You might remember a couple days ago, when I made lemon meringue pie for the neighborhood potluck, I noted the treat was a special request from Younger Daughter. That's because it's one of her favorite pies; and it was also the last potluck she'll be attending for a while. As I type this, she's on her way to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, to become a sailor.
Originally she was supposed to ship out November 28, but some time ago she had put in a request for an earlier ship date should one come available. She found out about two weeks ago there was an opening, and she gladly took it. She is, in her own words, "stoked" to be on her way (even if she has to endure boot camp first).
So the last couple of weeks have been frantic on her part, tying up loose ends, making her goodbyes to friends and neighbors, cleaning her bedroom, sorting through clothes and personal effects. Yep, it's been crazy.
One of the things she did was have us cut her hair. It was far too long, and she risked just having it hacked off by boot camp barbers. At first she was going to go to a proper salon and get a professionally done short haircut, but there wasn't quite enough time to mentally psych herself up for that step. So Don cut it for her.
(She'll learn the proper method to confine her hair in the next day or two.)
She is allowed very, very few personal possessions at boot camp: A tiny address book, a small Bible, a religious medallion, identification (driver's license and military ID), a small watch, and a bank direct-deposit sheet (the white paper at bottom). No personal clothing, no electronics, nothing else. Zip, zilch, nada, nothing.
Because these possessions are still questionable (the watch and the Bible may be too big or not permitted after all), she didn't want to get anything expensive. The watch is a cheapo WalMart special for $7. The address book measures about 2x3 inches.
She found a Bible at a thrift store for $2. It's actually a lovely little volume in excellent shape, so I hope she's allowed to keep it.
Recruits are allowed one religious medallion of their choice, as long as it's smaller than their dog tags. This miniature sterling silver Celtic cross is a gift from Older Daughter to her sister, purchased in Ireland. Younger Daughter is confident she'll be permitted to keep it.
Yesterday morning I drove her to the recruiter's office in Coeur d'Alene, and asked for a photo with two of the three recruiters. Ahem. Notice the height difference. That's a constant joke.
I said my goodbyes and left her. The recruiters drove her to MEPS (the Military Entrance Processing Station) in Spokane that afternoon, and she spent the night in a hotel.
Early this morning, Don and I left the house and drove to MEPS to watch her swearing-in ceremony.
We went through airport-style security inside the building.
A funny thing happened while we were waiting with Younger Daughter for the ceremony. There is a tall burly black man named Mike whom Younger Daughter met last May at MEPS. She didn't catch his last name, but she called him her guardian angel. He helped her through the sometimes-confusing procedures, and when she "walked" out from unacceptable job offers, he was there to guide her. She believes it may have been due to his influence that she was offered the Advanced Electronics Computer Field position she accepted. She was pleased to see him again so she could thank him. Interestingly, out of countless faces he's seen since last May, he remembered her clearly and referenced her experience.
Well, Don and I had the opportunity to shake his hand and thank him for his help during her bewildering and exciting experience last May. He was kindness itself and expressed great confidence that Younger Daughter will go far in her military career. It's people like Mike that make us glad YD chose the Navy.
We had about an hour to wait before her swearing-in ceremony, during which time we watched lots of young people get processed in various capacities. "Is it my imagination, or is everyone here over six feet tall?" I joked to Younger Daughter. "Yep, they are," she replied. Her diminutive size has been an ongoing jest ever since she enlisted.
Then came the ceremony itself. Four recruits (from various branches, not just the Navy) stood in "parade rest" position in the solemn room where they were sworn in. It was at this juncture that family members were invited in to watch.
When the Army Ranger Captain administering the oath walked into the room, the recruits all snapped to attention.
The Captain asked all the recruits whether they were there of their own free will, and other questions of similar magnitude.
Then they all swore the military oath.
After this, the recruits filed into another room where, one by one, they signed their contracts. Younger Daughter is now irrevocably in the Navy.
She told us later, while she was being driven to MEPS by the Coeur d'Alene recruiters, they told her she was one of their favorite recruits they'd come across, and echoed Mike's confidence she'll do well. This wasn't inappropriate banter; I believe they meant it. YD is small, but she's sharp-witted, intelligent, gives as good as she gets, quick at catching on and learning new things, and doesn't cow easily.
So we said goodbye to our youngest daughter -- now a grown woman -- and left her to her career choice. She called from Salt Lake City this afternoon, on a layover before arriving in Chicago late tonight. She's well braced for the hell of "processing week" and knows what to expect.
Godspeed, dear daughter.