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Why I Love Tuesdays

A Tuesday is good for a few reasons.

  1. It isn’t Monday.
  2. It is one more day closer to Friday.
  3. It’s the day that the JROTC kids at my school dress up in their blues.

Reason #3 is one of my favorites.

The kids come in all spiffed up, every hair in place (at least before P.E.).

They are more respectful when they wear their uniforms.

Their backs are straighter when they walk.

They are so proud.

Just today, two of my students were talking, and one was teasing the other.  When I inquired, my boy proudly pointed to a certain pin.

He’d just been promoted to A1C (Airman First Class).  He had taken the test and passed.

I didn’t know that they did this in high school.

My student went on to explain that he was now an E3.

My female student said that she’d be that rank as soon as she took the test.

Can I tell you how very much my heart soared?

My Rooster is in the Air Force, and he graduated from basic training as an A1C.

Oh y’all, the connections.

I used to dislike Tuesdays.

My Rooster left for basic training on a Tuesday, and I thought my heart would never recover.

Every Tuesday, I relieve a bit of that sadness when I read, on my Facebook support group, about sad see-you-laters that others are making.

And then today happened, when God showed me a way to be happy on a Tuesday (besides reasons #1 and 2).

Seeing my JROTC students reminds me of the pride I have, not only in this country, but in my son and others who choose to serve so selflessly.

Five Weeks Ago – Going Home

Five weeks ago, today, I had to return home after spending the most amazing four days with my new Airman son, Rooster.

We had to wake up at o’dark’thirty to catch our early flight.

We were a quiet bunch as we left our hotel room…the Mr., Rooster’s girl, and myself.  Each of us was lost in our own thoughts.

When we got to the lobby, my heart lurched.  It was at that moment that I felt a great sense of loss, and tears started rolling down my face.

It was the realization that I was leaving my boy behind.

To make things worse, it was his birthday.  Although I’d given him a card the evening before, shortly before our last hug goodbye, it just wasn’t the same as getting to tell him on his day.  He wouldn’t have any way to communicate with us; he wouldn’t be getting his phone back until the following Monday, and I had no idea when he would be able to call during this eighth week of training, called Airman’s Week.

The pain is still as fresh right now as I’m typing this as it was that morning.

Rooster’s girl sensed the change in my demeanor and said, “I’m not looking at you.”  She was trying to hold herself together too.

She then said, “Gus pooping, Gus pooping.”

Gus is her dog.  She kept saying the above phrase to distract us from our sad feelings.

We did chuckle together as we made our way to the car, but my tears returned as I struggled to pull up the directions to the car rental place and, ultimately, the airport.

It’s a good thing it was dark.

The weather matched my mood.  The much-touted rain had finally arrived.


We got through security without having to wait long (that’s what happens when you leave at 4:30am), and we sat down to wait.

We grabbed something to eat to pass the time, and I began uploading pictures from my trip.

We finally boarded.  You can see how spent, emotionally and physically, we were just by looking at our faces.

I saw other Air Force families on the plane.  Most of us were easily recognizable with our flight shirts on or other Air Force attire.

I looked outside and saw that the rain had slowed but not stopped completely.

The first half of the flight to Houston was not good.  At all.  The weather tossed us about, and we were required to wear our seat belts for a good portion of the trip.  I prayed like crazy.  I’m a big fan of the old show Lost.  Unfortunately, I’d watched too much of it.

The skies did clear up three quarters of the way there.  I was extremely relieved to see the light-dappled horizon peeking over the clouds.

Landing in Houston was a relief.  So much so that Rooster’s girl and I did a bit of browsing in the shops.  We found a candy store called Dylan’s Candy Bar.  I guess it must be famous.  When you live in Podunk, USA, you aren’t always in the know about such things.  The merchandise certainly wasn’t cheap, but if you’re a sugar addict, this is the place to be!  I bought a few goodies…vegan candy bars and this cute container that I filled with cherry candy.  Yum!

Our connecting flight was much smoother.  We were able to enjoy refreshments served by kind flight attendants.

We did have one hiccup when we were very close to home.  As we circled around the beach, I felt the plane begin to climb instead of descend.  I knew the airport was nearby, so I didn’t understand.  The pilot came on the PA system and announced that, “there was a little problem,” and we were going to gain some altitude to run some tests.

Say what?  At that point, I wanted to be home.  I mean, I would have gladly stayed in San Antonio to be close to my boy, but since the Air Force has a policy that mamas can’t stay on base forever (I’m kidding…sort of), home it had to be for me.  I didn’t want there to be a problem with the plane (remember my love of the show Lost?).  Ugh.

Fortunately, we weren’t up too much longer and made a smooth landing.

I might have kissed the ground if the Mr. wouldn’t have been embarrassed.

