I am back from an 8 day trip to South Carolina and Baltimore. Jesse told us a few months ago that he understood if we couldn't come to his graduation from boot camp. He said there was one other guy from his platoon of 50 who didn't have family coming either. So Greg and I decided that one of us should be there. Greg had to teach at Moody Bible Institute, Spokane the day of the graduation, so we decided that I should go. We used points to pay for my ticket.
At the end of April Jesse phoned and told us he had been interviewed because he was being considered as "soldier of the cycle." In a call a few days later he told us that out of the 250 soldiers in his company, he was chosen as the soldier of the cycle. That meant that he was the top overall soldier. They counted points for physical fitness, marksmanship skills, leadership and military knowledge. Others were honored in the first 3 of those categories, but Jesse received the overall recognition. This was a huge honor, so we started to think and pray about Greg going. He still had to teach, but a week before, the president of Moody asked Greg if he would go if someone could cover his class. Greg was able to find a flight with miles at exactly the time he would need to get there. That was a miracle!
So I flew to Laura in Baltimore, and as a mother's day gift, she drove herself and me to Columbia, SC where we stayed with Bill and Debby Jones. Bill is the president of Columbia International University and gave Laura and me a personal tour of the campus. Greg was delayed and arrived the next morning at 8:40 after flying all night. Laura dropped me off and then went to get Greg at the airport. Thursday was family day and the soldiers had to stay on base that day.
So let me tell you about how Family Day started... I was in the stands sitting in VIP seating since Jesse was an honor grad. There was a man who sang patriotic songs like, "Born to Be An American," for about a half hour. Then, the sound went out for about 10 minutes. After a few speakers, Greg and Laura arrived. The man sang one more patriotic song. While he sang, there were firework sounding explosions in the woods and smoke billowed. Then out of the smoke emerged first flags and then 3 companies of 200-250 soldiers each. (See photos)
Then they were in formation in front of us and we were told they had to stay in formation until we went down on the field to get them. We split up and I found him first. He picked me up and hugged me and spun me around and we both had tears. He was very exited to see Greg and then Laura as well as me. We toured the base on a bus, and Laura and I went off base and got him a Starbucks drink while he hung out with Greg. We talked and let him tell us stories and he answered our questions and introduced us to his battle buddies. We went to a dinner on base with some of Jesse's buddies and their families. We saw his sleep bay and met a couple of his drill sergeants.
On Friday morning we were back in VIP seating again at 9:00 for the graduation ceremony. The soldiers marched over in formation with the color guard leading the honor grads. They announced Jesse's name and he was right in the front center. The honor grads went under a tent afterwards and the family members lined up behind each one. We are so grateful that we were there to stand behind him! Then the officers shook hands with each of them and as they did, they placed a coin in their hands. These coins/metals are a huge honor. You can see them in the picture.
We hung out with Jesse all day and drove to Charleston since he was allowed off base. We had a wonderful day. We left him Friday night and he flew to AZ for his next stage of training. He flew there with about 150 from Ft. Jackson. Out of all of those, he is the only one who has begun the interrogation training. The rest are waiting for several weeks waiting for a spot. Jesse's test today went well. He now is allowed to use his phone in the evenings. We were struck by how serious Jesse is about this job with the Army. He is very mature. And he says, "Sir" and "Mam" when he speaks. He had lots of stories.
Greg had a hard time getting home. He tried to fly out on Saturday morning and had to wait until Sunday morning to start and got home at midnight on Sunday night. He has a cough and laryngitis right now...I drove to Delaware with Laura on Saturday so she could catch up with her Bible study friends for a beach retreat. I was with them and headed back to Baltimore on Sunday evening. After spending 2 days with her, I flew back to Spokane on Wednesday.
Well, there is my soldier story. We are proud of Jesse and how he is taking hold of his future. I am going to sign off and get to bed. Blessings to all of you! Nancy