What A Difference a Year (or 2) Makes-Perspectives from a Mother of a Marine (MoM)
Updated: Oct 25, 2022
Because I live much of my life “in song,” I am reminded of the 1934 song originally written in Spanish by Maria Grever, “What a Difference a Day Makes”. The English lyrics were written by Stanley Adams and was played by Harry Roy & his orchestra. However, it was Dinah Washington, in 1959, that popularized this song in America. She won a Grammy for it.
Two years ago today, October 25, 2020, I bid farewell to my oldest son, Quin, as he embarked on a journey to create a future for himself. Two years later I beam with pride to call him Lance Corporal of the United States Marine Corps. And I feel there is so much more ahead for him, as I hope every MoM and mom feels. I know in my heart he has earned this and that feels good. There's another part of me, that says, wait, are you sure, you have the right kid - he earned this? My kid was always a tough one. A smarty pants hyper lover of life thrill seeker. Is he really old enough now to earn cool titles like this?
I have been so very fortunate to have connected with a fantastic group of MoM’s to share my journey with. Their sons also left on October 25, 2020 and were in Mike Company 3rd Battalion with Quin for the Boot Camp experience on Parris Island, SC. Thanks to one of the MoM’s we connected via Facebook and formed our own Instant Messenger group. It is these women that I owe so much of my sanity to over these past few years. We zoomed, we got-to-know-each-other, and some of us even met with each other in person despite long distances. Yet, I feel the most important thing we did, is stay connected and truthful to each other as our emotions took on rollercoaster epic trips.
When I state that the past two years have been “hard” having Quin gone, it is not an understatement. These women, hands down, helped me through the dark, unsure and frustrating times as well as provided laughter and perspective to me.
All of our journeys are different. What I write and feel here is never a competition. But I do want to say, having like-minded-MoM’s out there to reach out to at a moment’s notice and share, was, well, frankly, a life-line to me.
Quin did not choose college. (Yet.) There are many reasons for this, but the biggest is Covid and online learning. I do not have the experience of sending a child off to college after high school, so my perspective on what others feel sending their kid off to college is limited to speculation.
While I often “think” it’s similar to what my girlfriends are going through with their kids going to college it honestly is so completely strangely different. I am a misfit with having a Marine as a son in m y circle of friends.
I think perhaps, I’ve wanted to “fit in” with others whose kids do go to college or even those kids who go to work right after high school. I have tried to understand and be supportive of my friends when they speak about their kids going off to college.
However, for Mothers of Marines (MoM's), we don’t move our boys into a room and put a big fluffy comforter on their rack. We don’t go shopping for a small refrigerator and microwave so they can have the convenience of warm food. We don’t participate in Parents Weekends or even meet the “roommate” or hall director….we can’t really (even now) pickup the phone to reach out whenever we feel like it.
What many do, myself included, is during boot camp, I committed to writing to my son everyday and to encourage my friends and family to write to him. And Quin wrote back - oh what a joy it was getting a letter! That feeling is like no other. Thanks to the convenience of the Sandboxx app, I could write to Quin everyday during boot camp. The reason this was so crucial for me, is I knew he wouldn't have his phone. For kids who grow up in the social media craze, this is a pretty big deal - no phone for 3 months. I felt, whether right or wrong, I wanted him to feel I was with him.
So I wrote to him about what was happening in my world. And when I didn't know what to say, I would fill the space with pictures of the animals. One thing I learned from this experience, is how much Marines miss their animals. Whether it be cats, dogs or donkeys - they really love and miss the animals they leave behind.
College and Military -Some Differences
MoM's (and in fairness - DoM's too) know the sacrifices that go into watching their child commit to the Marine Corps. The courses, classes and skills our kids are enrolled in are not English, Science and Math. Our children are not “knocking out the general ed requirements”. Our children are different. They are Marines. Instead of college parties and waking up to dry mouth, our Marines learn what their equipment can and cannot do in a gas chamber.
They learn to push themselves-and support each other - in deadlifting 30-pound amo cans, while being screamed at repeatedly “Do it AGAIN!”
Their classwork consisted of memorizing and being constantly tested on 275 years of Marine history. This meant understanding the purpose and reason for missions. Honor is drilled into them from the first yellow footprint step they took.
Marines do not have dining halls with the luxury of choices; instead they learn about rationing their MREs and learning to be grateful for that food. (and acknowledging that the spaghetti marinara sauce really isn’t that bad.)
Our Marines do not wake up in the morning to decide they don’t feel like going to the gym today because it’s raining outside. They push themselves and strive to outperform their last PFT (Physical Fitness Test) by running a 16 minute 3-mile; crushing 5-minute planks; completing 21-consecutive pull-ups and more.
Our Marines have learned the skill of working as a team to not only figure out a challenge, but to also have it burned in their soul the code of ethic that no one is left behind. No one. Ever.
