Seeing their teenage son graduate from Rush-Henrietta High School in June was exciting enough for Jakob Bathrick’s family, but three months later they had to say goodbye when he enlisted in the Marine Corps.
Bathrick, 18, is a son of Rory Bathrick, who lives in Batavia, and Jessica Baltz, of Henrietta, formerly of Pavilion.
“The day he left was my 39th birthday, and I celebrated by giving my firstborn to the Marine Corps,” Baltz said. “Seeing him off was the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. I’ve always been close to my three kids and we always support each other."
Although his mother has cried and cried since he left, she knows this is something he wanted to do.
She said Bathrick made the decision to join the military a year ago, while he was on vacation with his grandparents in Washington, D.C. A recruiter had gotten his name through his high school and kept calling him.
“He initially was going to join the Army, but the Marine recruiter convinced him to join the Marines,” Baltz said. “After all, the Marines are ‘the few and the proud.’ ”
The recruits left Batavia’s recruiting substation and were bused to Niagara Falls, where they spent the night in a hotel, after preliminary briefing and time with their families.
The next day, families began arriving at 9 a.m. at the Air Force Base, and after security clearance, were directed to the building where the ceremonies would take place.
Bathrick’s family who came to see him off included his parents; aunt, Ami Quigley, of Pavilion; siblings Cecelia and Andrew Bathrick; grandparents Tom Bathrick, of Varysburg, and Nancy Baltz, of Pavilion; aunt, Jo Page, of Warsaw; family friend, Andy Caven and his grandparents, Bruce and Brenda Serena, of Akron. Brenda Serena is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army and was allowed to perform the swearing-in ceremony for her grandson.
“That was pretty cool,” Jakob’s mother said. “Brenda was my mother-in-law and she’s just been Brenda to me. To see all those military saluting her was really impressive.”
The military is very diligent about seeing parents are wellbinformed about what lays in store for the recruit.
For the first several hours in the morning, while the recruits underwent final procedures, their families gathered in the cafeteria, listening to a representative from the American Red Cross and receiving instructions on what to expect during the next weeks of basic training.
They learned the only way to communicate with their recruit in time of emergency is through the Red Cross. They were also informed about financial assistance available to the military, their families and retired veterans.
Perhaps the hardest thing for families was learning there would be no communication of any kind with the recruit, especially those joining the Marines, until after they were settled in to basic training.
Marines are the only branch of the military which does not allow recruits to have their cell phone during basic training, and before the recruits boarded a bus for Buffalo International Airport that morning, they handed their cell phones and any other personal belongings over to their family.
Another hour or so was spent listening to Army Ret. Col. Nancy E. Bird, of Rochester, a volunteer at the Military Entrance Processing Station who does about 35 presentations a year at the base. She mingled with family and friends and briefed them on what their part should be in the coming months.
One thing she particularly stressed was the importance of writing – every day. She urged families to give the recruit’s address to everyone they know and ask them to write a letter.
Shortly after noon, the recruits were ushered out into the driveway, where their bus awaited. Each recruit received a brown envelope with his final instructions.
Jakob’s family was among those who followed the bus to Buffalo International Airport to wait and see him on the plane. They arrived at the airport around 3 o'clock, but the recruits’ plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until 5:30. However, they soon learned the plane had been delayed almost an hour. They were scheduled to land in Charlotte, N.C., then transfer to another plane for the final leg of the trip to Savannah, Ga., where a bus would take them on the two-hour drive to Parris Island, S.C.
Families had been told after arriving in Parris Island, recruits could make a formatted call of about 10 seconds, to let their parents know they had arrived. There would be no other personal conversation. However, because it was 1:30 or 2 in the morning by the time they arrived, Jakob’s family never got the call.
His mother was frantic and was able to call the Marine recruiter and learn Jakob had arrived safely.
“I am still crying,” Baltz said. “I cry because I’m so proud and I cry because I don’t think I can do this. Jakob has enlisted for eight years.”
During the ninth week of basic training, Jakob will be able to send home information from the battalion commander with information about graduation, which will be in the middle of December.
Part of Col. Bird’s briefing was what to expect for the families who plan to attend graduation. The ceremony is outside, and there is no parking close by, she said. She stressed the importance of proper dress.
At the conclusion of graduation, Marines are free to depart Parris Island and begin 10 days of leave – something Jakob’s family can’t wait for.
His mother is hopeful because their 10-day leave takes them to Christmas Eve, that the Marines will extend the leave to have Christmas at home.
Top photo: Jakob Bathrick gets congratulations from his grandmother, Ret. Lt. Col. Brenda Serena, of Akron, formerly of Attica, after she swore him into the Marines during ceremonies at Niagara Falls Air Force Base.
Below: Jakob Bathrick’s entire family drove to Niagara Falls Air Force Base to see him sworn into the Marines in September. From left are: his grandfathers Tom Bathrick, of Varysburg, and Bruce Serena, of Akron; aunt Ami Quigley, of Pavilion; grandmother Brenda Serena, of Akron, a retired lieutenant colonel who swore Jakob in; Jakob’s siblings, Andrew and Cecelia Bathrick; father Rory Bathrick, of Batavia; Jakob; mother Jessica Baltz, of Henrietta, formerly of Pavilion; Andy Caven, family friend; aunt Jo Page, of Warsaw; and grandmother Nancy Baltz, of Pavilion. Grandfather John Baltz, who owns Baltz Concrete Construction in Pavilion, was unable to make the trip.
Photos by Virginia Kropf.