We made our way home…dropping of Rooster’s girl en route.  The dogs were beside themselves when we walked in the door.  They were happy to have their people back again.

My heart was in Texas, though.  Even the drive home from the airport had reminded me of what a different world my son had entered into…one that was faster paced.  If you’ve ever driven around San Antonio, you understand what I mean.  We had come home via back roads…it’s the country way of life for us.

It took me awhile to process all that we had been through from last July, when Rooster had told us he was enlisting, through BMT, and then finally during graduation.

We’d all become a part of something bigger.  Rooster’s decision has broadened our worldview.  I cannot hear the name of a base without thinking of the servicemen there…the jobs they may be doing…the families back home waiting and praying for them.

I never fully understood why people went quite so crazy over parades…or other patriotic events.  Yes, I have always loved America, but boy did I take things for granted.

I will be that crazy lady who has a lot of red, white, and blue in her wardrobe and has a lot of decorations (sorry, Rooster, but this mama is fully invested now).  I have already become the woman who tears up when I hear the National Anthem played.  When I see an Air Force sticker on a car, I want to find the owner and ask if they’ve served or have a loved one serving.  Seeing an Airman in uniform, whether it’s ABUs or formal dress, will forever make me want to reach out and hug that person in gratitude (I’ll try to hold back).

I am so proud to say that I am an Air Force mom.

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.

Four Weeks Ago – Town Liberty

Four weeks ago, we were spending the Saturday of BMT graduation weekend with our boy.

I put on a couple of pins I’d purchased the day before at the BX.

I’d purchased four of them, unable to make up my mind.

There were no ceremonies to attend that day, so we sat at the mini mall and waited for Rooster to arrive.  His dorm was right beside us.

We were eager.  So were other parents.  The place was packed!  You could hear the excitement as we began seeing Airmen arrive.  They were all decked out in their blues…the uniform of the day.  Most were wearing short sleeves because it was so hot.  Rooster was wearing his new Air Force jacket.  He looked so dapper!

We quickly headed out, not wanting to waste a minute!

The first order of business was taking pictures.  Rooster’s girl wanted to have some pictures taken at the parade grounds, so although it was overcast, that’s where we went.

There wasn’t anyone else around, so we didn’t feel self conscious.  I took a lot of pictures.

This is a panorama I took…

I saw this monument, a tribute to the four legged soldiers who help in the fight to secure our freedom.

We decided to drive back to the Riverwalk.  We weren’t exactly sure what our plans were, though.

On the way, I remembered that the USO has a branch there, and that they serve lunch on Saturdays.  After parking the car, we walked the rest of the way there.

I continued to be amazed by the people who thanked Rooster for his service as they passed by.  ❤

The USO was a welcome sight.  I’ve always heard good things about this organization.

The volunteers who greeted us were friendly, and their smiles were genuine.  We saw this sign by the front desk…

This place was so homey!  There were several rooms in it, all furnished with comfortable seating and other amenities such as gaming systems, televisions, and computers.

It’s hard to believe that this place is run through generous donations!!

We decided not to eat lunch there.  Instead, we headed to the Saltgrass Steakhouse, which Rooster had heard a fellow Airman rave about.  Getting there was an interesting adventure.  Google Maps didn’t help a whole lot.  Eventually, we found our way back to the Riverwalk, where the restaurant was located.

All I can say about the place is WOW!  The service was incredible!  From the time we walked in, we were made to feel special.  Rooster, especially, got the star treatment, as he should have.  He wasn’t the only new Airman dining there.  It made my heart soar to see how kind everyone was toward him and how humbly he took the attention.

The food was delicious!  Yes, it was pricey, but it was worth every penny!  We left with full bellies and another precious memory to tuck away.

After lunch, we made our way back to our car and, ultimately, back to the hotel.  Rooster was exhausted, as were we.  Everyone needed a rest.

On the way back to the car, we saw this…

All was fun until we saw the poop the horse left behind.  Yuck!  What a stink!

Getting back to the hotel didn’t take long.  We’d gotten fairly comfortable navigating the roads by then.

We gave Rooster time to nap while I went on another mission…yarn store hunting!  I’d found one conveniently close to the hotel and got the Mr. and his mom to go with me.

This store was located in a strip mall.  What a hidden treasure!  I should have taken a picture of the inside, but I forgot.  When I walked in, there must have been a class going on because there were quite a few people sitting on couches knitting!!  All I wanted to do was look at the yarn, and what an assortment!  The store owner directed me to a section of locally dyed yarn, which I was all about since it was, after all, like a vacation, and buying something locally made would count as a souvenir.

I couldn’t make up my mind and bought three skeins…

The yarn was dyed according to themes.  I couldn’t pass up the Gambit…it was meant to be since Rooster’s dog’s name is Gambit.  I loved the Jedi.  I am a huge Star Wars ban.  I loved the skein you see below.  I’m all about Harry Potter!

