Our Honor Cadet

What a day.

We got up, at breakfast, started chemo cycle two, then took Morgan and Quinn on a memory tour. Rob drove them all around where he went to college. He showed them his house he rented, the bakery he loves so much where you can get a huge bag of Portuguese rolls and three big pastries for $5, and then we went to his campus.

Roger Williams University is beautiful, and he showed us his dorms and the studio where he started to learn architecture. We went to the library and wouldn’t you know, his published thesis is still there. He did a whole book on downtown Riverhead. It’s beautiful. He has a visitors center, every shop downtown has a storefront facing the river, and sketches of the buildings. It’s amazing, and sad that the town still can’t get out of its own way to revitalize downtown. They just canceled a Friday night concert series, and one woman is trying to do a go fund me to get it going. It’s always the volunteers who walk the walk. They should look at robs thesis and get it going. Walking around Newport and Salem makes me sad that we have such amazing opportunity in Riverhead and all I see are huge buildings going up for “artists” yet cancel events for artists. We’ve got the riverfront. Let’s make Riverhead a destination spot like Newport.

Then we went to the naval academy. It was hot!! Thank God my dad had umbrellas, and we sat under the shade. A friend of Madison’s who went to the camp last year was there, and she said she had gotten some texts from Madison’s CO that she was one of the top cadets and was crushing every task. She said Maddie blew away every other cadet with running and sit ups and push-ups, and did amazing with sailing. Then Madison’s Riverhead NJROTC Captain walked over and he couldn’t contain his excitement. He said every single teacher knew who Maddie was and she stood out from everyone. It was nice to have my mom and dad hear him and see his pure glee. He is an amazing man.

People bash Riverhead High all the time. Those people aren’t taking advantage of all it has to offer. We offer free music lessons through our music department. Amazing musical and theatric productions. College level courses. Madisons coach for track is one of the most dedicated coaches I’ve ever met, and focus on making everyone better, not just faster. The NJROTC program is outstanding. The things it teaches these kids and doors it opens is an experience I can’t believe more parents don’t push their kids to take. It all starts in kindergarten, and if you put in the effort then, you reap the rewards later. Take my word for it.

Then the ceremony began, and the cadets took my breath away. These high school students looked like true soldiers, precise, serious and strong. We saw Maddie right away at the end of her platoon. There were speeches, and then they announced awards.

Madison had been upset when she heard she was in the green platoon, as the blue platoon had a streak of five years in a row winning top platoon. I told madison on the drive up that’s why she was put in the green, because she would push them to the top.

It was announced her green platoon won top platoon, and we all cheered. She had a former Marine corps drill instructor who loves to have the cadets “eat salad”, which means do push ups. It was remarked in the speeches that the green platoon was fierce and strong. She did four mile runs, did PT at four in the morning, and told us she is the strongest she has ever been.

Then they announced awards for physical training, sailing, academics, inspection, orienteering, attitude. Madison’s name wasn’t called once. We were wondering if her captain had said she did so great to make us feel better because he knew we had been so worried.

Then, they announced the top cadet from each platoon, and Madison’s name was announced. They said she had the top score in every every area. I was so proud my heart almost burst out of my chest. Seeing her stride purposefully across the big naval field and be congratulated by every officer in charge was a moment I’ll always remember.

Then they did the big march around the field, did their cheer, and were dismissed.

That’s when all the parents stormed the field for hugs. I saw boys and girls run to their moms and dads for hugs as we made our way to madison and it was a sight to see all the reunions on the field. Morgan and Quinn ran to Maddie first and she was so happy. Hugging her was amazing. We met the marine corps drill instructor and instead of kicking his ass like I dreamed of all week long after Madison’s texts of him breaking her down, I shook his hand and thanked him. Madison told me she is so glad she went, and she feels her social skills and confidence have grown tremendously. The Marine Corps Drill Instructor had a huge part in that.

We took lots of pictures then went to lunch. Madison had us all cracking up at the stories from her two weeks of sailing, living in the navy Barack’s, and her instructor. Rob and I said he sounded like the Full Metal Jacket guy, and Maddie said the actual cadets in the academy couldn’t believe what he was having her platoon do. They rose up to his challenge every time. Madison said he made everyone cry, the boys and the girls, she cried three times, but in the end she loved him. He put them on a diet plan and she ate more vegetables than she did in her whole life. When she was on leave last Saturday, they gave the cadets each $25. She spent it on a hat for him for his birthday, and in the last night arranged for every cadet to sign a shirt and a hat for him, as well as the cadet aides and the cadet moms. She told us how she sailed boats, and her terminology blew me away. She said they all slept with their dorm room doors open and they all had to do an hour night watch each night. Her marine corps instructor was extremely protective and yelled at any other platoon that tried to mess with them. His language was salty to say the least, and hearing Madison say some of his terms cracked us up.

We told her she passed all of her AP exams and even got a five on her AP world History. She was excited and happy to know how well she did.

Madison told us she has been asked to go back next year as a Cadet Aide. It’s a highly respected nomination and Madison’s commanding officer was there this year. I’m hoping camp Kesem is a different week, because madison would hate to have to choose.

We got back a different girl than we dropped off…stronger, confident, funny, and feeling more social. She doesn’t have Snapchat, and said that’s how everyone plans on staying in touch. I told her she could get it if she wanted, but she said no. She gave everyone her cell and feels that’s enough. As we walked out of graduation, Madison for hugs from a lot of the cadets, boys and girls, and each one told us how amazing she is.

As we walked through Newport, she was stopped several times by young and old and thanked for her service. She said she didn’t know how to respond so just smiled and said thank you.

I’m so proud of her.

We drove up to Salem and on our way I was thanking God for this life. Then Madison said, “Look, a rainbow!”

Thank you, God.

We ate a late dinner, Quinn swam in the pool, and we went to bed. Madison and Quinn slept together, Morgan has a makeshift cot, and rob and I are in a tiny bed. We felt so full and blessed to have us all together again, of only

For a day.

Tomorrow Morgan gets dropped off for a weeklong STEM Academy at St Johns University that her teachers nominated her for this year. She is just as bright and driven as Madison.

Today we will soak in being together as a family. We will visit witch and pirate museums and hold hands and just be together. I said to rob that soon Madison will be going away to college, and family trips will be hard. We need to do all we can to make sure we make memories now. We may not have the money anymore for big trips, but “daycations” should become a priority.

Today I am thankful that I didnt have side effects other than extreme fatigue, that my

Mom and dad were able to see our girl walk across that field for her honor cadet award, and that we are all together again.

May I continue to have these blessings for many decades to come.

In Jesus’s name, amen.



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