On Friday morning, May 13th (ooooh, superstitious), I anxiously drove onto Fort Benning to Camp Rogers. I was supposed to receive a phone call from Alex the night before or morning of notifying me if he passed or recycled the first phase of Ranger School and I had not gotten any word. There was also no list of roster numbers posted that recycled or were a go. I paced the parking lot from 0730 until 0930 along with dozens of other spouses, family members, and children. I was trying to keep my hopes in check – expecting the worst, but hoping for the best. If he did not pass the phase, then he would not be walking out of the gate that day and I would be crushed. The Lt Colonel came out and briefed the crowd of loved ones on what the Ranger students had endured over the past few weeks and gave advice on what to let them eat/not eat over pass. At 0945, a list of roster numbers was posted online…Alex’s company, B Company, had by far the shortest list of “gos”. I was shocked and elated when I saw Alex’s number, C218, on the Go list! All I could keep saying was “HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT, HOLY SHIT”.
Five minutes later, I saw a sea of students come running through the rusty, barbed wire gate and my friend said, “Kate, I see him, I see him”. A flood of emotion surged through me as soon as I saw his face. I had never cried out of happiness before that moment – happy to see him, touch him, hear him, that he got a go on his first try through Darby phase! He met me with, hands down, the best hug I’ve ever had in my life. My feet lifted off the ground and I couldn’t stop crying and smiling. He was a real person right in front of me!!
The 8 hours flew by as expected. I had spent the previous 2 days running around Walmart and the military supply store getting everything he needed for his restock, which ended up being a very expensive ordeal. He said to all his friends that he ran into on pass day that he was the luckiest guy in the world because I was awesome and took care of everything for him. It felt nice to be appreciated.
Alex was covered in rashes, poison ivy, scrapes, and infections. He went into this Ranger School endeavor weighing 230 pounds and weighed in at 215 on Friday. He ate more in 8 hours than a malnourished third world country child eats in a year. Here was the running list:
- 2 pieces of Papa John’s pizza
- 3 chocolate chip cookies with milk
- A container of mixed fruit
- Half a bag of Sun Chips
- 2 donuts
- 2 eggs, extra hashbrowns (with gravy and cheese), 4 pieces of toast, bacon, and a chocolate chip waffle from Waffle House
- A container of raspberries
- Half of a huge baking dish of homemade buffalo chicken mac n’ cheese (my signature dish)
- 1 MetRX cookie dough protein bar
Before I knew it, I was right back in that parking lot dropping him off. I couldn’t help myself from sobbing even though I tried to be strong for him. Despite the sadness of parting, I AM SO FUCKING PROUD OF HIM. He is absolutely amazing in the purest sense of the word – his strength, resilience, knowledge, natural ability, skill, sense of camaraderie, genuine heart, all of it! Alex is a superhuman hero in my eyes.
Now he is on to Mountain Phase in the mountains of Northern Georgia. I know he will continue to kick ass and amaze me. I miss the shit out of him already, but I remind myself that behind every strong man is a strong(er) woman.