I was able to get to my son’s Basic Combat Training Graduation at Fort Jackson, SC, on April 16-17/14.
I left home at 7pm on the 15th, and drove through the night. It was a long drive, but I enjoy driving, so it didn’t bother me too much, until about hour 9… I do not have cruise control which means trying to keep my foot at the right angle to maintain a legal speed. My knee started to hurt pretty bad. I only stopped for gas & pee breaks (which I tried to do when I stopped for gas). I stocked a lunch bag with snacks for the drive, to save myself some money, which meant I did not have to pay the prices of service station snacks.
I arrived in South Carolina behind a Coach Canada bus, that I had been leap frogging the whole way down. It was kind of entertaining. I also saw the same truck from Allentown, PA a few times on my way down. On the way home, I was sort of traveling with 2 SUVs, one from New York (followed right into Buffalo, not sure where they went after I got off) and one from Virginia (also last seen in the Buffalo area).
I arrived at the base a little after 8am on the Wednesday, Family Day. I found Hilton Field easily and wasn’t too far back in the parking lot, I was able to find a seat rather close to the front of the bleachers. Even though I did, I was not able to get any pictures of “quality” because the bleachers were rather far back from the field. Luckily I found some pictures on their facebook page. My son got his American Citizenship during the Family Day ceremonies; he is very proud of this and I am very proud of all his accomplishments.
I got to meet a few of his battle buddies and I took him and one friend to the little “mall” on base for some Taco Bell, which his friend waited for his family to arrive. It was a good afternoon spent with my son and his friend. I left them at the mall for a little bit and went to check into the motel room (which was about a 3 minute drive from base; couldn’t have planned it better if I knew the area)! I freshened up a bit, I had just drove 13 hours and also hadn’t slept since 7:30am the day before… then went back to the
boys young men, and his friend’s family was there. I got to briefly meet them, then my son and I spent some time in the car, while he fiddled with his new phone/tablet. We eventually went to a bowling ally on base, where we grabbed a bite to eat and relaxed.
The next day was the graduation, and I was up and left the hotel by 7:10am. Got to Hilton Field by 7:30 and luckily I brought a blanket, it was pretty cold! The graduation ceremony was rather brief, as they do not do each soldier separately. My son said he was watching for me to arrive (I drive a rather bright orange car, it stands out, ha ha), but I was actually there before the soldiers! After the ceremony, people were allowed to cross the field to find their soldier. This proved to be a difficult task, I did not find my son until after his friends had already left, so I was unable to get pictures of him with his friends, in their dress attire.
After the ceremony, I had to sign a paper saying that I would not let him do various things on our trip to his AIT; including drive! This kind of bothered me, because I had hoped he could drive for a bit, so I could rest. But the American government says that their new soldiers are too precious a commodity to allow then the dangerous job of driving.
We went for lunch at a wing place he’d been dying to go to; caught the new Captain America movie, then headed to Fort Lee, Virginia. It was a long drive and my knee started to hurt again, so we had to stop for gas anyway, so we found a hotel for the night and got a good night’s sleep. We were back up and driving by noon, and arrived at the base in enough time to get to the registration building… IF we knew where we were going!
We drove in circles for 2 hours, having gotten directions from 3 different people on base… and finally found the Fort Lee Welcome Center and just got a map! We arrived at registration at the same time the bus arrived from Fort Jackson, so he still got there the same time his battle buddies did. He stood in line for registration for about an hour to an hour and a half, then he had to do check in to his barracks; then I had to go in and sign him out for a weekend pass. We got to spend some more time together, though he did spend most of it on his tablet. I had to laugh, because I was told so many times that the Army would change my son. Nope, same kid.
I took him back to the base the next day earlier than he wanted, because I still had a 10 hour drive ahead of me. With stops, I made it in 12-ish hours. There was one area that the traffic was barely moving, it was driving me insane! So I got off the highway, and the traffic “in town” was worse! crazy people, ha ha. I had to get gas anyway, so I did that and got back on my way. I was close to the home of an online friend at that point and if I has known, I would have tried to get a hold of her. Oh well, I may go down to visit son again, and I can plan better and try to get in some visits with my ravelry friends.
It was a lot of driving over those 5 days, but I enjoyed myself and I got to spend time with my son. I don’t think it could have been a smoother trip. I look forward to the next time I see him.