Empty Nest, Part I

Well, it’s happened.

Teeny – otherwise known as Sarah (I can now use her name, because she’s no longer a minor, and she cannot be victimized by any crazies who may or may not want to harm me by getting to her, because she can kick anyone’s ass) – has left the home.

That’s right.

Sarah is now 18 years old, and she has made a very grave, very important decision to serve her nation in the United States Marine Corps.

Yes, my daughter has joined the Marines.

We have established a tradition service in our family, and Sarah – being a stubborn, determined child – has decided to one-up her parents, who are both Army veterans, and join the Marine Corps for the challenge of her life!

So, today Rob, the Redhead and I got in the car and drove 45 minutes to the military entrance processing command at Ft. Meade, MD to see Sarah raise her hand and swear her oath to protect this nation and its constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic. After the swearing in, she was to have boarded the bus and headed off to Parris Island for basic training.

That was not to be. The bureaucracy, as usual, bent everyone over, with the government “shutdown” as an exacerbating factor.

Sarah’s recruiter told me yesterday that I needed to be at Ft. Meade at about 0900, as they were going to swear in and get on the bus around 10. We arrived at 0845 and were told that they wouldn’t even swear in until after 1100. So Rob, the Redhead and I headed over to Burger King on base, and sat around for two hours, sipping caffeinated beverages! We were all exhausted! Sarah called around 0930 to inform us that she may not even swear in today, due to a bureaucratic snafu.

When we made it back to MEPS, we were informed that, yes, her departure had been delayed. You see, Marines usually ship on a Monday, but yesterday was a holiday, so the Marines had to join a large shipment of recruits today. However, limited funding prohibits any overtime pay for the civilians working at MEPS, so they apparently couldn’t process the unusually large number of recruits, leaving my daughter and her friend stranded at a hotel for another day!

Yes, she will ship tomorrow, but I won’t see her swear in, which, as a veteran, is a huge deal for me. I also won’t see her board that bus on her way to her new life, which pisses me off to no end.

So now we’re back home. It’s just a little quieter here today.  Sarah’s room is clean (for a change) and vacuumed. I’ve taken the sheets off her bed and washed them. her clothes are neatly put away in her closet, and all the books she enjoyed as a child, and all her goofy, silly mementos and knick-knacks have been put away for safekeeping. She had been driving my car since she got her license last year, and that’s been cleaned out as well. She handed over her cell phone (not that she will need it in boot camp) and I tossed out her half-eaten Subway tuna sandwich that had been sitting in the fridge for a few days.

I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t strange. My little girl is starting a brand new life.  Last night I had this dream about the time when she first came to live with us. She had been there about a week – she was only 5 years old – when she went downstairs and somehow managed to tip over a 7-foot Christmas tree onto herself. There was glass and ornaments everywhere, and she was terrified!

Sarah came to us when she was only 5. She was torn away from her biological parents. She spoke no English. Hell, she barely spoke anything at all. She didn’t know how to use a toothbrush or properly wash herself. She didn’t know how to speak, or how to eat with utensils. She didn’t know how to brush her own hair. She ate with her hands. She had tooth decay and lice.

It wasn’t a good situation.

She had some emotional issues, likely brought on by being essentially abandoned.

But we worked on it. We fought tooth and nail. I yelled a lot. Frustration. Tears. Rage. Yeah… there was all of it.

And yet, here she is. A graduate of one of the best high schools in the country with an advanced diploma, and a Marine Corps recruit. She made this choice to turn her life around, and face the biggest challenge of her life!

I couldn’t be prouder, and yet, there’s this tiny sense of loss. She’s grown up. She doesn’t need me any longer. It’s pretty jarring.

The nest is hardly empty. The Redhead keeps me hopping, that’s for sure. But this is part one. He’ll be gone too in a couple of years, and I know I have raised them right.

Congrats, Sarah! You’re going to do a great job as a United States Marine! I have no doubt you’ve chosen the right career path.

Kick ass, and Semper Fi!


