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Ethan called us last Wednesday; it was Family Day, the day before graduation from basic training. The majority of soldiers had family coming to Ft. Jackson for the graduation ceremony. We would have loved to be there too; it would have been a thrilling and emotional spectacle but two plane tickets to South Carolina would have made our Mastercard explode.

Ethan, along with the other soldiers was able to use his phone to call us to “coordinate plans” for family day. The energy in his phone call was fueled by Popeye’s Chicken, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and a couple of Rock Star drinks, all forbidden substances for the previous 10 weeks. The family of a fellow soldier had adopted him for the day and taken the two of them out for a junk food bender.

He called us the following day, graduation day, not on quite such a high as the previous day. Without having family there to share in the celebration, graduation wasn’t the momentous event that the other soldiers were experiencing. For him, it was standing for 45 minutes at parade rest and wearing a very stiff and uncomfortable dress uniform that he was afraid to eat or sit down in for fear of spills or wrinkles.

When we spoke to him that day, he had gotten his orders for his next post, the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, but he didn’t know when he would be traveling so we were surprised when the next thing we hear from him, it’s a day later and he’s calling to tell us that he and 100 soldiers from Ft. Jackson are in Monterey at the DLI. Why should I be surprised; the army is all about efficiently moving people from Point A to Point B.

From our perspective, it’s a happy happenstance that he is posted on the west coast; we may get to see him occasionally on weekends and in two weeks, we’ll be able to drive down and pick him up for Christmas Leave.

It’s amazing how quickly a person gets acclimated to their living situation. Three months ago, the strict discipline, emotionally demanding and intense physical training of basic training was something that seemed very foreign to Ethan. But after being immersed in it for 2 ½ months, that became his world. Wake up at 4:30 am every day? No problem. Another 10k hike? Bring it on.

After being at the DLI one day, he says is suffering culture shock from seeing people with long hair (he means hair long enough that you can’t see their scalp underneath) wearing civilian clothes. He is a little bit stunned that here, no one bangs a garbage can lid to wake you up; you’re on your own to get where you’re supposed to be on time. But it will only take a few days and basic training will seem very far away (“Did I really just go through that?”) and he will be settled into the next phase of his army training. We look forward to hearing how the story unfolds.

 

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