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Five Weeks Ago – Church!

Five weeks ago, today, we got up and prepared for what would be our last day with our boy during this very special graduation weekend.

The predicted rain had finally arrived; however, it stopped as we pulled up to the church (the picture below was actually taken later that afternoon).

We had arranged to meet Rooster at the church.  We were eager to see him again, as were other parents who had joined us as we waited.  One of the sets of parents was that of Rooster’s wingman.  What a sweet family!!

We finally saw our boys arrive.  Rooster was carrying a bag…his laundry.

Some things never change.  🙂

He got teased a bit by an Airman in tech school.  It was all in good fun.

We had to wait for the previous service to finish, so we used our time to take pictures in front of some of the foliage adjacent to the church.  Rooster was dressed in his long-sleeved shirt, tie, formal jacket, and ever-present hat.  Gosh, but he sure looked handsome. ❤ ❤ ❤

Then, Rooster and some of the guys from his flight stood around and shared stories.  We hung on their every word.  It did my heart good to see the friendships he had developed during the past two months.

We watched as trainees, still in the midst of the BMT experience, walked up to the church.  You could tell which ones were the newest arrivals based on their footwear.  New arrivals wear sneakers until they are given their boots.  These were also the men and women who had looks of trepidation on their faces.  Poor things.  They were probably still adjusting to this life they’d just signed up for.

Airmen in tech school who had earned their white ropes (ropes indicate leadership roles…white stands for chaplain duties) organized us into lines.  There was assigned seating.  It was yet another reminder that we had entered into a new life ourselves…the military life…so organized in nature.

Trainees were divided into groups based on which week they were in, beginning with Week 0’s in the center front pew and working backward from there.

New Airmen were seated in the sections on either side of the center aisle.

To visit the restroom, we had to be accompanied by our Airmen.  They were our passes back to our pews.  It was interesting, let me tell you.

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the church.  Taking pictures where trainees might be photographed was strictly forbidden.

As the service began, and we started signing songs so familiar to me, I got a little emotional.  As you know, I am a Christian, as is the rest of my family.  We raised our children in the church; both were active in youth group.  Rooster also worked for the gym that is run by my church.  Not having Rooster in church with me each Sunday has been a stark reminder that I am now an empty-nester.  It’s not always a feeling I like.  That’s why the singing made me so emotional.  I was back with my boy, worshiping my Lord.

I was reminded of how God had been with us each step of this journey in so many tangible ways.  He had answered every prayer we had offered up, most recently a prayer for a need that had cropped up that very week.

The service had a number of touching moments.  I don’t exactly remember the order of events.  I do remember that the pastor acknowledged the newly graduated Airmen, and every single trainee turned and applauded.  I’m pretty sure they stood.

Oh my gosh.  My heart.  Once again, I’m typing this with tears in my eyes as memories flood my mind.

The entire weekend had been filled with moments like this…other trainees applauding the graduates’ milestone.  They knew what these men and women had accomplished.  Wow.

Then, the pastor went through each week, starting with Week 7, and each section of trainees stood and said, “Praise the Lord.”  As each week was called out, the next row or two would stand and say the same thing.

The shouts grew more feeble as the weeks went from two to one to zero.  Bless their hearts!

There was even a moment for those in Med Hold to stand and shout out in praise.  These trainees are placed in a medical dorm because of various issues they might have…shin splints are the main culprit…but it can be for any medical reason.  Some are there for only a few days; others for weeks.  They stay until they have been cleared medically to return to training, oftentimes joining new flights that are in the same week in which they were pulled.

My heart went out to them.  I’d read many prayer requests for trainees in Med Hold.  The holding pattern they are in can be extremely frustrating.

After the shout-out and other things, the pastor preached his message.  It was all about sacrifice.

Oh goodness!  What a hard sermon to hear!  Just as I was beginning to get used to the idea of my boy being in the service, I was reminded of the sacrifice he was making.  Oh sure, I already knew that.  He had been away from us, his church, his fur baby, his girl (of course).  The word “sacrifice” takes a mama’s mind places it doesn’t want to go.

Ultimately, though, it boils down to Jesus’s sacrifice for all of mankind.  It was a choice he willingly made…His life gladly given for a world that rejected Him.

So poignant.

After the service, the pastor shook hands as we left.

Once again, we had our boy to ourselves for the day.

Because he was an Honor Grad, he’d earned the privilege of a Sunday town pass.  Most new Airmen have to stay on base the Sunday following graduation.  They can be with their families, but they can’t leave.

We headed out to lunch.  A quick Google search led us to this restaurant…

It was a locally owned restaurant.  I should have taken a picture of the inside.  It had a barn-like feel to it with the ceiling beams arranged in a vaulted manner (the kind that goes up to a point).  There was a large stone hearth at one end.  It was very homey feeling.

