soldiers recite the Soldier's Creed in unison sent chills down my spine, especially that last line "I am an American soldier" which I could swear made the ground shake on that parade field.

It stormed most of the night before graduation and we were afraid the ceremony would have to be held indoors, which is a bummer because then the troops don't have much room to march and watching them march is an experience in itself. But, we serve a mighty God and he pushed all the storms out by daybreak and left us with a cool breeze and clear blue skies. I might guess that he was proud of our soldiers too.

Sprout looks great and was mighty glad to see us. He had lots of stories to tell. We met some of his friends and spent the day eating french fries and ice cream and exploring Fort Jackson. Sprout was as interested as we were since he had spent most of his nine-weeks in the training area and rarely (if ever) got to see the better side of Fort Jackson. He was surprised to find out there was a Burger King on base. The trip to the PX was fun watching all the new soldiers with their families. They were all so sharp and proud looking. One really touching moment was when we walked into a crowded mini-mall and saw a family standing around a soldier who sat on a bench starring...in awe...into the eyes a new-born child he held on his lap, a look usually assigned to new fathers in hospital settings, not mini-malls. But he didn't seem to mind at all.

The one thing I notice about all these young soldiers is the confidence they all have. They seem to walk tall and have an air of self-assurance about them. You almost know that very few of them will not succeed in whatever they attempt to do. Sprout is different too. His words are clearer, his good manners are second nature now. Just seeing him take his hat off each time we entered a building and put it back on each time we came out was a treat. What young man in society does that anymore? It is these simple things that set a soldier apart from the rest of us and make them so special. He opened doors for us ladies and said no, he wasn't instructed to do that specifically, he has just been trained to always do what is right. While these are things I have thought to teach him myself, I guess it never seemed so important before. It is important to him now. Thank you Uncle Sam.

I will post pictures here next week, after we have safely wisked him away from the worst and best place he has ever visited. I hope one day the things he has learned will serve to save the lives of him and those around him.

And you can call him MISTER Sprout.

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's Almost Over

We leave in two days to head to Basic Training Graduation...and I thought high school graduation was exciting, HA! Sprout has passed every test they have thrown at him with flying colors. My pride is bursting at the seams. We expected a call yesterday (Sunday is the normal "call-home" day) but when it didn't come, I began to worry. The Good Lord is testing my patience. All day today I was antsy wondering why he didn't call. Is he hurt? Did he go postal during the last field training exercise after eating one-too-many MRE's? What? Why didn't he call? I even thought that maybe his platoon didn't do so good and was being punished. I was to the point of calling his company to find out if he would graduate or not. Boy, he woulda loved that. But finally, late today he called his sweetheart. She immediately called me and now I can finally sleep well again.

He said he had met all his requirements and was ready to graduate. He said it rained during the campout and was cold but he survived it. He also said that the drill sergeants have suddenly turned back into the monsters they were during the first couple of weeks, screaming and yelling a lot. And I was right, it was the drill sergeants messing with their minds yesterday not letting them call home. But he is done, and in a few days he will come home for Christmas and it will be a joyous Christmas. This will be the first year I think that I have had something really good to look forward to at Christmas. A REAL reason to be thankful.

It's funny...six months ago Dad and I were the two dorkiest people on Earth. Now, Sprout can't wait to see us. All of the sudden he misses these two old dorks. Well, maybe we are dorks, but we are his dorks and he is our soldier and he has done a most honorable thing. I have more respect for this child than I do for most men I know. And I will never call him "baby" again. He is a man and I am a most proud mother.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Payday...FINALLY!!!!

Well, whatdaya know? Uncle Sam finally came through with a paycheck. That's mighty nice of him. I reckon they pay these young folks about a penny per push-up. Well, at least it takes the sting out of basic training...a little. Now, let me get out that Sears Wishbook and see what I want for Christmas. Oh joy!!

Monday, November 29, 2004

It Won't Be Long Yea-Yea, Yea-Yea, Yea-Yea!

