I am still so emotional about this day that I'm not even sure I can put my feelings into words. I don't know what I can say to you that will convey the feelings and emotions, the love and devotion, or the depth of gratitude I feel.
The day was beyond hot. (91 degrees at 7:30 in the morning and 80% humidity!) And it was so humid outside; it was like stepping into a steam shower as soon as you went outside. We drove the few short miles over to the National Infantry Museum where they were to have the ceremonies on the Parade Field. This field is unique in that it's soil is composed of soils from some of the most famous battlefields throughout the world includingYorktown, Corregidor, Hill 180, LZ X-Ray, Korea, Vietnam, the beaches of Normandy, and multiple locations in Iraq and Afghanistan. This field honors soldiers both past and present.
As we were walking towards the bleachers to find a seat (yes, if you know Dennis we were there plenty early. But I have to say it was probably hard for him to hold me back from getting in the car 2 hours early!) so...as we're walking up to the seating section, the boys are doing a rehearsal march around the field. I spot our boy right off the bat. Second row from the back, right on the outside edge. My heart literally stops for a second. All I can do is look at him in awe. Literally! He sees me out of the corner of his eye...doesn't smile but I can see the brightness in his eyes and he gives me a little wink. You don't know how incredibly hard it was not to shout out his name!!
After an hour or so wait the fun begins!!! All of a sudden there is machine gun fire, what sounded like grenades exploding, and then lots of different colored green smoke rising in the distance. As you looked at the smoke you could see soldiers emerging. Not just any soldiers. These were U.S. Army Infantrymen...in full gear....coming towards us in a V formation. The second time my heart stopped that day.
After this presentation and a description each of their weapons and the jobs of each of the 8 men in the Rifle Brigade, the boys (okay, just know I'm probably always going to call them boys when I talk about them....but they are men in every sense of the word!) start to march out on the field; Echo Company on the left and Alpha Company on the right. They march in by platoons (1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th). Our son was in 1st platoon, and having seen him marching earlier I knew just where to look.
After a beautiful program and presentation, they were marched in front of us off the parade field and in front of the National Infantry Museum where they took the company photo in front of the "Iron Mike" statue.
Ready for my heart to stop for the 3rd time that morning, we are excused to go find our son. We make the walk (which seemed like it took forever!!) and there are just tons of people everywhere. When we get up to where the boys are, I think it took us less than a minute to find him. I'm not sure if we spotted him first or he spotted us first. He ran over to us and lifted me up with a hug that said more than a million words could ever say. We didn't want to let go. My heart stopped....again...and I cried. So many thoughts...so many emotions. This was my son, my baby...in uniform...and HUGE! LOL...he had gained 20 plus pounds of pure muscle!! I can't tell you how handsome and grown up he looked. And he just had this different air about him...his countenance was changed. It was strong, it was reverent, it was regal.
After meeting several of his friends and their families, we spent the next couple hours touring the museum, which in and of itself needs a full post of it's own just describe! The first thing he wanted though.....was a cold drink and a hotdog! LOL...he was starving and all he had had since 0430 that morning was an MRE. He said it was the best hotdog he's ever had. The rest of the day was spent touring, eating, shopping, eating, watching "Batman" at the IMAX theater in the museum, and..yes...more eating! The day ended way too soon. We had to have him back to barracks by 2100 (9:00 p.m.). Another emotional goodbye. I asked him how many times he was going to make me say goodbye to him like this. He answered, "Probably at least a few more." And then he laughed at me for crying.
Once again, I am so thankful to a loving Heavenly Father for keeping him safe, for giving us all the strength, courage, and faith we needed to get through this part of the journey. After seeing him, talking with him, being with him, seeing how much he's grown and how happy he is..I just can't imagine him doing anything else with his life right now. I'm thankful to my son for letting me be part of this adventure with him. I'm thankful for his unconditional love. I'm thankful for being given the sacred and joyous opportunity of being his Mom. And I'm thankful for the U.S. Army for helping him become what he really wanted to be........a soldier.
And....the journey continues....
Where brave men fight...there fight I. In freedom's cause...I live, I die. From Concord Bridge to Heartbreak Ridge, from Arctic to the Mekong, to the Caribbean...the Queen of Battle! Always ready...then, now, and forever.
I am the Infantry! FOLLOW ME!