“I Do” – Two Little Words that Changed Our Lives

I realized that the moment my first incoming Plebe took the Oath of Office and said “I do!” almost seven years ago that he said it on behalf of our family as well. Our family’s life changed to the single focus of supporting our children – we were also saying “I do!” to the oath and to military life. A good friend of mine told me that the family serves a long their service member and that has become clear over these past several years. Our lives became consumed with supporting our Plebes and now officers, and we ride alongside them in the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, success and failure, of joy and of loss.

Another thing that I had not expected is that the Navy family is the largest support network we could have ever asked for. I have met complete strangers at airports around the globe and the sight of that N* or the anchor or the word Navy became a symbol of instant friendship and understanding that transcended everything and forms and instant bond of understanding that is unprecedented. Some of my most meaningful friendships have been forged on the Yard and my closest battle buddies have walked through fire next to me – no need to ask why or what – they just do and I do the same for them.

I had not believed my Dad (Class of ’59) when he said that during his Plebe Summer, he learned to do things “the Navy way” but it is true! And that means doing things in a very different way than we are used to as “Civilians”. Beginning with friendships and bonds that last a lifetime, to folding laundry, using Navy Speak, to following OPSEC, to being immersed in everything Navy, we are all in as are all Navy families.

This is definitely the road less traveled and is filled with challenges that need to be met, adversity to be overcome, failures – for many their first failures of their lives – that will allow growth and learning from mistakes in order to be stronger and wiser leaders to Never Give Up the Ship. When there is a success we are eager to share with the world, and that is where we need to hit pause and think about it. The transition from a civilian to a military perspective is one of the first things that we encounter as Navy parents.

For our children that means a change of perspective too. We have always told our own children “be little in your own eyes” – namely, to be humble in all circumstances. For incoming Plebes: it is not necessary for you to be the one with all of the answers – even if you know them. And you don’t have to win every time – even if you can! It is all about teamwork in your company and your squad now. You need to have your fellow Plebes’ back and they need to have yours. The biggest lesson you will learn throughout Plebe Summer is to put others before self.

For us parents, as we prepare to let our children go we want to stay connected. For the first time in our parenting career we will not know every single detail of their day and will not be able to ask for what will seem an eternity! But we are being trained too. There will be times in the future when we will enter the “great black void” as I call it – similar to Plebe Summer, when we just don’t know or hear … anything! And we have to trust the system and our children and know that no news is good news.

When we finally do hear, it is easy to get carried away and post about everything (myself included!) but we do need to learn to be careful of what we post and the information that we make public. It is not a good idea to post SPECIFIC information on locations, times, dates, of where your son or daughter are traveling, where they currently are or where they will be going. This information should not be posted or made easily public/accessible until much later. Even in a closed group, and especially as they travel on MOs (Movement Orders) for training or go on ships, bases, etc. it is a good idea to keep this information close. This careful guarding of information is for the safety our sons and daughters, of our families, and potentially even for the safety of their fellow Midshipmen and their families. And it is one of the first things that we need to learn as military parents.

Trust me there are plenty of times when I have posted and immediately hit delete. As much as we wanted to shout our children’s appointments to the world, we skipped the news releases. And although although our now Officer was interviewed before he arrived for I-Day, he limited the information that he revealed of his own volition.

That also now also applies to us as military parents. For the Class of 2024 it will be a historic and unique I-Day experience much akin to what my Dad described when he traveled for almost 24 hours, being an international student, and arrived at USNA alone on I-Day, without knowing how to speak a word of English. The Class of 2024 is facing a very different I-Day and that is OK. It is part of the training that we all must endure. As a military parent, I find that change is the only constant. Semper Gumby!

2020 is a year of changes that is significantly evolving the meaning of “Semper Gumby” on a whole new level. Our 2020 former Midshipman and classmates commissioned very differently without the celebration, pomp, and circumstance of a usual Commissioning Week. The Class of 2023 could not climb the Herndon, and the Class of 2021 could not enjoy Ring Dance or bless their rings in waters form the seven seas. Hopefully ’21 and ’23 will be able to make it up in the fall. For 2020, that part of their journey is over and they now look to the next step.

The uncertain circumstances and fluidity of the current situation can lead to a lot of frustration – I truly understand! But it is a good idea to be discerning about what we share, what we say and post, and the frustration that we show. It is a good idea for incoming Plebes and parents to limit the information given and what is posted – be an observer, get your feet wet before you jump in. Now is the perfect time to clean up social media – Facebook pages, Instagrams, Snaps, etc. The more we can fade into the background the better.

With that said, that does not mean that we do not celebrate successes with our fellow N*avy families. Just be judicious about what and how much to share and encourage your incoming Plebe-to-be to do so as well. When in doubt feel free to reach out or message a page Admin privately for advice, reach out to someone you can trust. You will find a very supportive community and that many people that you have never met have your back!

I discuss OPSEC and social media at length in my book, “A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know” and also offer insight from our experience that may help as you navigate Plebe Summer and the four years at the Academy.

Class of 2024, welcome to this amazing journey as a part of the N*avy family! Feel free to reach out with questions. Those of us that have walked before you are always, we are here to help! GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!!

Based on the book, A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know, by AN Shine. Copying in whole or in part without the prior consent of the author is strictly prohibited. Copyright 2019.

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