By the time we got back to the hotel, Rooster was awake.  We decided to head to dinner.  We knew we would probably have to wait in line, and we wanted to make sure we got him back in time for his curfew.  The Air Force is very strict with curfews; Airmen, even recently graduated, can get recycled back if they break such rules.

We ate a little fancier that night…an early celebration of Rooster’s birthday.  He wouldn’t be turning 22 until that Monday, the 30th, but we wouldn’t be with him that day (sniff, sniff).

The place was PACKED.  I was nervous about getting served in ample time to get him back; however, a quick conversation with our server alleviated that concern.  She must have had a chat with someone in the kitchen because our food came out very quickly.

Rooster and his girl even got dessert…a luxury.  He was full when he finished.

Mission accomplished.

We got him back in plenty of time to meet curfew.  He was, once again, tired.  The poor guy.  BMT is a stressful and strenuous training process.  Not only are future Airmen away from loved ones, but they are performing overnight security details and physical training exercises that most are not used to.  It’s no wonder that they crave sleep.

Turning out the lights that night was bittersweet.  I knew that Sunday would be my last day with my boy.  For the time being, I tried just to enjoy the time I had.  I didn’t want sadness to creep in and steal away my joy.

Four Weeks Ago – Graduation Parade

Four weeks ago, we were still in San Antonio…headed into our second day of graduation festivities.

After a good night’s sleep, we headed back to the base.  I was praying that the rain that had been forecast would stay away again.

I love the sight of sun rays peeking through the clouds. I think of them as God’s fingers reaching down to earth.

This day, a Friday, was the day families would see their Airmen in their dress blues during the Graduation Parade.  By the time we got there, and we thought we were arriving early, the stands were already filling up.  We weren’t sure where to sit…always the dilemma when a mama wants to get the best pictures of her baby.

Everyone took turns making trips to the bathroom.  Rooster’s girl and I took time out for a quick selfie…

You can see that the sky behind us was starting to clear up.

As more people arrived, a woman announced that there would be a practice parade.  Whew!  I sure was glad she said that because after the near-fiasco from the day before during what we’d thought was the Honor Grad Ceremony, knowing ahead of time that this wasn’t the real thing was much appreciated!


Eventually, we saw Airmen marching to the parade grounds.  They were a longgggggggg way off.  That field was humongous…larger than a football field.

I’d watched videos on YouTube, so I knew that they were marching from the dorms, quite a distance away, over a bridge, and toward us, their loved ones.

I used my camera to hunt for my boy, but I didn’t find him until the flights, led by flag bearers, formed up on the field.

Once again, I was glad I’d purchased my telephoto lens.  I was able to quickly locate Rooster.  Look at how incredible those men and women look.  I’ve always been partial to a man in a uniform.  This sight made my heart swell with pride, both as a mama and as an American.

The band played (did you know that the band during graduation consists of trainees placed in this special flight during their BMT training?), and other special maneuvers/marching drills were performed.  Then, the Airmen began marching across the field and past the bleachers.

Oh, y’all.  Once again, the tears are flowing as I’m looking at these pictures and recalling that morning.

I am a naturalized citizen.  I grew up in this country and became naturalized in 1997.

I’ve always had a special affinity for American history, have read dozens of historical novels, and took many history courses in college including a military history class for my history minor.

Watching this parade…the presentation of our national and state flags…the salute of our newly minted Airmen…their straight backs and perfectly-timed cadence…these sights made me grateful that I live in a country where others are willing to sacrifice everything to protect our freedom.

I walked to the end of my row in the bleachers so I could stand up without bothering anyone, and when my boy passed, you better believe that my camera was clicking away.

Isn’t it funny how God prepares you for little things?  I’d spent years taking pictures during Chicky’s soccer games…learned how to use the sports mode on my camera.  This knowledge came in handy during all of the ceremonies we attended during Rooster’s graduation.

I got quite a few pictures of my sweet guy.  Oh man, but did he look handsome!  Yes, we’d seen him in the button photo, but that did not do him justice.  His cap…his carefully pressed pants…new shiny shoes.

❤ ❤ ❤

There was, of course, a speech after the parade.  Then, there was the reciting of the Airman’s Creed.

Happy sigh.

I think I may have teared up again at this point.

And then…the words we were longing to hear…it was time to tap out our boy.  The Mr. and I were going to do the honors this time.

Rooster’s girl followed us, recording our Tap Out with the Mr.’s phone.

Oh y’all…the crowd.  It was CRAZY!  Families were rushing to get to their Airmen.  The Mr. was way too polite.  I would have shoved my way through like the Mama Bear that I am, but then again, I was raised in the South…i.e. Redneck Central.


