Friday, November 20, 2015

The Impact of a Military Police Graduation

It seems I can, for the first time, freely express my thoughts about my son's MP basic and advanced training.  I have so much to get out, but for some reason didn't want to jinx it or make any statement that might have some irrational cosmic effect on our amazing son who is now a Military Police Soldier.

First - graduation; Then - the impact it had

Graduation Week
What a week...what an experience for us to get the smallest glimpse of what he's been through.

As we arrived to Fort Leonard Wood, we saw the company flags

These alone brought emotions since we saw them over and over during key phases on the company's Facebook page, but now could see them for real.

Once we entered the field house for Family day, we saw all 200 or so soldiers, completely focused and still...and they stayed there for over an hour. The drill sergeants were close, and I assumed hawkishly monitoring their discipline for no movement. Some parents got really close and took at a wax museum! One soldier made a twitch, and once the parents left, the drill sergeant swooped in and gave them a stern talking-to.

We heard a short presentation...and then the soldiers were dismissed. The first hug could not come fast enough...

...and was a fitting bookend to when we last saw each other 5 months earlier:

It was so great to have the family together again, and the smiles seemed genuine all around

I couldn't wait to take some photos of him with places that mattered to him so we took pictures of....

His company and platoon flags:

Him and his mother outside the Military Police Museum:

...and in front of the steps leading up to his barracks he spent 20 weeks living in. These steps are where his bus dropped him off at the beginning of Basic Training, and where, he said, "this is where I I heard my drill sergeant's voice for the first time".

After we dropped him off at battalion headquarters, we did get a quick shot of him and some fellow soldiers just before their last night of cleaning and  (as we learned later) very little sleep ... kind of a end of training hang out.

Graduation Day
The next morning was graduation ceremony. Full of emotion. The videos, the speeches, but especially the cadences they chant as they march. Some were fun, "Proud Mary", but some were super sad and thought provoking, "Jonny" - where a soldier performs admirably, ends up jumping onto a grenade to save his fellow soldiers, who later we learn had a new child he never knew.

2nd Platoon marched up, and each soldier shouted their name and home town: Our soldier makes us so proud!!!

At the end, the master drill sergeant shouted, "COMPANY",

...and that was it. 20 weeks of the hardest, fiercest, best, worst, most memorable experience he's ever had ... over with a simple dismissal.

We did get a shot with his favorite drill sergeant. From a Dad's perspective, I couldn't have asked for anyone better...he wasn't even the platoon's drill sergeant, but was one that understood my son...looked past his initial quiet demeanor and saw the quality-soldier he could be.

With a final family photo, we were finally able to take our soldier home to his next adventure

...we did capture a few photos of friends he made

And some the 5 days he spend in the fields being a gunner on top of a HUMVEE just like this:

In the end, our family is together again

Our grown and growing kids:

and our amazing, can't believe our awesome family

The Impact

...and what do I think of all this?

I am so proud of my son. He's accomplished and proven himself (to others, and more himself) more in these 20 weeks than most do in 20 years. He's had to pull himself out of failure and into success in such visceral ways that no matter what happens in his future he can look back and say, "Oh, yeah, this is nothing like that time in Basic".

He is the finest example of a respectful, smart, capable young man I can find. He is part of a brotherhood that takes him farther, makes him better, pushes him harder, demands his best, offers respect and demands respect ... and creates a bond between humans that most of us can't even comprehend.

I truly wish every young man and woman in this country would partake in this training. Not that everyone needs to be a soldier, but just imagine if everyone learned how to do more than they thought they could, learned discipline, grit, respect, honor, how to be humble...even with...or especially with lethal skills, and how to work with all walks of life, culture, economic background to work as a team and accomplish a mission for the greater good.

Thank you,  787th Military Police Battalion Delta Company...for protecting, training, breaking, building, improving, and giving my son clarity, commitment, confidence, and a sense of belonging he'll have his whole life.

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