And let’s not forget the class on how they clean, & load m16 riffles in the dark, in under 30seconds THEN sprint to position and shoot-to-kill a target - all on zero sleep while they haul 50 pounds of gear through wet terrain.
My son has taken the oath to protect.
That makes him special in my mind and proud in my heart.
What these last two years have taught me, as Quin ventured out on his own, is that you can trust in the future. No matter the circumstances. And as corny as it sounds, the future is our kids. Cutting the invisible umbilical cord and forming a new type of relationship with my son is something we as a society, don’t normally talk about. I struggle with this concept – of cultivating a new, stronger, more mature relationship with my kids. It’s a shift I often find uncomfortable. Perhaps because it is a pattern of behavior, I am very unfamiliar with. But I’m willing to try. I’m willing to learn. And if I fall and make a few mistakes, I will say I’m sorry and try once again. There is no shame in falling down and getting back up again.
One uncomfortable thing that I did once Quin was at his PDS (permanent duty station) is create a Snap Chat account. Now before y'all go out an try and "friend" me on it, please know I will "probably" not accept you. I am so busy, I can not even begin to keep up with a social snap chat account. I only did this because Quin asked me to. He wrote: "I am so happy you finally figured out how to sign up for a Snap Chat account. It's really not that hard, But I'm not a mom. It's bout time, mamma. I think it will bring us closer now." This caught me off guard. "Bring us closer?" I thought. Okay. Yeah. I will Snap Chat you now. (I have had to enlist the assistance of my 16-year old at the time in this task - no judgement please.) Quin is so exited to share with me on snap chat. Go me! Even though I am still slightly uncomfortable with this social medium, I have learned that Snap will not accept my long video, I have learned that kids of this Snap Chat-era, really do take video of themselves and others eating pizza for 5 seconds. It's so odd to me to participate in this way, but - what the heck? Over the past year of using Snap I have been able to see things through his eyes. I will admit, there are often some things I really wish I didn't see - but that is mostly boys-being-boys stuff.
Another important concept I have learned by having a son who is a Marine, is that I can trust in new relationships and bonds that stem from like-mindedness, respect and love. The relationships I have formed with my fellow MoM group is partly like a honorable secret sorority and partly like a safe-zone-therapy-no-judgement-society-club. We cry and laugh together - often only seconds apart.
We’ve created a culture within our group to share authentically what we’re feeling. And all the while we know we each have different relationships with our sons. We each are pulled differently in our relationships. We have families, careers, life. And yet, I know without a single shred of doubt, no matter what time of the day or night it is, I can reach out – I can summon my MoM’s and they will be there for me without questions. Not to "fix it" but to hear me, hold me in my space and know me without judgement. Now, that’s a special kind of strange friendship. One I will honor all my life.
These two years have brought me to a deeper understanding about my relationship with my son. I have been able to give him space as he navigates the life in the military. He has grown up without me hoovering (and worrying) like a crazy person. Sure, the holidays and special events sometimes are strange because he is not there to experience them with us, but I have also been very fortunate to create new memories with him by traveling with him when he is on leave. Places I may not ever have gone to if he were not a Marine, I have shared with him.
My husband and I often remark how quiet the house is with Quin absent. I am not sad. Just the opposite. I am happy he is growing up and becoming the man and Marine he chooses to be without me. Heck, he bought bag pipes and plays them throughout his barracks. I think, if he were home, I would hinder him (and probably yell at him to be quiet with those bag pipes.) I would probably nag, not meaning to, but I would. So for me, this has worked out quite well. As he embarks on entering year 3 as a Marine he will soon be deployed to Japan where new adventures await him. Again, I am not sad I will not spend the holidays with him, I am proud of him. He has a steady and positive mindset. He is handling military life in a way that makes me realize - he is growing up. And with his growing up, we change. And that's good. That makes me happy.
The photos below do not do it all justice, but it is my way of processing all that I have felt, learned and hold dear these past two years in watching my Marine soar.
As I close on reflecting and hearing in my minds ear the tune, “what a difference a (day) year makes”, I encourage you, to do the same. Not necessarily a “Year in Review” rather, think about someone specific in your life. How have YOU changed in one year, two years? How have they changed? How have you changed together (or separately)? And the big question always is: Are you happy?
Change is the only thing that is constant. I am ready. And I damn well know for sure, My Marine is Ready too. Let's Go! Semper Fi.
Val Rogers is an intuitive, artistic writer and voiceover artist for MediMind Cloud9 online meditations; a singer and entertainer performing throughout Connecticut & New England with a special affinity to perform at Assisted Living, VFW & Senior Centers; a volunteer for Connecticut's Northeastern Veterans Community Center, an entrepreneur and the co-host of the "Truth Serum with Maria & Val" a YouTube Channel dedicated to sharing the fun and wisdom of our age with the world.