Not long now until Sprout's graduation. I told someone tonight that I just couldn't wait, and he had the audacity to bring me back to reality by saying "you might want to reconsider that...considering where they might send him next". I hate reality.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Dog Writes to Boot Camp

Dear Sprout,

I had not planned to write to you while you were away because I know you are too busy to deal with a dog, but I feel I must write. Since you have left, my life has been unbearable. How did you ever pick these two people for your parents? If your father calls me "Poo Poo" one more time, I may have to bite him. Your mother is not soooo bad, but I can tell she likes the cat better than she likes me. She always feeds the cat first in the morning and she lets the cat sleep at the foot of the bed while I have to sleep on that stinky rug at the front door. AND THEN I hear her complain to your Dad that I stink. ME! Well, hell’s bells lady. What did you expect? I’M A DOG!!! And, it’s not bad enough that I have to spend my nights locked up in that drafty living room, but that clock...that God-awful chiming clock. Every friggin’ fifteen minutes, alllllll night long. I’m telling you - it’s enough to make a dog howl. So help me God - when I get a chance to walk on the carpet when nobody’s looking, I’m gonna pee on it.

At least when you were home, I had more freedom to go in and out. You were always so nice to open the door for me. And you gave me lots of scraps. They don’t give me anything. I’ve lost five or six pounds I’m sure since you left. My only saving grace is that I get to go outside during the day while they are at work. There I get to roam free...well... as free as a dog can roam in a 20’ x 20’ fenced yard. But hey, it’s something. At least outside I get to inter-act with the other dogs I hear barking from other fenced yards. From what I’m hearing on the grapevine, none of the dogs around here are happy since the City passed that stupid leash law.

I have had some time to do a little hunting since you’ve been gone, which is the only thing that’s keeping me sane. I’ve come close to nabbing a couple of those terrorist squirrels but so far, no cigar. Which brings me to the real reason I am writing. Do you think, when you come home at Christmas, you could smuggle out a couple of those live hand-grenades or maybe a claymore mine or two or three? I know if I had some C4 and a cell phone maybe, I could take out a few of those fluffy-ass squirrels. They are so annoying, flitting those tails around, scurrying up trees like they own the place. And I’m only one dog. I can only do so much. They have stolen probably 3/4th of the acorns in this yard. I just know your mother is gonna have a fit when she gets the Annual Acorn Loss Report next month. I am not looking forward to that.

Well, that spot on my butt is finally starting to clear up, but I still want to scratch it everyday. Your Dad yells at me every time I scratch...like he’s never had an itch. I swear Sprout, I don’t know how much more of this I can take. Between the cat, your parents, your niece and nephew messing with my mind every time they come over...I’m being pushed to the edge man. I have to admit, I have thought of running out into traffic a couple of times. It’s bad man, really bad.
I know basic training is probably hard, but nothing can be as bad as what I’m going through. Your bright Dad has even decided that I should have a bath TWICE a week now. And it’s starting to get cold outside. God, I wish I could hose him down, just once!

I caught your mom watching a show on Animal Planet the other day called K9 Boot Camp. I have a feeling she’s thinking of trying to get rid of me just like she got rid of you. I’m really thinking of making a run for it the next time they leave the front door open. I got as far as Mrs. Shilling's house the other day before they caught me. Well, que sera sera!

Anyway, I’ll end this letter here. Luckily, Thanksgiving is coming up so maybe I’ll get some decent scraps this week. Lord, I hope so. Have you tasted the Walmart brand of Kibbles and Bits they are buying for me now? That stuff is nasty. Probably about as bad as those MRE things you get to eat. Yuck!

So, think about my request. I’ll pay you back somehow, dude. We gotta stick together man. It’s the only way we’ll survive. I’ll see you at Christmas.

