I love, love, love being a mom. I love it all. Okay, I love most of it. It is crazy and chaotic and intense. Family Life showcases the full range of humanity on a minute-to-minute basis. It is the by far the best school I have ever attended.
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I am a mom of 8. Three of my children are grown and have flown out of the nest. Today I’d like to tell you about my fourth baby bird’s flight into the big wide world.
As a senior in high school, my Matthew was enamored by the idea of serving his country. As the mother, I was a bit stumped. Why would my honor student want to join the military? Wasn’t that for those hard cases? I mean, seriously.
Matthew was a smart kid and he worked diligently to maintain a high GPA. He was going after the highest scholarships that Wichita State University offered. (And he achieved them.)
So why the military? Surely it was a phase.
Then THE MOMENT happened.
We were in Howells, Nebraska, at the burial site of my hard-working and truly kind father-in-law, Reuben Doerneman, who had passed away from heart failure on October 2, 2017.
Because of Reuben’s service in the Air Force (he flew 27 missions in the Korean War as a right gunner on the B-29 Bomber) he received a funeral with military honor.
With family watching intently, hearts and minds totally engaged, two honor guards removed The United States flag from Reuben’s casket and with great care, folded it.
They presented it to my mother-in-law with these powerful words, “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Air Force and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”
There was a military gun salute.
Taps were played.
That was the moment, as Reuben Doerneman’s body was laid to rest, where Matthew Doerneman’s desire to serve our country was fully born.
After that weekend, I began to listen, I mean REALLY listen to Matthew’s heart. He said he’s been given so many opportunities in his life. He’s been able to go to a great college-prep high school. He has a two-parent family. He has strong siblings that are making an impact in the world.
“I have seen what they are doing. I have all of this drive and all of this energy. I want to use it for a cause bigger than myself. Just going to college isn’t enough. I want to grow and learn more than that.”
That was my Moment.
Oh. This was bigger than Matt and certainly bigger than Mama Bear.
After some serious conversations with several friends, Matthew changed from Navy Reserves to Air Force Reserves.
He took the ASVAB test.
What does ASVAB mean? WHO THE HECK EVEN KNOWS? The military is a WHOLE NEW WORLD, full of words that aren’t really words.
‘Tis a whole new language.
I have since learned that there are DOD-approved (Department of Defense) acronyms supplied by the OSD/JS (Office of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Staff) and there is a WHOLE OTHER LINGUISTIC WORLD in the rank and file of every branch of the military.
Because of restructuring within the Air Force, Matthew was told that it would be six months before he would go to BMT (Basic Military Training).
He used that time to work out (he put a crossfit gym into our garage) and to drive me flippin’ crazy. (To put this mildly, Mama Lori was not used to another big, graduated person in her sacred spaces.)
But we survived and right before Thanksgiving, Matthew was flown to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for basic training.
After 8 ½ weeks, he graduated with honors on Thursday, January 17, 2018. My husband and I drove down with the four littles to San Antonio and spent the weekend with our son.
It was awesome, you guys.
When we first pulled up I didn’t even recognize him. He was wearing his ABU (Airman Battle Uniform). However, in case you like details, the Air Force is slowly switching to the OCP (Operational Camouflage Pattern) which is more green vs blue/grey.
He had on a hat (which covered his bald head) and black glasses.
Here’s the real deal. Yes, he was wearing pretty standard black glasses, given to him by the military.
But at least they weren’t BCGs, or Birth Control Glasses. I kid you not. That’s what the old ugly, ugly black glasses used to be called.
WHOLE NEW WORLD, people. But that definition did crack me up. The military has HUMOR.
Matthew was the FNG, “******ing New Guy.”
After we hugged our FNG, we took him into our vehicle and drove around Lackland Air Force Base. My husband asked Matt to direct him around the base.
Matt just looked around the area as we drove and then said, “I have no idea. We march everywhere.”
That was the QOTD.
While we drove around Lackland Air Force Base, I was stunned at the size of it. It was literally its own city, with a school, churches, a grocery store or commissary, a mall with the much-appreciated Starbucks as well as movie theater.
I was impressed.
The weekend with Matthew was spent napping, sightseeing, eating and watching our child drink water. He drank tons. He said that’s one of the ways the military keeps their people healthy. They require them to drink so much water per hour.
He kind of inspired me with that. I tend to forget my water intake at times.
We, of course, asked a million questions and he filled in the gaps. He seemed to almost enjoy boot camp. It was difficult, yes, but he had been ready for the PFT (Physical Fitness Test).
His dress uniform was incredibly snazzy and I was completely impressed by this fact: his shirt.was.always.tightly.tucked.in. He showed me the trick. They wear suspenders from the bottom of their shirt to the top of their socks.
Oh my stars. One of the guys, probably another FNG, had his suspender pop off the sock...and basically snap him in the nether regions.
There were guys in his fleet that made super poor choices. So the Air Force recycled them, making them take another week (or two or three or four) of training.
They sent three guys home over the course of the two months.
Matt learned how to make a bed. He learned how to eat quickly and efficiently at the DFAC. He learned how to fall asleep in a bed four inches too short for his frame, surrounded by 30 snoring men.
He learned how to operate on little sleep. Several times a week he had to be on guard for two hours in the dead of night. Sounds like motherhood.
He got in trouble once because they were marching over a hill and the sunrise was so gorgeous he commented on it. The MTI yelled at him, asking what was so important...Matthew replied, “Just commenting on the sunrise, sir.”
He spent a lot of time studying the big book, or BMTDG.
As he told us about his time at BMT, I could tell he was full of pride and almost joy. He had been away from his family for not only Thanksgiving but Christmas, too. He could not receive any packages. He could only call every so often.
So. I asked him what got him through. His answer surprised me.
Before he flew to San Antonio, he received this text from big brother Eric.
The next step? Matthew will spend two months at Sheppard AFB in Wichita Falls, Texas, for his tech school. He will learn about jet engines and propulsion something or other.
He will then hang out in Wichita and work at McConnell Air Force Base until he goes to Wichita State University in the fall.
Except. He wants to get deployed. Of course he does.
I will tell you something. This mama thing was easier when I could order my kids around. Now that they are older they keep doing these things.
Yes, I am super proud of each and every one of my children. It’s just funny how incredibly unpredictable life becomes when littles become bigs, able to make THEIR OWN decisions about their life.
How to handle it without breaking down into a million small pieces of blubbering mama? Well, here’s how I see it. My adult children are supposed to operate independently of me. I mean, that’s the point of this whole mothering thing, right?
Is it easy? Hell, no. It’s the craziest, most radically faith-filled thing I have ever done.
I am just grateful that I have learned (over the years) how to implement good self care. You can read more about that in this post: Your Child Deserves the Best Version of You.
PS Here's the podcast as promised!
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