Friday, January 23, 2009

Military Cakes

James graduated from Chemical Corps School at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri yesterday. Bob and I drove up with Amber, James' girlfriend, to attend the graduation. Thirty-three second lieutenants are now headed all over the world. Some to Hawaii, one to Germany, one to Korea, and it looks like James is the only one sent to Fort Sill from this class.

We heard some wonderful speeches at the 9am ceremony. And the Bird Colonel promotable, Colonel Smith gave each of the parents or spouses an opportunity to talk if they wanted to. I am so glad Amber got to see this as part of her introduction to the Army as she said it was her first time on an Army post.

Last week they had a "dining in" which is technical Army talk for a fancy dress dinner with optional dancing. James got to wear his dress "blues" for the first time. And at that event, there was a cake, a big sheet cake, that was whacked with the saber, and James said it splashed everywhere, and onto even Colonel Smith's head.

So, yesterday, at this graduation ceremony, there was another huge sheet cake, and I saw the saber laying there and wondered if it would be a group holding-of-the saber like at commissioning or what. But, come to find out, the youngest in the class---our James was designated to cut the cake. And somewhere in his brain, or he was told to just gently cut the cake with the saber, not whack at it. But, Colonel Smith joined him behind the cake, and I could see Colonel Smith whisper to James either what to say, or what they were going to do as we gathered 'round. James held the energetic Colonel's wrist---and from where we were standing we could not figure out if the Colonel stopped the saber in mid air or what, but the dear Colonel got this strange look on his face and stared at James with a questioning, "Lieutenant??!!" And they attempted another try. With a resounding, whack, they cut the cake. And we found out later, that James had been the one to stop the saber in mid air. James was determined that he was going to follow directions and cut the cake, not whack it. And now it makes sense, the Colonel's mutterings about recycling... (as in recycling James through the program). When we told our Air Force son about the cake cutting, he asked if James' court marshal was next week??!!

The cake tasted good. Half white sheet cake and half devil's food dark, dark chocolate. Cake for breakfast! Only in the Army! I love it.

I blubber way to easily. When they stuck the microphone in Bob's face, he has poise and composure to say something wise, but I just had leaky eyes. I wish I could shake hands with military folks and say thank you for serving with blubbering. Maybe I just need to practice more.

We live in a huge city. We rarely see folks in uniform---except for those coming and going from our home. I wash uniforms all the time. But, to go on a military post, or base, and be greeted by serious yet friendly faces that want to see your ID, and to see huge camo-colored equipment and plaques everywhere, and buildings honoring heroes from all our wars---and to see huge crowds of folks in uniform---this was wonderful. And I love it.

There are so many women in the military nowadays. Something we did not see thirty years ago. And the women wear their hair short, or pulled into tight little balls behind their head with spikey strands in a star-burst pattern at the nape of their neck. Off the collar is probably the technical term. The beret hugs the head snuggly, so there is no way to shove hair up under the beret. When you sit behind these women, in a ceremony like yesterday, you have lots of time to study and ponder if that hurts. I hate having my hair in a pony tail (not that it is long enough), but these women make it work.

And we got to meet the dear lady that kept James' floor (as in third floor level of fifty rooms?) clean. He lived in a furnished small hotel-like apartment for five months. He had a small kitchen and desk and bed and this lady assured us that James was not the worst. Her next group arrived tomorrow, as classes are constantly rotating in and out.

And we learned a new song: The Chemical Corps Song:

We are the dragons of the battlefied
The U. S. Chemical Corps
Dragon Soldiers of the battlefield
We proudly serve the land we're fighting for
We rule the battle through the elements
Proudly wearing our gold and blue
Dragon Soldiers who will lead the way
And serve America with honor true.

We got to sing the Army Song, too, and heard them all recite the Soldier's Creed.

And I just love the Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. These are defined. Memorized. Not just words.

The Chemical Corps traces its history back to World War One.

And I finally learned who Fort Lenard Wood is named after--Major General Leonard Wood, a Soldier, statesman, surgeon and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor during the Indian Wars. Today, Fort Leonard Wood trains approximately 60,000 Soldiers each year---36,000 in basic combat training, and 24,000 in advanced individual training.

Now to Fort Sill...

James's next chapter.


JAMIE'S CREW said...

Congratulations James! I know your Mom and Dad are very proud!

Bob said...

James stopping the saber worked. I don't think the colonel expected that kind of chutzpa from a green 2LT. I think he was tickled.