Sincerely, your dog,

Shaggy

P.S. I’ve been checking on Ebay for anti-squirrel devices while your mother’s not looking, but so far I haven’t seen any good ones. I’ll keep searching anyway. See ya, dude.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Me Again

Well, it's been 2 phone calls and 3 letters since I've posted last and Sprout is doing fine, if you can call enduring basic training "fine". All of his letters have been so mature sounding, I know he is trying to reassure me and it's working. I sent him pictures of his niece and nephew on Halloween - 4 year old nephew went as a soldier...what else? He is most impressed with Uncle Sprout's adventures. Sprout really liked those.

So far things have been fine until this last week. Yesterday he called his girlfriend and said he had hurt his foot and is really worried he may not be able to pass his final PT (physical training) test coming up soon. He asked us to over-night some special in-soles that might help with those dang boots that are made for walking. He never was a very good walker. Anyway, I think he may have just sprained the ankle and will probably be fine, but his anxiety is my anxiety.

Thanksgiving is next week and I'm trying not to mention it, but I know it's on his mind. He will be home for Christmas so he has that to look forward to. I wish I could do something to make this all easier for him. And watching the battle of Fallujah has not helped me any. I guess that is why I haven't written much lately. The reality that my child will probably go to a war zone hit me like a ton of bricks a couple of weeks ago. How will I endure those days? I guess I'll make a bunch of quilts.

On top of everything else, Sprout has yet to be paid. Oh, that lovely bureaucracy. I think somebody there got his account number wrong. They promise a paycheck NEXT payday. Humph! Well, if he ever does get paid, he should be fairly wealthy. It's been a great savings account if nothing else.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Letters, Blessed Letters

Sprout's letters finally started arriving the other day. In this age of instant communications, getting hand-delivered personal mail is quite a novelty. It was so exciting to open the mailbox and get just a glimpse of the corner of his letter beneath a Citibank credit card offer, a bill from the YMCA and a Sam's Warehouse flyer. I swear, I could wallpaper the Pentagon with all the junk mail I get. And it wasn't just one letter, but two. Apparently the recruits thought that their letters were being mailed immediately but they were actually held up in some drill sergeant's office for a week or so. I reckon Uncle Sam didn't want us to have an address to write to our soldiers during the first few weeks. I suppose a letter from home to a homesick soldier during the Total Control phase doesn't help matters much. I sat down and wrote a long letter and mailed it at the post office the next morning, so I hope he got it today.

And now today, there is another letter. His letters are so good to read. He sounds like he is adjusting well, even if it is hard. He says he went to the gas chamber this week, I can't wait to hear about that. He says he will call us the first chance he gets, which I expect will be this weekend since Red phase should end tomorrow, I think.

Until I hear his voice again, a blessing for Sprout:

"May the Lord bless you and keep you; May the Lord let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; May the Lord look upon you kindly, and give you peace." Numbers 6:24-26

Friday, October 22, 2004

My Favorite Week

No word from my Red Phase boy. An address would be nice but I have come to the conclusion that the Army probably doesn't want them getting mushy letters while in Red Phase. I will probably get his address soon as I'm hoping he'll be entering the White Phase any day now. I'm kind of beginning to understand all the mind games they play. How else can you train a man to kill another man? It's not a natural thing.

All that being said, I don't think Sprout could have picked a better time to join up. It's fall, the air is crisp, those long hot days of summer are gone...it could be worse. For me, too, this is the best time. We're heading into my most favorite week of every four years, the last week before the presidential election (better known as The Hitsay It'shay the Anfay Week). Anything can happen politically in the next few days, and I just love politics. It's the only sport I understand. And everything political will keep my mind off of my woes.

This should be a very defining election, the first one with real internet influence. With cable TV and the internet, Americans are finding out that they can customize the news to fit their own views. No more taking the word of a fatherly Walter Cronkite-type or any other news anchor for gospel. We, the people, are now truly free. The SwiftVets and the bloggers have proven that. All of the sudden, the small voice in the wilderness can have a stinging impact.