42 responses

  1. Congratulations to your daughter for making the choice to follow in the footsteps of so many who servered their country


  2. God bless her, and take every opportunity to remind her “to support and defend the Constitution against ALL enemies, foreign AND domestic” . Never ever thought that last clause was relevant. I was wrong.


  3. How wonderful. We, too, are adoptive parents, though we got our daughter at age 9 DAYS. She’ll be 35 in November and is interviewing with a job with a local PR firm tomorrow. If she gets the job, it’ll double any pay she’s ever made before!
    You have every reason to be proud of Sarah. I don’t know her and I’M proud of her! Congratulations to all three of you! Give her a hug from Pappadave when you next see her!


    1. Thank you for being an adoptive parent! There’s no greater honor and feeling of accomplishment than raising an awesome little human being into an incredible grown up! Congrats on yours!


  4. Like I said. She’ll be an ass-kicking, heart-breaking US MARINE. Just pray she doesn’t get stationed at Lejeune. Lejeune sucks…they don’t decent waves for surfing


  5. I can only smile, feel better about the world and know good things have transpired.


  6. When she calls you from Afghanistan, take notice of your feelings. When my son, the Army aircraft mechanic called me during a mortar attack from Afghanistan, I realized just how grown up he really was.


  7. She hasn’t stopped needing you; she’ll just need you in a different way now. Bravo Zulu and best wishes to the young lady!


  8. What NavyVet73 said…..we ALWAYS need our moms. Congrats to her and to you and Rob, too, for raising such an outstanding young woman!


    1. Thank you, ma’am! And everyone else as well! I want her to see this post and all the comments after she graduates and to feel all warm and fuzzy!

      Thanks, you guys!


  9. It’s bitter sweet isn’t Nicky .. sounds like you’ve done great .. my 1st wife was a DI at Paris .. she’s gonna have fun .. needn’t tell you that other than PT .. and she’ll have plenty of that .. it’s all mind games .. when she realizes that .. MAKE SURE she doesn’t laugh out loud .. Oorah


  10. Sarah: I’ll tell you a small story I heard elsewhere. A guy was looking to join the military, he went to Army recruiters who told him of all the places he could go, a Navy recruiter showed him huge carriers and told him of the many skills he could learn, an Air Force recruiter showed him planes and exotic locations…and then he went to a Marine recruiter: who bluntly told him that they would decide if he was good enough to be one of THEM.

    You are about to embark on a journey that will not be easy, will not be a cakewalk, will test you and push you to your absolute limits. The Drill Sergeants you will meet will not be your mummy or your daddy and will not coddle you..but they WILL bring strengths and talents out in you that you never knew were there.

    There will be days when you will despair, there will be days when you wonder if you will ever make it. You can. You WILL.

    Listen to your instructors, have faith in yourself and in your fellow recruits who will be your Marine brothers and sisters for life.

    On graduation day (and that day will come, I promise you), you wont have to brag or boast about what you did, all you will ever have to say to anyone when they ask who you are, is this “I am a United States Marine”.

    I wish you strength, I wish you courage, I wish you tenacity..and one day I hope to hear you say those words: they will be the proudest words you will ever speak in your life.

    Godspeed, Sarah. I am proud of you.

    From this grizzled old Aussie..thank you for your service.

    – Brendan


  11. God Bless her. She always struck me as one who would go far despite the obstacles that the last few years put in her way. (And she proved me right and surmounted every one of them, The Marines’ll be a piece of cake for that one.)


  12. I’m very grateful to live in a country where the best and brightest young people volunteer to protect us from the lunatics and psychopaths. God bless her and keep her safe.


  13. Well done and OO-RAH, sestrichka!

    To you, Sarah: It looks like you weren’t satisfied with “mere” serving, you decided to shoot for the sky. I like that attitude, and it is certainly one that will serve you well in the coming weeks of trials, tribulations and becoming a proud member of the chosen few.

    As Brendan said, you will find yourselves so deep in the suck in the coming weeks that you will find yourself wondering just why on Earth you sent yourself off to that place. You will also find yourself wondering if you can really pull through it all. I know you will have those feelings because we all did.