We finally got to our boy, and oh man…the hugs.  Sure, they were a little sweaty because San Antonio has a humidity index of like 99.9% even in May…but who cares when it comes to hugging your child.

Rooster is such a sweet young man.  Once again, relief flooded his face.  “I was about to pass out,” he said.  Yeah, it was hot.

Project Tap Out Your Airman was now complete, and we had the REST OF THE DAY with our boy!

But first, the Dorm Open House.

During the Dorm Open House, loved ones are given a tour of the facilities where Airmen had spent the previous eight weeks.

It reminded me a lot of school open houses.

This room housed half of my son’s flight.  This was where he learned to make a bed properly and keep his belongings in order.

The first thing that struck me was how precisely his shoes were lined up.  Trainees are assigned jobs when they arrive at BMT.  One of those jobs is making sure shoes are lined up properly.  Oh yeah.  The Air Force is all about precision.

Look at the corners on this bed!  Rooster said he will never make his bed again after he gets out of tech school.

Every single thing has a certain place to go, including towels, PT clothes, and laundry bags.

Each trainee has a locker.  Clothes must be hung a certain distance apart.

Even their t-shirts and socks must be neatly rolled (the size of a soda can) and arranged in neat fashion!

Rooster got quite good at rolling shirts and traded his expertise for extra protein bars.  🙂

Each trainee has a locked security drawer that must also be kept in proper order.  They will earn demerits if things are out of place.

There was another room called the day room where briefings were held.  I saw this on one wall…

Rooster took us by the patio.  It was the place where his dorm got to call home, a benefit to being in “Alcatraz” as his dorm was called because of its age.  The newer dorms on base (known as Disneyland) don’t have the patios with pay phones; the older dorms do.  Trainees in the newer dorms have to go to the BX to call home…while waiting in line for the two or three phones that are there.  As you can see, Rooster’s patio area had a lot of phones.  His flight was very good about dividing up their free time into equal slots so everyone could call home.  The quality of the phone service was not great, but at least we still got to hear from our boy.

The next picture is the laundry room.  Rooster was the Laundry Chief, in charge of his flight’s laundry crew.  I got a good laugh when he first told us what his job was.  He’d been doing his own laundry at home for a number of years…back when he was in middle school even.  He’d been well prepared for this task and spent many, many hours in the room you see.  It was a great job and provided him with opportunities to study and write letters home while he was waiting for clothes to cycle through.

After touring the dorm, we were free to take Rooster off base for his town liberty.

What joy!!  This was the first time he’d left the base since he had arrived.  It was lunchtime, so we let him pick the place.  Where did he want to eat?  Panda Express!!!  It was right outside the base.

It was quite the experience, walking in with him dressed in his blues, for that was the uniform of the day.  I walked with my back a little straighter, so proud to be in the presence of this fine young man I’d raised…proud to show him off.

After lunch, we headed to the Riverwalk.  I had taken Rooster and Chicky to visit my dad many, many years ago, and we had flown into San Antonio and done Riverwalk, so I was a little familiar with it.  Visiting it again with my grown son was even more special.

There was a very large mall along the Riverwalk.  It provided respite from the heat and humidity. I was struck by the people who thanked my son for his service as we passed by.  Quite a few of them offered their congratulations.  San Antonio is a place that appreciates the military, let me tell you.

We made our way to the Riverwalk below street level and signed up for a boat tour…a must-do activity if you’re in San Antonio.

Our tour guide was a hoot and kept us in stitches the entire time.  He provided a lot of historical information about the various hotels, restaurants, and other buildings along our route.

Look at the gargoyles on the next building!

I loved the flags that adorned the end of the boat…

The mural on the next building (I think it was a fine arts center) was incredible!

After the boat tour, we decided to visit the Alamo, which was right off of the Riverwalk.

There is no fee to enter, if you can believe that.

We found a lush green area outside of the Alamo and snapped a few photos after we had toured inside.  Those are some of my favorite pictures, my Airman son looked so handsome.

We were hot and tired after the Alamo, so we headed back to the hotel for a brief rest.  Rooster took a short nap on the couch.  One of the things that most Airmen want during graduation is sleep.  Watching him rest made me tear up, as I am right now just writing this (yes, I’ve become a blubbering fool, I fear).  Do you remember watching your babies sleep when they were little?  I have a secret to share with you.  When they are grown and wearing an Air Force uniform, you still get emotional watching them sleep.  Gosh, but I love my kids.


After he woke up, we left for our next adventure.  Graduating Airmen are granted one late night, upon prior approval, during a town liberty to attend one of two events that have been agreed upon beforehand.  Rooster had the choice of attending a WMBA game on Friday night or a minor league baseball game on Saturday night.  Because of the dire weather predictions, he’d selected the basketball game because it would be inside.  Although he was tired, he didn’t want to miss the chance to spend more time with us.