Think of it...one sentence can be posted and within mere hours or even minutes, can be read by throngs of people. What massive power this is. Makes me wonder if the way we do politics will soon change. If nothing else, it will make reporting politics a lot more honest...just ask Dan Rather.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Vote For Your Favorite Candidate in Drag - Below

A cousin posted these pictures on our family website. They are just too funny. You know, I had planned to vote for Bush, but John Kerry is looking pretty good here. Ooohchee Mama!

Kerry Posted by Hello

Bush Posted by Hello

Where Are the Other Moms of Soldiers

Again no word from "the camp". Sprout laughed at me before he left every time I referred to him as "going to camp". He said "Mom, is that what you think it is? Camp?" Anyway...I've been searching the web for other mothers of children at Fort Jackson at the present time but they are nowhere to be found. I have come across a couple of drill sergeant blogs that are real interesting. One in particular is here. This guy scares the living daylights out of me, but he writes really well. I can't stop reading his stuff. From his archives, I can tell that he is not my son's DI (Drill Instructor) as his cycle started a few weeks earlier than Sprout's but I am sure they will chance to meet before it is all over. (A prayer) "Dear Lord, don't make me have to get that man in the hippie-hold and hurt him. Let him be nice to my little Sprout. Amen". Of course, should he perchance read this and determine which of those maggots is my boy, there could be hell to pay. Oh well, hopefully it'll make my boy a better soldier. He may never speak to me again, but he might not get kilt on the battlefield neither. One day he might even thank me.

Speaking of soldiers, last week a platoon in Iraq...an entire platoon...decided not to show up for an assigned mission to deliver fuel. Now, I'm not sure how to react to this. I have read three or four different accounts...one says the vehicles they were driving were not in good working order, one says the fuel they were delivering was contaminated, one says the mission was too dangerous. What I'm wondering is how all these soldiers got to make these long calls home from Iraq, a country without hardly running water much less telephone service, when my young'un can't even get a blasted 3 minute call from South Carolina. I sure would like to know all the rest of this story. I bet that smooth-writing drill sergeant has an idea or two. I'll be checking out his site to see.

Be nice now.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

All is Quiet on the Southeastern Front

Another day of no news from my soldier.

I wonder what he would think if he came home and found out we had turned Amish?

Huh? Something to ponder while I wait.

Monday, October 11, 2004

An Uplifting Word

I found this poem and it fits this blog. Kind of reminds me of a drill sergeant. Right now I don't like drill sergeants very much but, hey, they must have the hardest job in the world. Anybody that can take a group of mostly men and bring them under complete control in a matter of weeks deserves my praise. Here's to them.



I'D RATHER SEE A SERMON
by Edgar A. Guest
I'd rather see a sermon
Than hear one any day.
I'd rather one should walk with me
Than merely show the way.
The eye's a better pupil
And more willing than the ear.
Fine counsel is confusing
But example's always clear.
And best of all the preachers
Are the men who live their creeds
For to see good put in action
Is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it
If you'll let me see it done.
I can see your hands in action
But your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver
May be very fine and true
But I'd rather get my lesson
By observing what you do.
For I may misunderstand you
And the high advice you give
But there's no misunderstanding
How you act and how you live.

Columbus Day Blues

Yesterday was Sunday, and I sat near the phone all day. It occurs to me that I cannot do this for the next nine weeks. Sprout's girlfriend checked her messages and said he did try to call her, but she had left her cell phone in the car and missed the call. I hate that he didn't get to talk to anyone. Of course, Dad is wondering why he called the girlfriend and not us. Well...duh Dad! He's young and in love and away from his comfortable home and under a lot of stress. The last thing he wants is us peppering him with questions like "is it hard?", "have you made any friends?", "do you need anything?".

I don't want this blog to become a "weeping mother's forum" although the intermittent depression that falls on me when I don't get a letter or a phone call would make that appropriate. I want this to be an uplifting blog so I will look for good things to add here. No more sappy "he didn't call....waaaaaaaahhhhhh" posts.

