The date was August 15, 2008, and this picture was taken by my dearest, QH, right after the stunning ceremony and when liberty call was given. I have never in my life seen such a display of skill and precision in all of my life, and probably never will again. If you have a spouse or child in the armed services, I highly recommend you attend this ceremony.
Without boring you with all the details, let me just hit the high points. We left Thursday morning and hit rain and road construction from Wisconsin to Chicago. Once we arrived there, we got lost following my TripTix that was wrong. Finally we made it to our hotel, checked in and went for a drive, trying to get our bearings. It was a good thing QH invested in a GPS.
Friday morning, I was very glad I picked a hotel that was only 1.8 miles from the base. We left the hotel and hit traffic that would make a Floridian think it was Spring Break. It took us about a half an hour to make to our destination.
We knew that with the dangers in this world, there would be security. Random searches were being conducted in the dozen or so cars to our right. We were in a different group and the most we had was a large German Shepard who sniffed around our car while they checked our ID's. We were directed to park and after going through another check, we made our way to the building where the graduation was to be held.
We were not allowed to take any pictures of our recruit/graduate out in front of any of the buildings or our cameras would be confiscated and the memory cards and film wiped clean and returned. That is the state of the world we live in today, my friends. Totally understandable on their part, and I never felt so safe leaving stuff in the car before.
Once we were seated in the section of Alex's division (293), we waited for things to begin, and watched a short film showing all the things the recruits had been through (hair shaving, ironing, fire training and the "confidence chamber", a.k.a. the gas chamber where they experience tear gas with and without the gas mask), and then the band came in. Then all the brass came in and were seated. Then the flags came in, carried by graduating recruits and representing each of the 50 states in the order they were added to the Union.
As each division came through, I searched all over looking for Alex, but couldn't find him until near the end of the ceremony when QH pointed him out off to the right and in the back. He wasn't wearing the "Sally Jesse Raphael" style glasses like I pictured and instead wore his "civilian" glasses.
I was ok emotionally until the Star Spangled Banner and the tears began to roll as I stood, hand over my heart thinking about how these young men and women were here to serve this great country of ours, the United States of America, and all of those who had passed through those doors on a day, just like that day, and went on to make the ultimate sacrifice. I looked around and I was not alone in being emotional, even if our thoughts were different, our skin color was different and we all came from different places. In that building, at that moment, I was proud to be a citizen of America and felt sure that everyone else in that place, felt that very same thing.
Once the review was over, and the liberty call was made, the wave of unbridled joy and happiness almost knocked you over! We made our way onto the floor and found Alex, and took some pictures. I didn't turn into a blubbering idiot, crying and running over to him, because I didn't want to embarrass him. I was just so happy to see him, and I think he was happy to see us.
On the way to the car, we received the best gift of all. Because he was only moving from RTC (Recruit Training Command) to another section on base, he was given liberty overnight on Friday and Saturday! He had to move the day of graduation, so we went back to the hotel and asked them if we could get a room with 2 beds, not just one. We were blessed to get one, and we were so happy that we would have that extra time with him.
One of the first things we did was go to dinner. We found a nice little place called Flanagan's, just down the road from the hotel, and we had dinner there. The town was full of graduating recruits and their families. We met a nice young man that Alex was in boot camp with and his family and found out they lived in Watertown, Minnesota.
The food was great and plentiful and priced fairly. Our waitress, Kathy (or Cathy), was kind enough to give us some tips about cleaning white uniforms with club soda, and also drew us directions to Wal-Mart on the map on the back of one of their menus. We saw they had a breakfast buffet on Saturday and Sunday mornings, so we decided to come back the next morning for that.
We drove all over, mostly down Sheridan Drive where the snazzy lake homes were and Alex got to see Lake Michigan. I had him call my parents and talk to them, and he called my brother and talked to him. I ran out of minutes before he could call my sister, and then my battery went dead and we had to go to Wal-Mart to buy a charger because I forgot my chargers at home.
Our plan for Saturday was to find the Navy Pier. Some friends recommended we go there if we didn't go anyplace else. We mapped out where we needed to be and went back to the hotel for sleep.