What a fun experience!!!  I’d never been to a professional basketball game before.  We saw several new Airmen at the game, and I was, again, moved to tears during the national anthem when I saw, for the first time, my boy saluting the flag.

I looked around and saw all of the uniform-clad men and women doing the same thing.

I’d never paid much attention to that before.  It will never go unnoticed again.  These men and women will forever salute the flag, even after they retire.  It’s become a part of who they are.

The game itself was so much fun!!  Everything about it, from the music to the crowd to the videos displayed on the large screen in the middle made this night a memorable one.

One little girl in the crowd went nuts when she saw herself on the big screen, and boy, did that girl dance for the camera.  It was hysterical!!!  Her mom sat behind her with her hands over her eyes.  Priceless.

I snapped a selfie of myself, Rooster, and his girl.  He raised one of his eyebrows in the picture…so classically my Rooster…every the comedian.  One of my fears when he left for BMT was that he would lose part of who he was.  I was afraid that the harsh training would scour away that part of his personality.  My fears were for nothing, for he was the same sarcastic yet loving son he’d been before he walked away from the car that April day.

He was exhausted when we took him back to the base.  The boy had been conditioned to going to bed by 9pm each night, and it was about 10:00.

Dropping him off was easy again, for I knew I’d get to see him the next day.  It’s funny how a mama’s heart rests much easier when she knows that her babies are in the same city.  I don’t remember dreaming about anything that night.  I just remember that I slept soundly for the second night in a row.

Four Weeks Ago – The Coin Ceremony

Four weeks ago, I woke up at o’dark thirty to begin one of the most emotional days of my life.

It was going to be the first time I’d seen and hugged my boy in eight weeks.

I carefully dressed, having picked out my clothes the night before.  “N” and I put on the pins I’d ordered a few weeks before.  These pins had our boy’s photo on them…the first look we’d gotten of him in his dress blues.  Trainees get their official photos taken during either week three or week four (I can’t remember which now).  Many people order the pins to wear during graduation as a show of support.

For the purposes of my boy’s safety, I’ve pixelated his photo.  🙂

As we ate breakfast in the hotel lobby, we saw others there.  They were obviously headed to the same place we were, their t-shirts evidence of the upcoming festivities that they, too, would be attending.

We had all of the things we would need for the day…camera, umbrella, and other essentials I’d heard would be good to have on hand.

We headed out.  It was dark, but our hearts were light.

The anticipation, y’all.

We arrived in record time and waited outside the Reception Center in a longgggggg line to get in.  The Reception Center is host to family and spouse briefings that give overviews of what the Airmen have been doing, what to expect during graduation weekend, and other bits of information for later.

We could see which heritage flights our Airmen had been placed into (different from the flights they’d been training with).  Heritage flights are named after notable Air Force people.  Airmen are placed in these flights according to the jobs they will be training for, and this is how loved ones can locate them during graduation exercises.  We already knew which flight Rooster was in because he’d told us during one of his phone calls home the prior week.

We had decided to attend the 7am briefing.  As we waited in our seats, clips from a BMT (the abbreviation for Basic Military Training) video were showing.  The video included snippets of newly arrived trainees getting the infamous haircuts, the first and second issuing of uniforms, and other glimpses into their training.

After that, we were treated to lots of information about photos, insurance, and other things I’ve since forgotten.

The most important thing we got was a hard copy of the schedule and a map of the heritage flights.  These would become as valuable as Siri during our weekend.

One of the cool things about the Reception Center was that when the briefing was over, the large windows in the front of the room we were in opened up, and we were able to walk out onto the course that would play host to the Airman’s Run, the Honor Grad Ceremony, and the Coin Ceremony.

Yes, y’all, it was going to be a busy morning!

As we walked out, I led our party to the spot I’d picked out for the run.  I had spent over two months reading posts in my support group (I mentioned this group in yesterday’s post).  I knew the best place to stand to see my boy.

Oh, but maybe I should first explain what the Airman’s Run is.

So, what happens with the run is that the Airmen run in with the flights they’ve been training with for the past eight weeks.  They wear either their flight shirts, which have a specific color and logo for each flight, or their PT shirts.  Most wear the flight shirts, which makes it easy to spot your loved ones.

As they run into the stadium area, those watching start yelling.  The Airman are singing their Jodies (military songs to keep them in tempo).

I’d seen the videos that other parents had posted in my support group each week, so I thought I knew what to expect.

Let me tell you…watching those videos and experiencing the run for myself…these were two completely different things.

I’m going to post the videos that the Mr. took below, but you have to understand that they don’t convey both the excitement and the pride that filled our hearts.  I imagine that this must be what it’s like to experience an Olympic event.