The food reminded me of good old country cooking.  The portions were large; everything tasted fresh and delicious.

How I wished I could stretch out our time.  Sitting across from Rooster is something I will never take for granted again.

We debated what to do next and ultimately decided to simply hang out at the hotel.  He was, not surprisingly, tired.  Another nap was in order.  While he snoozed on the couch, I sat and watched him while browsing the internet.  I ordered the t-shirt you see below (it arrived a couple of weeks after we returned home)…

Every word on that shirt is accurate.  I had already experienced so many of the emotions written.  I had run to my phone and yelled out in joy every time I saw either Rooster’s cell phone number or a San Antonio area code.  I had cried during the National Anthem, sighed with relief when I’d read his words, “I’m doing good” in his first letter and then later heard the words, “I’m okay” when we got a much-needed phone call the week of his graduation.

I had stalked the mailman every day since my boy had left waiting for, at first, the address post card, and later the letters I knew he was writing.

I had shown my students and my coworkers the picture of my boy in his blues when my button arrived.  I’d quit sleeping well when he left (this might have something to do with Gambit sleeping with me now, snuggled up against me all night long).

I also knew, sitting there watching my boy try to get caught up on rest, that I’d raised my hero…a young man who told me that he wanted to have a job where he made a real difference.

I think about the story of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in more than one place, we read of her “treasuring these things in her heart.”

As mamas, we do treasure special moments.  As a mama of an Airman, those moments are magnified ten, twenty, even a hundred fold.  Every chuckle, every smile…everything is tucked away for later.  That’s what the entire weekend had been for me.

While Rooster napped, his girl was checking his laundry.  Oh yes, the laundry bag.  She got up several times to ensure that his clothes were drying properly.  He slept on.

About the time his clothes were finished, his nap time finished as well.  It was time to start heading back to the base.  The afternoon had slipped away from us so quickly.

He said his goodbyes to his grandparents.  They’d proudly looked on as he’d been minted one of the newest members of the Air Force.

Then, we drove back to the base.  We wanted to get there early so we could sit around and talk without being rushed.

First, though, we stopped at one more boot store to let Rooster try on different brands.  He found a pair he liked better than the first pair we’d purchased him, so we went ahead and got that pair for him.  He would later return the other pair to the BX where we bought it.

Then, we visited the larger BX on base, ate dinner, and drove back to the mini mall across from his dorm.

During this drive, he asked, “Mama, did you have a good weekend?”

Oh gosh.  What a loaded question.

As I looked back at him, I said, “Rooster, this was the third best experience of my life and only follows my wedding and giving birth to you and Chicky.  This was one of the best experiences of my life.”

I am a wordy kind of gal (in case you didn’t notice already).  My response really did sum up the weekend.

He smiled in his sweet way.  He knew how proud I was of him.  I’d told him in every single letter I’d written him.  I’d told him in rare, quiet moments throughout the weekend.  I could not have asked for a better son.

We had to return our Airmen to their dorms by 6pm.  You could see the BX start filling up with families.  I tried not to stare as others said their farewells.  They were so emotional and heart-wrenching.  I watched one young female Airman wipe tears from her face as she left her family.

And then it was our turn.

I’d worked so hard not to dread this moment beforehand.

I just did not want to say goodbye.

Watching Rooster’s girl say goodbye to him was so hard.  The Mr. was stoic, although I knew it was still hard for him.  I wanted to be brave for Rooster because he still had the harder burden to carry…going back to a life that was still new to him…away from his family.

Finally, it was my turn to hug him.  Did I have to let him go?  Yes, I did.  He didn’t belong to me anymore.  He belonged to his girl.  And the Air Force.

Reality check:  He never really belonged to me to begin with.  He is a child of the King.  God has always had him; Rooster was just on loan to me.

That’s what made leaving do-able.  I knew that God would continue to watch out for my boy.  His plans are perfect.

Still, it was hard to watch Rooster walk away, new pair of boots in one hand and clean laundry in the other.

Rooster’s girl and I stood together and watched until he had joined his friends and was no longer in sight.

Getting back in the car and driving away…one of the harder moments in my life.

No matter how hard it was to leave, I had a confidence I didn’t have before graduation.  I’d seen the way each Airman had each other’s back.  I’d seen how organized the Air Force was and how caring it was toward families.  I’d seen my boy more focused than I’d ever seen him…more proud…especially the day when he called this organization, “My Air Force.”

He would be alright.  I would be as well.

One Response

  1. Thank you for sharing this experience. You certainly raised an amazing young man. I have tears in my eyes reading this. My little man is 7 almost 8 and I hope that we do as well raising him as you did.

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