My next post will be a fun one. Consider this a fair warning.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Thank God for Snail Mail

Well,

Sprouts letter arrived today. Who knew my son could write? I have been anticipating and dreading this letter, both at the same time. Anticipating it just to know that he is still there, but dreading what he might say in it. Well, my son is much more grown up than I expected. The letter he wrote to us is one I might have expected to write to him. He says that "it is hell here...it's okay though because I'm gonna try my hardest to get through it all". His words are encouraging, boosting me up when I expected them to be more hopeless. I think I have underestimated my child. His letter is just what I needed. Of course, it made me cry. But I'm so darn proud of what he is doing. I hope this will affect him in a good way all his life. Maybe this weekend, a phone call.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Still No Letter -

No letter again today.

Darn!

Please God, a letter tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

No Letter Yet But The Garbage Man Cometh

Well, that fifteen-second phone call on Sunday only served to make me feel sad for a day and guilty every time I open the fridge or sit in front of the TV or do any other normal thing that Sprout is now not allowed to do. He said he had written us letters so I rush home from work each day, ready to pounce on the mailbox or mailman, whichever holds his letter telling me not to worry, but alas, none yet. Perhaps tomorrow.

It's funny, as mid-life approaches, the things that make us happy. Trying to get my mind off of Sprout and his current arrangements, I have become obsessed with the garbage. Yes, the garbage. Today was the first day of garbage pickup with our new automated garbage trucks. The city issued all households a brand new, nifty ninety-six gallon trash can with the city seal emblazoned on one side and a twelve-digit serial number on the other side. I love my new trash can. Heck, it's large enough to hold 2 dead bodies. I named it Brownie. It's brown. But, with the new truck, comes new pickup times and I had to leave for work and missed the debut pickup by two hours. But I heard from neighbors that it was an incredible show. With only one operator instead of the usual three, and two (count them, TWO!) steering wheels, this machine is on par with the International Space Station. A huge arm swings down and picks up Brownie like a soldier returning from war picks up his five-year-old daughter (who was only four when he left) and lifts her high into the air as if to send her soaring to heaven, but never letting go. I'm sure Brownie smiled her trashy smile when it was her turn to be lifted. Unfortunately, garbage pickup with this new stud-wagon is only once a week, instead of twice, so Brownie will have to wait a week for her next thrilling pickup. She sits and waits near the back gate with bated breath resting on two back wheels, lid slightly open, awaiting gifts for her beloved.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Speaking of Empty Nests

Years ago when I was a young mom, an older woman I worked with found this cute little poem and I've never forgotten it. I don't know who the author is but I'd like to give them due credit, so if you know, let me know. There may even be more to this poem, but these lines are all I remember.

THE EMPTY NEST
The doctor says that I'm depressed
Because I fear the empty nest.
But doctor, if the truth be known,
My full-fledged birds won't fly alone.
They like their freedom, true enough
But wing back home when winds get rough.
Yes, the empty nest may make me cry
But, Doctor dear, I'd love to try.

Well, He's Gone

Blogger: User Profile: StoicMom
A few days ago my youngest son left to join the U.S. Army. It seems like it's been months. As I was creating this weblog, he called for the first time since leaving. He sounds so...sad, and he hasn't even left the reception battalion yet. From what I have read online, things began to get much worse next week when he actually begins his training. I have successfully fought off tears all week, until today... until I heard his voice. That was thirty minutes ago and I am still wiping away tears. And I ain't no crying woman.

I know he will do well and he will succeed, but I admit I am a mother hen and will need some bayonet training of my own to relieve my aggressive tendencies toward any Drill Sergeant that yells at my baby. It's alright for ME to call him the scum of the earth, but I'll be day-ummed if anybody else will do it. Perhaps that is why I am not allowed to go to basic training with him.

Anyway, I'll use this blog as a diary and sounding board until graduation day when I get my boy back as a man. If any other new (or old) military moms have any advice for this empty-nester, I'll take it.