Yes, folks, it was that incredible.

Everyone yelled for every Airman.  We knew what they had accomplished…the angst of walking into an unknown world…getting yelled out by MTIs (military training instructors) whose only goal was to shape their charges into those worthy to wear the Air Force emblem…long security details…BEAST week…classes in weaponry and military history, with an end of course exam at the end…a final PT exam…expectations of loved ones back home…so much emotion wrapped up in that first opportunity to see one another, if only for a second.

Here are the videos (please excuse the woman standing to my right in the first video…she was a little cray-cray…LOL).

It was a little nerve-wracking…hunting for our boy.  They all looked alike!  We finally found him though.

Airmen run in, run past the stands that are arranged in a semi-circle, and then double back for a second pass (my video below).  Rooster caught the Mr.’s eye as he passed by the second time and gave a slight smile, which I have in a still shot I captured from the video.

The run was over much quicker than I wanted, but these men and women were headed back to their dorms to shower and change into their ABUs (camo) for the two ceremonies ahead.

While they prepared themselves, we secured seats in the stands.  I posted updates and photos in my support group and got to meet other moms I’d talked to online.  Hugging their necks and sharing the day with the people who I’d cried with the past few weeks was so special.  Technology is often blamed for the bad things in this world; however, these meet-ups would never have happened without it.  Strong bonds had been forged.  Forever bonds.

I also prayed that the rain would not come.  There had been dire weather predictions…lots of rain in the forecast…but I’d been praying all week that the rain would stay away.  Ceremonies can get cancelled or moved when it rains.

Around 10am, something very special happened.  We saw a small group of Airmen, in their ABUs, start marching across the concourse.  It was, we thought, the Honor Grad Ceremony.  We were upset, though, because Rooster’s girl was inside at a briefing.  Ok.  Actually, we were mortified that she was missing it.  It was strange, though, because their names weren’t announced, and it seemed…well…underwhelming for such a special occasion.  Coincidentally, N texted me during the “ceremony” and asked if I’d seen Rooster.  I had to confess that we were sitting in the Honor Grad Ceremony.  She was horrified and rushed out of her briefing to join us.  Yeah, we were mad.

This story ends well, though.

Let me back up a second though.  First of all, you have to understand what it means to be an Honor Grad.  This is a very special designation, awarded to only 10% of those who graduate from Basic Training.  It has stringent requirements…a high score on the PT (physical training) evaluation…a high score on the EOC…a certain number of points during inspections (demerits take away from the points)…recommendations from MTIs.  An Honor Graduate is awarded a ribbon that that will be worn for the rest of the Airman’s career.  Yeah.  It’s a big deal.

In addition, Honor Graduates get a town pass the Sunday of graduation weekend…more time off base with loved ones.

They are recognized during a special ceremony.

Rooster had set his sights on this award in the early days of Basic Training.  We knew he was smart enough.  We also knew that there would be tough competition for this coveted designation.

Well, y’all, he had called us the afternoon before…shortly after we had settled in the hotel…and shared that HE HAD MADE HONOR GRAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think other hotel visitors could have heard us yell out in joy.

There were quite a few in his flight who had earned this award.  He’d had a terrific crew during training.  They’d all pushed each other and worked together to receive extra patio time, which meant extra phone calls home, and other designations.

He really wanted that town pass too.  I’d like to think he’d been missing his mama.  The truth is that he’d been missing his girl the most.  I can’t blame him.  She’s rather sweet; they are good for each other.

And so it was that we sat during what turned out to be PRACTICE for the Honor Grad Ceremony.  Whew!  I later deleted the pictures I’d been taking.

At 10:30 on the dot, we saw drummers.

As they started playing, the Honor Grads began filing out.  The stands were full by this time.  THIS was the real Honor Grad Ceremony.

We watched as our Rooster marched out.

Oh y’all…how I wished I could run out and hug his sweet neck, but he was all business…his face set firmly as he’d been taught.  Everything was about maintaining military bearing.

They stopped, turned in unison, and waited while their names were called out (this was something that had not been done during “practice”).  Each Airman stepped forward.  The crowd waited to applaud so each name could be heard.

Then, the top graduating Airman was announced.  It was a young man from Rooster’s flight!!!!!  What an amazing guy.  We had the honor of meeting him later and ran into him several times during the weekend.  He was humble; his family simply delightful.  He’d changed his life around so much from when he was a teenager, his mom told me.  Rooster genuinely respected him.

The Honor Grads marched out to quickly join their heritage flights, and shortly thereafter, all of the flights began marching in.

The MTIs wore the brimmed hats…very intimidating looking…

With the help of my new telephoto lens, I quickly located Rooster.  I took a LOT of pictures…especially while the Airmen were getting coined.  The coin signifies an Airman’s official graduation.  It’s very similar to a diploma.  Airmen can get coined for a number of reasons and by different people.  Rooster got coined twice…once for graduation and again for his Honor Grad status.

