My personal boot camp

A few weeks ago, I was on a Zoom call when my phone rang. I glanced down at the number, and my heart jumped.

The area code was 619. San Diego, CA.

“I have to take this!” I shouted at my co-worker as I leapt from my chair.

“Mom?” said the familiar voice on the phone.

“Are you OK?” I responded urgently. “Are you injured? Are you sick? Are you in the hospital?”


I wasn’t expecting to ever get a phone call from our son during the 13 weeks that he is in boot camp to become a United States Marine. In fact, I’ve read repeatedly that “No news is good news.” You don’t really want to get a phone call because it might mean your son or daughter is hurt or had to be taken to the Medical Rehabilitation Platoon.

For the past eight weeks, our only form of communication has been by written letter. To actually hear his voice was amazing, and also so ordinary. I expected him to sound run down, hoarse from shouting, exhausted or maybe frustrated. Instead, he sounded exactly like himself.

And nothing was wrong. He was allowed to make a one-minute phone call to confirm his travel arrangements at the end of boot camp. I could hear shouting behind him, and I pictured the video I had watched of new recruits making their scripted phone calls the first night of boot camp. Recruit were lined up in rows in front of cubbies with landline phones. They loudly read the printed script. Drill instructors stood next to them shouting. That was the last time I heard his voice.


That call was more of a military exercise than a conversation. He shouted the scripted words at me as commanded. I had been preparing for that phone call almost since the first day he told me he had enlisted. I would often cry just thinking about it. I had heard the advice of other moms to recite encouragement as he read the script: “You’ve got this. I love you. I’m praying for you.”

When the time came, I knew instinctively that isn’t what he would want me to do. It was his job to read the words to me. It was my job to listen. That was the best possible way I could help him get through those first hours of boot camp. When he was done, he slammed down the phone, which again wasn’t personal. It was exactly what he was supposed to do.

Since that night, while he is challenged daily to push himself beyond anything he has done before physically, mentally and emotionally, I’ve been on my own journey to become the mom of a future Marine. He chose his path. He enlisted. He signed the paperwork.

I didn’t get a choice, but I do get to decide each day how I will handle it.

I’m learning to let go of all control. Back on Sept. 19, we dropped him off outside a hotel with only the clothes he was wearing, his driver’s license, his phone and $20. I wanted to send him with a sweatshirt for the plane, some snacks or a book to read. I wanted to help him check in at the airport the next day, walk him to his gate, buy him lunch.

Dropping our older son at college for the first time was emotional. But it was a different experience. We got to help him move into his dorm room, attend welcome weekend and chat with friends on campus.

The complete lack of involvement with the military sendoff was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I knew that in a few hours, they would put his phone and clothes in storage. They would shave his thick curly hair. And he would lose his autonomy.

That good-bye sent me into such overwhelming anxiety that a few hours later, I had a scary panic attack. I took the week off work in anticipation of my mental state. I bought two weighted blankets, and spent long hours on the couch. The only thing I accomplished that week was repotting my succulents to bring them inside for the winter. That peaceful process helped me calm my fears.


I’m learning to trust God for his protection. Every morning, I check the Marine Parent Facebook page to see what he will do that day. It always sounds hard. Stay awake for 40-hours straight. Jump in a swimming pool fully clothed with a 50-pound backpack and take it all off before you drown. Climb the Stairway to Heaven, a 30-foot ladder with rungs that look like they are at least four feet apart. Learn Marital Arts. Learn to fire an M-16. Sleep in a room with 75 other men. Get up every morning at 4 or 5 a.m. Take a shower in 30 seconds. Eat what they give you and nothing more.


I pray for him constantly. I wake up in the middle of the night to pray. When my feet hurt from walking, I pray for him hiking in his combat boots. When I’m exhausted and go to bed early, I think of how tired he must be and pray. When I eat comfort food or candy or take a long hot bath, I pray for him, knowing he doesn’t get a break from the physical and mental stress.


And I’ve become obsessed with the mail. Normally, I have a weird anxiety about opening the mail. I don’t like to bring in the mail, and I often wait several days before opening a letter. There’s something about not knowing what’s inside that makes me nervous. At the beginning of boot camp, I learned that the United States Postal Service has a service calls “informed delivery.” USPS will scan the front of your letters so you know what’s coming the next day.

I check it every evening. I know around 9 p.m. I will be able to see what letters are coming. This creates a whole new level of mail anxiety. Now, I’m nervous knowing a letter is coming the next day. The whole day, I anxiously wait for the sound of the mail truck. Then, I can’t wait to open the letter. I hope he will sound healthy and strong. If he mentions even the slightest discomfort, I obsess over what it might mean. I send him lists of questions, and he faithfully writes his answers and sends back the sheet.

For every question he answers, I have 20 more questions about what it might mean. The inability to send a text or call him is maddening. By the time I send my question and get the response, two weeks have passed.

I’m learning to be OK with not knowing all of the answers.


I’m learning to be on alert for a phone call. I’m not someone who enjoys talking on the phone. I typically turn on Do Not Disturb without thinking twice. Now, there’s always that possibility he might call. The idea of missing a call is overwhelming.

That one-minute I got to hear his voice was like a life preserver in a sea of unanswered questions and imagined fears.

I got to hear directly from him.

“I’m fine, Mom. Everything is fine.”




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One Comment

  1. So grateful we are not involved in an active war ,praying as he enters this new world and for you as you come alongside him!

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