Thursday, May 20, 2010

Jesse Graduated from Basic Training with Honors!

Dear friends,

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

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dear friends,

I have been busy since I last wrote! Last Thursday, after my second left knee shot, I headed to the airport and hopped my way across the country to Pittsburgh.

A while ago, we got a letter from Grove City College saying that Jenni was going to receive an award during Parents' Weekend and be invited to join the college version of the National Honor Society. GPA, leadership and service were the measuring standards. They had planned a breakfast for the students, and as a surprise, the parents were invited to attend and watch the award ceremony. Afterward there was a convocation for academic awards which I got to attend also.

I asked Jenni's godparents if they could attend on our behalf for Jenni, and they instead offered to give me a plane ticket to attend myself! Greg was unable to go because of teaching. I had a wonderful time with Jenni and got to meet her friends and be there for the first time during college. There was a luncheon for the New Grace, the singing group ministry she is in. That was a real highlight. They are amazing to hear!

While there I got a call from Jesse. He had some news. Of all the soldiers in this boot camp basic training cycle, Jesse has been named the top soldier out of 250. He will be presented with a metal on the 14th at his graduation. I am planning to be there and he said he will be sitting on the platform so I will be able to see him. He had to read materials, 50 pages or so, tell them his biographical information and answer questions during a two hour interview. At the beginning they told him they thought he was a smart alleck. The instructors and drill sergeants began to realize that he had leadership skills. While most of the others had one word or sentence comments from them, Jesse had a paragraph from each one. Jesse didn't think they even knew his name!

I met with the nutritionist at the oncology office on Tuesday afternoon for 3 1/2 hours. She was amazing. I am going to write details next time, becasue there is so much great stuff. In short, she gave me a lot of very practical help about diet and understanding the link between all the things going on with my bladder, leaky gut, adrenals and pancreas, etc. Where to start and lots of hope for healing. She is a treasure and blessing to me- a provision from the Lord. I really will share more about that later. Lots of great stuff. Blessings and good night- Nancy