    Here’s the good news: You can, and you will. Just take things one day at a time or, as my dear and close friend Crunchie once put it, “from one chow time to the next.” Also, keep in mind that you are capable of far more than you yourself are aware at this time.

    As my old Sar’ Major was fond of telling us when I was a young civilian suddenly poured into a uniform: “You can do twice as much as you think, five times as much as your moms think, and 10 times as much as your grandmas think.”

    Personally, I think the “twice as much” was way below the mark, at least in my case.

    Make no mistake: It won’t be a cake walk. You will be made to earn this, but that too is good. Because what worth does something have for which you didn’t have to toil?

    And earn it you will.

    Now go make all of us proud, and know that we all thank G-d that we have young women and men like yourself. You have our eternal gratitude.


  14. best to you all Nicki, thank you and your husband and your daughter for your service to this great country.

    God Bless you all



    Just remember – do not QUIT!! No matter how tired you are, no matter how sore, it will pass. Everyone feels like you do – lonely, afraid, wondering what the BLEEP you just did and thinking about how VERY much this sucks compared to civilian life. Embrace the suck!

    It’s worth it. DO NOT QUIT. The fastest way OUT is through. No matter what the little voice in your head tells you, you can do it. That voice lies. Listen to the one that is kicking you in the butt so you get up again even when you think you’re too tired.

    Looking forward to seeing you down range some day!

    SGT Burhans
    B 1/214th GSAB USAR


  16. Nicki and Rob,
    Congrats on a job well done. My daughter is 21 and has been out on her own for two years now. My son is 17 and will soon be gone and maybe joining the military which I fully back him on. He is thinking Marines of Air force.

    Our kids NEVER stop needing their parents. I am closer than ever now to my daughter and my son and I have always been close. My life is a personal hell that would make many break and want to die. My kids have been there for me, always, always,always. It has never been real easy nor have I ever made or had much money but we got by and wanted for nothing, always having what we NEEDED. Most importantly was love.

    We never fully release our kids and they can try to leave us as parents but these are the bonds that know no limits or boundaries.


  17. Oorah, Semper Fi!


  18. Reblogged this on Cmblake6's Weblog and commented:
    Great pride, Nicki. Oorah.


  19. It’s not every young “wimmin” that would even consider becoming part of “Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children”. It wouldn’t have mattered, though, as with all services the blank check is being written to the military.

    I nudged my own darling little rugrat towards the Navy a year after high school as she was finding out that so-called “education” was nothing more than a social exercise for which a piece of paper is awarded, still leaving one without direction.

    After 4 years of working on the roof directing aircraft she acquired an entirely different attitude (for the better) and, with her husband (she met him on the boat – a “Pecker Checker”) gave me two fantastic grandgoblins to make rotten at every opportunity.

    I was an ADJ (jet engine mechanic) and she was an ABH (aircraft handler) but like dad, her favorite toy turned out to be a Browning M2 – as long as our dear uncle picked up the tab for the ammo. She had every gunner’s mate on the ship pissed at her because she could outshoot them with anything they gave her. “Who taught you to shoot?”, they asked. “My Daddy”, was the answer. During a Tiger Cruise, half of the GMs wanted to meet me – that made me feel I had actually accomplished something of value.

    Good for Sarah – Semper Fi, little lady.


  20. Virginia Conservative

    Congrats on successful child-rearing. As an Army brat, and Army vet myself, I really feel for you not being able to see the swearing in. But I wish her the best at PI, and after.


  21. Please give her my congratulations on her choice and prayers for a successful training at PI. The Master Gunny sends.


  22. That’s terrific news. As long as we have people like you and yours our fine nation stands a fighting chance at destroying tyranny here and abroad. Best of luck to your daughter – with parents like you I have no doubt she’s up to it.


  23. You probably already covered it NIkki, but if you haven’t in 3 days send her some thing about perspective. While certainly USMC Boot Camp is difficult, it is still something that THOUSANDS of people have accomplished. She was probably screened fairly heavily prior to being allowed to enlist and they deemed her fit enough to stand a chance at completing the process. If thousands of others have done it, and the powers that be think she has what it takes, she can do it.

