Elissa Carroll Art
Fine Artist - design
Rye resident since 2001
Mom of Torin (25), Madoc (21) US Soldier, Braedon (15) Junior at Iona Preparatory HS
How did your son get interested in the military?
Since Madoc was a boy he talked about being a soldier when he grew up. He was a Cub Scout, and Boy Scout and he loved being part of a troupe. He was proud of his uniform; he enjoyed working together with his peers, completing challenges and earning his badges. He spent a lot of time during adolescence volunteering and giving back to our community through our parish, Church of the Resurrection, and many local organizations, Bread of life - Giving Tree Global, Don Bosco, Homefront Program.org, to name a few. He worked as a lifeguard during the summertime, and he proved himself as unusually level headed and calm during emergency situations. Madoc was captain of his wrestling team at Rye High School and I’ve never seen Madoc afraid of speaking up when something wasn’t right. He was quick to step in when someone needed assistance and took pride in meeting a challenge. Looking back I see the path that he was on.
What was your son’s plan after high school? What were the emotions you experienced when he told you that he was enlisting in the military?
The plan was for Madoc to go to college first and then go into the army with his degree as an officer. Covid hit his senior year in High school and then continued his freshman year at college; with the constant quarantines it was an uncertain and isolating time. Like many students, he came home mid year and took classes remotely but his heart wasn’t in it. The lack of routine and social structure was affecting him. He changed schools in the fall, and continued with college but by spring he wanted to come back home. Madoc shared that he needed to make a bigger change and he’d been meeting with military recruiters for the Marines, Navy and Army. He discussed all of the research he had been doing and said that he made a decision to join the Army. I was initially surprised but I knew then that I had to get on board and support my son in any way that he needed me.
I started reaching out to friends in the forces and their military families. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the insight, advice and shared experiences these soldiers and military families offered both Madoc and I, without hesitation.
What challenges do you face as a mother while your son is serving in the army, and how did you overcome them?
As a mom it was so foreign to see someone/something else have complete control over your own flesh and blood. We knew that communication would be cut off
dramatically and that training was going to be extremely difficult physically and emotionally. My friend's husband is in the Army and he said that while he went through this period, the best distraction that got him and his platoon through the worst of it, were the letters from family and friends. So I wrote letters every few days. Being an artist I also created silly cartoons, illustrating life at home vs. life in the Army (with a positive spin on the army of course:)
I asked everyone in the family, his aunt, cousins, grandparents to write him letters with funny stories and news and photos to give him comfort and hope while he gets through this challenge. His friends wrote him letters too.
We wanted to remind him that he has an army at home that supports and believes in him. The process of writing to my son also made me feel more connected to him. The first letter I received back from Madoc, was so vivid and insightful, I felt like I was there with him. I also realized... it was probably the most amount of words he has expressed in a very long time, lol! It’s a wonderful thing writing and receiving letters, we should do it more often with our loved ones. I definitely don’t feel the same connection when receiving a “text”. When we finally caught up after graduation, he mentioned how much these letters from loved ones meant to all of the soldiers. He also told me that the cartoons I created for him were shared with and enjoyed by his whole team.
Is there another way for families to stay in touch during training?
I was amazed at the start to learn that the Army uses social media for the families to have a support system and to ask questions and see their loved ones while in training. I followed his company’s Instagram and Facebook page to see which intense requirement he was training for each week. I looked at every reel and post over and over, to see if I could spot my son’s face in the sea of others. The week before his graduation we finally did spot him during combat training on Instagram. It lifted my heart so much! The men and women that serve our country, whether in peacetime or war, make enormous sacrifices with family separations and isolation during tours. I’m only at the very beginning and yet I feel the military community reaching out and supportive.
How has your son’s military experience shaped his character and personal growth?
The reality is that you are being prepared and programmed for battle. After all of our research, we both knew how incredibly difficult and harsh training was going to be. When I saw him for the first time since he left home, I couldn’t believe how much he had grown physically, he looked so strong. His company had just completed a difficult ruck the day before so he was also exhausted and in tough shape. I was concerned with his mental wellbeing and eager to hear everything. As we caught up, we talked about the bonds that he had made with others on his team and in his platoon. They had been through something tough together and those are the moments that give you character, build trust and form long term friendships.The stories he shared privately with us and the experience and lessons that he learned he will keep forever. His confidence has grown so much. His brother and I were able to spend an afternoon with Madoc and some friends from his platoon on graduation weekend. It struck me as such a special gift to observe them all together relaxed and bonding. These young men were all coming off of the hardest challenge any of them has ever achieved. They were the perfect combination of humbleness and pride. It was really beautiful to witness.
I feel proud of my son for following his own path and for doing something that he believes is important not only for his personal journey but also as a patriot.This isn’t always easy for parents, the letting go, especially when it's not the usual path here in Rye. Of course it doesn't escape me, what his choice and sacrifice could mean, so my emotions definitely go back and forth. However, I realize how strong and capable my son is even though he’s only 21 years old. This process taught me to trust his judgment, he is young but not too young, to not know himself and what he believes is important. He made a huge decision at this young age and he is succeeding and growing and living his life. Mostly, I feel thankful for being his mother and grateful for any moment we get to spend together. Amazing how quickly it goes by...from ironing on his little Cub Scout patches, to watching him pinned a soldier. I definitely feel safer with him at my side. His next steps with the Army will be Airborne school. I am eager to see him at his next graduation in September and find out where he will be stationed or deployed.
I feel indebted to all of the veterans and soldiers and military families that have been protecting us, serving for us, making long term and life long sacrifices. God Bless them and those that gave their lives as they carried out their duty with honor and commitment for us and for our country.
“Only by seeking challenges can we hope to find the best in ourselves.”