I may or may not have mentioned that our May was
so busy packed with lots of life to live. At the end of this lovely action filled month was the best event possible to end a long month, much less 10 weeks of missing one of your children.
In March, our eldest shipped off to Army Basic Training. He wrote us some wonderful letters at the beginning, but after the first couple of weeks, his schedule (understandably) didn't allow much time to sit around and write letters. There were a few all too short phone calls, just long enough to grow a healthy appreciation for long conversations. But at the end of May the wait was over and we attended Basic Training Graduation.
How awesome it is to see one of your children doing so wonderfully well.
We arrived at Fort Sill on Family Day, looking forward to Charlie Company's informal presentation before the graduates were released for some free time. We seated ourselves with many other families and patiently waited for the program to begin. It was supposed to start at 9:00, and I tried not to judge that the program hadn't started by 9:40. That's when I got a phone call from Ben ... apparently, we were waiting in Foxtrot Company's part of the building - ha! He told me to walk to the sidewalk and head the other direction, at which point I saw two young men in dress blues waaaaaay down there. It was him!
That moment was just the best.
It was such a shock to see him with next to no hair - it's certainly the shortest it's ever been. And he's worn a beard since he was ridiculously young, so it was a double shock to see him clean shaven. Abbie later accused me of being starstruck by him (and yes, okay, she totally nailed me, what can I say?) but I don't think I was alone in that for one minute :o)
We took a brief driving tour of Oklahoma, which by the way is beautiful, and ended up at a quaint hamburger joint called the Meers Store and Restaurant.
We had the obligatory burgers at Meers, which was established in 1901. It was filled with ramshackle charm that was only overshadowed by amazing hamburgers which were only overshadowed by the BEST peach cobbler and homemade ice cream in gargantuan proportions. Two minutes into the meal, Ben sighed with exasperation and I thought something was wrong with his burger. He laid down the three bites that were left and said, "I forgot that I have more than five minutes to eat!"
We took our soldier back to the hotel to relax a little bit, and he took a nap - the first one in ten weeks, a well-deserved nap! He stayed in uniform the entire time, shiny shoes and all. Other things of note were that he had to be with at least one other person at all times, and he could not walk and use his phone to talk or text - he had to stand still if he was looking at his phone. That one might be a good one for the civilian world :o)
After the most wonderful day of just drinking in how great he looks and how happy he seems to be and how comfortable he is with what he's doing and where he's going, we took him back to base so he wouldn't miss his 8:00 curfew.
The next morning was graduation! The graduates were seated before the chapel was opened, sitting at attention (or that's what it looked like), very stern and serious. Drill Sergeants were introduced (they looked terrifying), distinguished graduates were honored, and each graduate marched across the stage to shake the Commander's hand. It was a pleasure during the graduation ceremony to honor the veterans, Ben's granddad and uncle among them. After singing the Army song, the graduates were presented to a room full of immensely proud friends and family. "These men and women have overcome every obstacle to become the newest defenders of America" got an easy standing ovation.
Following the ceremony, we gathered with LtDan's parents and his sister and my brother and sister. Ben chose Korean food for lunch and we all thoroughly enjoyed a huge and very tasty buffet at Pusan restaurant.
We're all just a tiny bit proud!
The one and only unhappy thing about the entire time was that Nathan had to miss the event because he couldn't get off work. It was a double whammy of good and bad, since he's proven himself well enough to step into a position of greater responsibility but that meant his schedule wasn't as flexible as we once might have hoped. But his younger sister and brother represented well for him.
It was time to take our soldier back to base; graduation at 10am and off to Advanced Individual Training at midnight. It was time to go and I couldn't stop taking pictures.
Before he left us, we went to see the obstacle course area and Treadwell Tower, a 40 foot high beast that all soldiers went up and down many times over the course of their training. Ben got called out for smiling on his way down once. Our boy is a thrill seeker.
We were standing in the common area with other soldiers and their families, taking pictures and chatting for just a few more minutes. Ben had just explained that you are not to step on the Charlie Company emblem painted on the ground when he yelled a booming, "At Ease!" and everyone stood still at ease ... one of the Drill Sergeants was walking through (a woman Drill Sergeant, as a matter of fact, very impressive). This is what you do when someone of higher rank enters a room, call out "At Ease!" Civilian that I am, I instead took a blurry picture of the brick wall in my flurry to figure out what I was supposed to be doing, because I'm cool like that.
He's off to his next post in San Antonio, where he'll go through sixteen weeks of medical training along with many of his fellow basic training graduates. He said his sergeant told him on Monday - Memorial Day - that the job of a 68W (medic) is to make people's Memorial Days less memorable.
I hope he does that many, many times over.