    She can help the process by staying focused, paying attention to detail, staying organized, and just playing along with the game.

    Looking forward to seeing the pics of her with her Eagle, Globe & Anchor. Be sure to include some “before” pics to juxtapose from when she was one of those unwashed “civilians.”


  24. We live in perilous times when the Commander In Chief is not. God bless and watch over her. Thank you both for your enduring efforts. You have brought a true American to the fore. Please post her graduation picture.
    US Army grunt 4th class – Arty 1972-1975


  25. Well done! I’m sure your daughter will be a credit to Corps and that the Corps will do right by her. They did more than well for my mother while she was in.


  26. Right Guy doesn’t shed a tear easily. God bless you, yours and especially your daughter.


  27. May God keep you safe, Sarah, and grant you victory in all combat; may you one day serve a C-in-C you can respect.


  28. Gail,

    The Corps does not serve the C-in-C; they serve God, the Corps, and our Country. Don’t EVER mistake that for being just a simple phrase.




  30. God bless her.


  31. Sarah,

    Congratulations on taking an important step in your life and jumping into the deep end. As a proud alumnus of MCRD San Diego, I wish you the best of luck in earning your place amongst us. Without taking up too much more space, I would like to send some wisdom I mailed to a Recruit that was feeling a bit down as he was going through Boot Camp:

    1. You stepped forward and volunteered for this. That very action set you apart from a lot of your peers.
    2. Not only did you volunteer, you chose the Marine Corps. That decision has put you in a very small, select group.
    3. When you graduate (Yes, I said when.), you will have the pride of earning something very special and you will be part of a very elite group of men and women.
    4. We are cheering you on and we look forward to hearing of your success in this.


  32. Congratulations Sara you have made the most important decision of your life so far and a great step in the right direction, it will change you for the rest of your life for the better. Being a Marine does not come easy so prepare yourself and know you are capable of more than you ever thought possible. Again congratulations and thanks from an old Navy vet.


  33. Congrats. Our youngest (also adopted) is currently residing at MCRD San Diego with the finish line in sight. We get the joy of seeing our young graduate on the First of November. We thank your daughter for her service, and will keep all in our prayers. Based on her choice – I would say a job well done in the parenting department!! Semper Fi


    1. Congrats to you guys! Great job!


  34. Congrats and good luck to your daughter. If she is anything like you, she will make one helluva Marine. Sounds to me like you and your DH raised her right. I look forward to hearing about her progress. SEMPER FI!


  35. Nicki. . .

    Oooh-rah indeed. I never got the experience: both my daughters, alas, have medical issues that precluded wearing the uniform. Not that. from reports I’ve been hearing from people, that I’d recommend most of the Service these days, but the Marines have used far less of the crap than the other three services. . .


  36. Nicki, you have done a great job raising Sarah into an intelligent, well-adjusted young woman. I dropped David off at the USMC recruiting staion in Springfield yesterday morning; he should be shipping to Parris Island today (hopefully no more delays like you and Sarah experienced). I didn’t realize I could drive to Baltimore today to see him sworn in, but it’s just as well. We said our farewells yesterday. I realized that, while I was a little sad to know I would not see him for the next three months, the main reason I was choking up with emotions was that I was realizing what a self-reliant man he has become. In the same way, it was ‘sweet sorrow’ to say farewell to Sarah after the W-L JV game on 10/10. I look forward to seeing both of them again in January. I will try to send you a friend request on FaceBook so we can keep in touch. Maybe Sarah’s delay at MEPS will cause her and David to graduate together and we’ll meet in SC.


    1. Hi, Charles! I’m so proud of David as well! He’s become almost like an extra family member in my household! I did send him a text message on Saturday, after he stopped by the house. I’m sorry I missed him.

      Please do send me a friend request. It will be very nice to share those bittersweet months, knowing our kids are going through this together!


    2. By the way, I did get your friend request on FB, but it’s acting wonky and not loading properly, so I will accept as soon as Zuckerberg and crew get their heads out of their collective fourth points of contact.


%d bloggers like this: