SEAL Qualification Training
A major Milestone for our Family
mile stone (mil’ ston’) n a significant event or stage in the life, progress, development, career of a person, nation, etc.: turning point.
There are major milestones in everyone's life; marriage, birth of your first child /
grandchild / great-grandchild, High School and College graduations, etc. but very few families have the opportunity to celebrate the event we were about to attend. From the beginning of Boot Camp, February 2008, and through each phase of training when we were unable to talk to our Grandson the days were long and nights even longer. October 2009 felt a lifetime away. Now it seems as though only a few days have passed since he began this journey. Jan and I have encountered every emotion possible during the last 20 months. There were restless nights when we focused on the tough training with each Phase and periods where no one could remove our smiles with each new accomplishment. Now the end of training was drawing near and we were beginning a new phase. I'm not sure we're prepared, but we can look back and remember we lived through the pain of worry with each and every challenge and know we made it this far. So we must go forward.
The alarm went off very early on a special Thursday morning and it only took about 5 seconds to be up and turn on all the lights. Two things were about to happen, later in the day; it would begin raining in DFW and by Sunday the predictions were for a total of 4 to 6 inches, and I wanted to get out-of-town. More importantly my Wife and I were catching a flight to San Diego, Ca. to watch our Grandson’s SQT graduation. The flight must have been uneventful because I caught up on the sleep I missed. I was awakened by words I don’t like to hear, “Attendants prepare for our Final Approach”. Did I sleep through the first few and was this really the final attempt? Was there a problem on the previous attempts? We did land safely and my worries were over. After arrival at the rental car lot, and while my wife was talking to the agent about the car, I took Barbaric’s wise advice, installed the GPS and converted it to IWS (Ignore Wife System). With my wife settled in the passenger seat I entered the hotel address into the GPS, turned up the radio, and ignored my wife while she argued with the female voice on the GPS. (I do love a good cat fight.) We made it safely to the hotel and took off to explore Coronado. It had been a year and we were excited to return.
It was a short drive and our first stop was pre-planned; “BULLSHIRTS”. We had the list of things we’d forgotten last trip and wanted to explore new items. Of course we stocked up on shirts, decals, pins, challenge coins and some things we just couldn’t live without. Needless to say, they were happy to see us return. The next stop was “Muhl Jewelers”, my wife’s idea. On the way we noticed a sign in front of Beach-n-Diner for “All You Can Eat Crab Legs beginning at 16:00. Since it was too early we decided to do our shopping before eating dinner. After trying on every size of the charms 10 or more times she finally made a decision and had one added to her necklace. Since it was less than 24 hours till Graduation she wasn’t worried about bad luck. We popped into the Book Store for a browse and then it was time to eat. We consumed enough crab to last for the next two weeks. They were wonderful! Bad idea, but we enjoyed each and every bite. We made it an early evening and returned to the hotel to check email and all the Social Networking sites to ensure everyone made it safely to Coronado. Finely we’d personally meet parents, family members, and friends of SQT Class 273.
Friday we were dressed and ready to head to NAB Coronado. It was the moment we’d waited for the last 20 months. When we arrived at the Main Gate we were directed to a special parking area where shuttles would take us to the Naval Special Warfare Center and the Grinder for Graduation. We saw several groups standing around, joined one, and then things became very confusing. I have a suggestion for the Navy. Give special nametags to everyone attending Graduation with a special space for Social Networking Screen names. The conversations went like this:
“Good morning I am Calvin and this is my wife Jan.”
“It’s nice to meet you. I am AAA and this is my wife BBB.”
“Is your Son Graduating today?”
“Yes/No my Grandson, Brother, Uncle, Boyfriend, Etc.”
”We are from Texas where are y'all from?”
“We live in CCCCCC.”
“My Grandson is DDD and we can’t wait to see him.”
“Our (one of the above) is EEE and this is a great day.”
“That’s odd. I don’t remember DDD talking abut EEE do you honey?
“I don’t remember EEE mentioning DDD.”
“Well there’ve been lots of guys mentioned. Some have gone, but I’m sure I know him.”
“Then I remembered, our Grandson’s last name is FFF.”
“Oh I know him. GGG and he were swim buddies.”
“That’s right! I remember him talking about FFF. I am Grandpa273 on HHH.com.”
“I am III. We’ve talked several times. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
It was funny and there were lots of laughs in the parking lot while everyone began using last names of their Loved Ones.
The shuttles arrived and we proceeded to NSW and into the Grinder. Everyone explored the area while images of our guys went through our minds; some good and some terrifying. There was a lot of meet and greet and a room where you could view a film of our guys during BUD/S and SQT. They had several showings so everyone had the opportunity to view the trials and training. That’s when you realize the last 20 months you considered so difficult was nothing compared to what our guys faced.
Then the most important moment arrived!
The time had come for the Graduates of SQT 273 to take their place on the Grinder. I wondered how I would react to seeing my Grandson. I could tell by the program he would march in 5th from the last. As they came onto the Grinder and turned to walk down their row, I found it hard to take my eyes from one to the next. The Pride of each of the Fine Young Men was almost more than I could handle. I watched every guy as if he were my Loved One. I was so Proud of each and every one. With my eyes glued to each of the guys I almost missed my Grandson. I as well as others have seen movies about the Navy but I can tell you being there, seeing them enter, and the way they marched in is one of the most impressive things I’ve ever witnessed. As the Official Party arrived a Bell rang and each was announced and Piped aboard the stage. The Color Guard presented the Colors and a small Navy Band played the National Anthem. I still get chills remembering those moments. After the Invocation the Commanding Office, NSW Basic Training Command made some remarks and introduced the Principal Speaker, Commodore, Naval Special Warfare Group ONE. If you ever have the opportunity to attend a Graduation take a recorder. I would give anything to have a transcript or recording of Capt. Krongard’s remarks. He spoke to two different groups; first to the parents and loved ones. He explained to everyone how these Fine Young Men made it this far. Their passion and will to become a US Navy SEAL and serve their Country played a very large part in their accomplishment but there’s an underling reason. It is called Family. He explained that what he was taught growing up and the morals and goals his parents instilled in him made a big difference in his future. Each Graduate’s mother and dad were raised according to their individual parent’s values. The graduates were raised with a combination of their own parent’s upbringing. What our Ancestors taught their children, and as the world changed, each generation combined what they had been taught and passed it down to the next generation. What I got from this is: it took hundreds of fathers and mothers combining what their parents taught them to culminate in what each of us teach our own children. It takes good and bad times, truth and lies, success and failures, and many other life lessons to raise our children. Then he spoke to the Class. He talked of Trust and Respect for each other. How the Class had become a Family and each had learned that Teamwork is essential for them to accomplish their Goal. No one person can do everything alone. It takes a Team.
As the Graduate’s name was called he marched to the front and a Trident was pinned on his chest then he received a diploma. The aisle was full of excided parents and loved ones taking pictures. Most were taking photos of multiple members of the class. It felt as though each was a member of our family and it was important to have a picture to retain the memory. After the reading of the SEAL Ethos, presentation of the Honorman Award, the SQT 273 Gift to NSW (a Black Trident from the God of the Seas), Benediction and the Retirement of the Colors it was time to congratulate each of the New SEALs. Everyone treated each Graduate as a member of their own family. I told as many guys as possible how proud I was of them and how I had no doubt during the last 20 months each would be there that day. Now we were all Family and we all talked and enjoyed the reception.
Graduation was over, what to do now? Back to Bullshirts and downtown Coronado. Of course the shops were glad to see us again and it seemed like everyone in Coronado could tell where we had been and congratulated us. Yes we bough more at Bullshirts and ate more at Beach-n-Diner.
I would like to thank Scott for the excellent directions he gave me on how to get the next place on our list of must things to do when in San Diego; eat at Devine Pastabilities. If you haven’t been there you must go. I had a Fettuccini Alfredo with Broccoli Torpasta and Jan had a Carbonara over Fettuccini Torpasta. I couldn’t find a way to bring some home onboard the plane. Again Scott thanks for the directions. I did check my GPS. Is it is only 1148 miles to get another one. With a GPS it seems hard for people to understand how I got lost going from the restaurant to the hotel but we did, so we stopped to get directions. The people at the Viejas Casino were very helpful in giving us direction but they seemed to be happy that we heeded their suggestion to put money into those machines in the building. We had less spending money but we did make it back safely.
Overall I would say this was the Best trip my wife and I have ever taken. We meet face to face with friends we met via the internet, the food was great, sightseeing was wonderful, seeing our Grandson Graduate was the most amazing event we’ve ever attended and the nice people who gave us directions back to the hotel even said the hopped we would come back to see them again.