Hurricane disrupts local Marines' graduation ceremony

Lisa Ebbighausen, left, and Tammy Congleton hold photos of their sons, David and Tristan respectively. Their children recently became Marines, having trained at Parris Island, S.C., however plans to visit them have been thrown into chaos by the pending arrival of Hurricane Florence.

At least two Rutland moms were planning to see their sons graduate from Marine Corps Boot Camp in South Carolina this week, but the pending arrival of Hurricane Florence has changed all that. Tammy Congleton and Lisa Ebbighausen are the mothers of newly minted Marines Tristan Congleton and David Ebbighausen. The two 18-year-olds grew up in Rutland, graduated from Rutland High School, joined the Marines at around the same time and have been training with Charlie Company at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, South Carolina. The women separately traveled to South Carolina earlier this week with plans to attend military events culminating with a graduation ceremony on Friday. Their sons would then return to Vermont to spend 10 days of allotted leave time with their families before going off to further training. “The graduation was pushed up a day, pushed up two days, it’s been pulled back a day again. It’s now a closed ceremony where no families can attend. ... It’s going to be recorded for us to hopefully view it all,” Congleton said. “Hopefully, all the Marines will be able to participate.” They’ve been able to view some photos and brief video clips of the graduation ceremony taken by the wives of the drill sergeants, Tammy said, but they still don’t know if their sons were able to make it. Marines who had to make travel plans weren’t scheduled to attend. The families weren’t long in South Carolina before they heard Gov. Henry McMaster had issued an evacuation order for the area they were in. Everyone had to be out by noon Tuesday. They stayed as long as they could, but heeded the evacuation order, only to later hear it was rescinded for Beaufort County. As of Wednesday afternoon, the two women weren’t completely sure where their sons were, but by evening they’d both received calls from them saying they were on a flight headed to Albany, New York, and planned to be in Rutland by midnight. Congleton said they were only able to talk for about a minute, her son having borrowed another Marine’s phone. She still doesn’t know if he was able to make the ceremony. At one point, the families thought Parris Island might be evacuated, but according to a press release from Brig. Gen. James J. Glynn, commanding general for MCRD Parris Island/Eastern Recruiting Region, that’s not happening. He wrote that the risk of moving those on the base exceeds the risks posed by remaining. Phone contact between Marines and their families has been limited, and the changes to plans have been many. “(David) called me last night at 6 p.m. and said, ‘Mom, can you pick me up at the bus station?’ I’m like, ‘Yes, what bus station?” He says, ‘The bus station in Savannah, Georgia.’” Ebbighausen said. “Your heart is broke to have to tell him I can’t make it. We just got home, they made us leave, we won’t get to Savannah by 5 p.m.” Information comes through family networks, as well as the base’s website and Facebook page. Still, things are fast-paced and ever-changing. “The most frustrating thing is they’re in there, and they’re not getting the information that we are getting outside of Parris Island. There’s people married into the military that work on the base, and that’s how we’re getting tidbits of information on what’s going on,” Tammy Congleton said. “I’ve never seen so many moms at work for information. It’s been awesome to follow these people.” The two moms said they don’t feel there’s any miscommunication going on. It’s just that things are changing rapidly because of the hurricane. “I do think they’re doing the best they can,” Congleton said. “It’s just frustrating for the parents, of course, to go through all this and not be able to be there.” The moms were especially concerned because they don’t believe the 10 days of post-boot camp leave time can be rescheduled. They feared not being able to see their sons for a long time, as once the 10 days is up, they’ll be assigned to bases elsewhere for more specific training. David Ebbighausen has wanted to join the Marines since he was young, according to his mother, likely taking after his Marine grandfather. “Like any mother, you’re so incredibly proud, but you’re scared to death,” Lisa said. “This is the first time we haven’t seen him for 13 weeks.” Tristan Congleton is the first Marine in his family, Tammy Congleton said, others have been in different service branches. He underwent some pre-training as a “poolee,” and the experience helped his high school football career. The mothers said they plan to greet their sons in high style just as soon as they can. “They’re safe, we just want them home,” Tammy Congleton said. Media reports that Hurricane Florence is projected to hit the Carolinas late this week, bringing with it deadly storm surges, high winds and lots of rain.

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