* Updated January 2016
January 2011 – When your recruit graduates from basic training, it is an occasion that the entire family should be there to see. It is an important day in his life and signifies an accomplishment that should not go unnoticed by others. If at all possible, strive to be there for his first graduation ceremony in the military. Follow these tips to make the day successful.
- Invite the family. There are no restrictions on who may or may not attend the ceremony. Anyone is welcome to attend to recognize his accomplishment as he graduates from basic training. Children are also welcome to attend the ceremony. A formal invitation to the event is not needed in order to attend the graduation events.
- Dress appropriately for the graduation. Many times, the graduation ceremony will be held outside and you will be sitting on metal bleachers for the duration of the ceremony. This means the seats will be cold in the winter and hot in the summer. It is also advised that you don’t wear white pants, dress or skirt unless you bring something to sit on. Also, be aware of your shoe selection. You never know what shape the field may be in where they graduate. Wearing high heels may make it difficult to walk (or run) to your soldier after the ceremony is complete. Finally, know that you are also representing your soldier in your dress. Dress conservatively for the ceremony as to not embarrass him in front of his new comrades.
- Arrive early for the ceremony. There will be hundreds of people all fighting for the best seat as well as all trying to get through the same security checkpoint on post. Make sure you arrive early. As with all things military, the ceremony will begin on time. You don’t want to miss seeing your new military member because of traffic coming through the gates of the military post.
- Be prepared to get on post. In order to pass through the gates at post, everyone in the car will need a form of ID available to show the gate guard. Children are often not asked for ID but if it is available, it is always better to have it on hand. You will also need to have an insurance card and registration available if asked. Some posts will require passes for the day for graduation. You will need this to get a pass.
- Have your camera ready. You are allowed and encouraged to take pictures and video of the event. A great zoom feature on one of these or even a pair of binoculars may also be of great use. When there are hundreds of new military members on the field all dressed the same, it can be difficult to find your family member at a distance.
- Abide by the ceremony protocols. This includes standing during the National Anthem if it is played and facing towards the flag. Instruct children and others to remain quiet during these events and also while the commander or guest speaker is delivering his remarks to family members who are present.
- Agree on a meeting place. If at all possible, try to agree to a meeting place after graduation. Though you won’t be able to say a specific place without having seen the space, even directing the soldier to stay on the left side of the field will help to find him in a mass of people.
- No PDA. Soldiers are discouraged from public displays of affection while in uniform. While a quick hug and peck probably won’t get him in trouble, any thing more than that will grab the attention of his drill sergeant. And trust us, he doesn’t want to do that. Keep the PDA to a minimum and know you will have time to spend with him later in private in most cases.
- Take lots of family pictures after his ceremony. Think of the way you will be dressed for graduation as far as pictures are concerned. He will graduate in his dress uniform so dressing nicer is encouraged. You may actually have a very limited amount of time with him after the ceremony so make sure not to delay when taking pictures of him and his buddies.
- Help out other graduates. Take pictures of him with his buddies and always offer to take pictures of the soldier who doesn’t have family and friends there to support him. Parents and other family members who were not able to attend the ceremony will be grateful for your generosity in taking pictures of their soldiers.
- Don’t forget about later. If he is allowed to go off post with you after the ceremony, realize that he will be under watch as he will likely have to remain in uniform. This means the public display of affection rule still applies. If there are other single soldiers who do not have family present, it is always a nice gesture to invite them to eat dinner with your family. After all, his military comrades will be his family now too.
- The early bird catches the worm. Arrive back on post early to ensure he is not late for any formations that happen after graduation or when he arrives at his next training location. He will be making his first impression on new instructors and it is important that he is not singled out before his next phase of training even begins.
As stated, graduating from basic training is a big deal. It is important that family and friends are there to recognize and celebrate in his accomplishment with him. Do whatever is necessary in order to be at this ceremony. Also, be advised that some posts will have a family day the day before graduation. This is time to spend with the graduates before the ceremony as often, they will have to leave for additional training after graduation is complete.
Your soldier should be able to give you the details about any family day celebration as well as the specifics for graduation several weeks ahead of time. You may also receive an official letter from the commander of basic training with the details of these days.