During the coining, music played overhead.  I started crying when I heard Lee Greenwood’s “Proud to be an American.”  Watching my Rooster accept his coin and hearing the words in this song made for one proud mama.

After the coining, there was a special, special moment…the reciting of the Airman’s Creed.

Y’all.  These words.  They will forever make you grateful for those serving in the military…their willingness to sacrifice EVERYTHING for their country.

Right at the end of the coining, an Air Force plane flew overhead…an impromptu fly-over…

I was also growing eager.  My arms were twitching.  I need to hug my boy!  First, though, there was other business to be taken care of…the lowering of the flag.  The lowering of the flag marks the end of the working day.  That, in itself, was powerful to watch…the precision…the respect.

And then…the moment every single person had been waiting for…

TAP OUT!!!!!!!!

I’m not talking about the tap out that ultimate fighters do to say they’ve had enough.

I’m talking about what happens when Airmen are standing at parade rest and a loved one releases the Airman by tapping them/touching them/hugging them.

Google for videos.  I have my own, which I can’t share because I’ve been asked to keep my boy safe.

This moment…it is the most longed-for and one of the most emotional of the entire weekend.

There are actually two tap outs…one after the Coin Ceremony and the other after the Graduation Parade on Friday.

We’d agreed to allow Rooster’s girl to have the first tap out.  Our video, which friends and family have seen on Facebook, show her leading the way with me pulling on her purse strap to slow her down.  I had my phone out to take pictures, and the Mr. followed and videoed on his phone.

The reunion…in the midst of the other Airmen standing in formation…I have a whole new respect for families who have loved ones serving in the military.  The separation is hard; the joy when you see your family member is indescribable.

It’s a moment I will never forget.

Rooster’s face when he saw his girl…her head buried in his chest…oh my.

He quickly left the ranks to allow other Airmen space to hug their loved ones, and I dropped everything to hug my precious son.

I’m crying as I type this.  The memories are as fresh as if this hug had happened just moments ago.

My tall, camo-clad son had grown in stature.  His strong arms wrapped around me, and he patted me on the back as I clung to him and then kissed his cheek.

“Y’all are crazy,” I heard him say afterward.

I chuckled.

Yes, we were.  We were crazy proud of him!!  We’d been crazily missing him.  We were crazy-happy to be in his presence again.

We began to make our way to the Reception Center.  Rooster stopped many times to congratulate fellow Airmen.

You could see the relief on his face.

We now had our boy for the ENTIRE day for base liberty!  What that meant was that we could go anywhere with him on base…he could ride in the car with us…but we couldn’t leave the base.  Not a problem!  He had not seen much of the base because trainees weren’t allowed to go certain places.

He had to run an errand first, so we took him there first.  I think we then went to lunch at the Gateway Club, which served in a cafeteria-style setting.  The decor of the club was posh…so fancy.  It was the first chance we’d had to really talk to Rooster, and it was his first real chance to sit and eat slowly.  What a joy to be eating a meal with him!  You take such things for granted until those times are taken away from you.

Later, we visited a museum.  It has a large flag that is a photo op for many.  We also took photos in front of it, my boy’s closely shaved head something I was still getting used to.  The boy left with a head full of hair.

We also made our way to a couple of different BXs.

One was located at the mini-mall beside his dorm.  I loved driving around base with him while he played tour guide.

The following picture was his dorm.  I found it strange that it was built up on stilts, so to speak.  Trainees do a lot of drills underneath the barracks; the shade provides much needed respite from the weather, be it high temperatures or heavy rain.

We saw trainees walking around…some in two’s and three’s…others in full groups.  Rooster could tell which week many of them were in.  Trainees are paired with wingmen…other trainees who have their six, so to speak.  They cannot walk anywhere without a wingman.  Rooster grew close to his wingman.  His family was just lovely; the young man a gem of a guy.

I took this photo of the water tower because it had the Air Force name on it…another reminder of where we were.

While we were at one of the BXs, we purchased a new pair of boots for Rooster…a combo graduation/birthday gift.

Most new Airmen buy new boots.  The ones they are issued for BMT are extremely heavy.  The ones we bought Rooster (he would later take these back after we bought him a nicer pair off base) were uber-comfortable.  He was pleased.

We visited one of the larger BXs on base and had a lot of fun just being normal with our boy.  He was pretty tired but hung tough.

As we walked around, I was touched by other trainees we would cross paths with…the respect they showed toward my boy…them saying, “Congratulations, Sir.”  Just wow.

We ate dinner at the BX…fast food, which was fine…and basically just enjoyed our boy.  There wasn’t a lot to do.  Even though the base had a bowling alley and a movie theater, we followed Rooster’s lead and acquiesced to his requests.  The weekend was all about him.

The day passed quickly, and before we knew it, we had to bid farewell to our boy.  This goodby was easy, though, because we would be seeing him again the next day.

I slept better that night than I had in months.  I was a completely happy but exhausted mama.

Four Weeks Ago

Four weeks ago, today, the Mr., Rooster’s girl, and I were preparing for a BIG trip.

You see, eight weeks prior, we had bid farewell to our favorite young man.

He had left to begin his career in the Air Force.

Step 1:  Attend Basic Training.

The goodbye had been one of the hardest things I’d ever done as a mama.  I’d taken the day off of work because I had known I wouldn’t be in any shape to return to school that day after hugging him for the last time.

Fortunately, I’d joined a support group on Facebook.  This group (website is here), which I’m still a part of, has become a second family to me and has been invaluable during this journey.

One of the things that helped was crossing each day off of a calendar.

As you can see, I marked the days we received letters and phone calls.

Oh word, but the letters.  I have saved every single one of them.  In this day and age of text messages and Snapchats, receiving old-fashioned, hand-written letters was priceless.

My favorite letter was the one Rooster wrote me for Mother’s Day.  Y’all.  The tears.  They were plentiful.

Packing was easy.  I’d been setting aside my clothes that entire week.  I made sure to include some new bling that a gal on Etsy had made especially for me.

And so it was that on May 25, we loaded up the car and headed to the airport.

I’m really fortunate in that I work for a wonderful principal who didn’t even bat an eye when I asked for several days off…right at the end of the school year when things get crazy.  Seriously, though.  Shout-out to my school’s administration and my fellow teachers.

Back to my story.

The airport.  Butt crack of dawn. We were on our way to see our boy, so it was worth it.

Rooster’s girl is getting used to selfies.  She was so sweet and took quite a few with me during the weekend.  This is us at the airport in Podunk, USA.

We flew Southwest.  They’re very accommodating if you need to change your flight date (which we had to consider when making our reservations because issues can arise during Basic Training and set trainees back sometimes).  One of the neat benefits of flying Southwest was access to live TV!  I had taken my iPad, so we were able to watch Chopped.

It was a beautiful day for flying!  We had to catch a connecting flight in Houston, which you can see below.

We were so excited when we landed in San Antonio!

Knowing that we were in the same city as Rooster was emotional (weird, but what can I say).

We stayed at a Residence Inn.  The room was spacious and gorgeous!

The staff was very kind; the cleaning staff needed better training.  Our rooms were not cleaned consistently…they had some major issues in this department.  Still, the hotel was close to the base.

By the time we got settled, we were ready to get dinner, so after a search on Google, I found a restaurant with a menu I could eat from (being vegan presents its challenges), and we headed out.

After an interesting drive through some not so great areas, we arrived at The Cove.

We were, at first, behind it.  Not good because it’s located adjacent to a laundromat.  Once we figured out the problem, we parked where we were supposed to and entered the restaurant.

It’s an inside/outside establishment with a cool courtyard that has a playground and an area for outside entertainment.

Y’all, this place was neat in so many ways!!!  This chalkboard was located below the menu.  Isn’t it cool?

Here’s the menu…

I spy more than one vegan option!!!

I wish we had this restaurant in my city.  I’d totally eat there every week.  For the time being, I selected the Vegan Bacon Cheeseburger.

On our way inside to order, I saw this sign…

How cool is that?

Inside, I saw these t-shirts.  No, I didn’t buy any, but I did consider it.

We placed our orders and sat down to wait.

The place had a long bar, long tables, and a stage for entertaining.

I snacked on hummus while I waited for the food to arrive.  When it did, oh boy.  Yum!

What a delicious “burger!!”  I was so full when I finished!

We headed back to the hotel to take it easy before the next day of events; however, after reading some things on my support group page, I decided that I needed one more thing before graduation ceremonies started the next day.

I knew that viewing my boy would be an issue.  They say that the Airmen all look the same in their uniforms, and because we’d be sitting in bleachers, I didn’t think I’d be able to get good pictures with my camera…

A new lens was needed.  I googled the location of the nearest Best Buy, which was about a quarter mile away, and begged the Mr. to take me.  He finally agreed, and I purchased this…

I can’t say that I know a lot about cameras, but the sales associate assured me that given the task I wanted to perform, this would do the trick.

Just wait until you see pictures in my next few posts.  They made the hefty price tag worth every single penny.

We turned off the lights fairly early because our alarms would be going off even earlier than the butt crack of dawn.

My heart was at peace as I drifted into Dream Land.  I was, for the first time in weeks, a few scant miles from my boy.  I was on a final countdown.

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