Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Off We Go Into the Wild Blue Yonder...

Last week we took an unusual holiday break from our every day life here at the Olsson/Davis home. We got up early, boarded a plane, and set out for the great state of Texas.
The original plan was for the older three girls and me to fly out to enjoy Nathan's graduation from Basic Training. But, Nate called a month before and asked if there was anyway that we could all come out. In fact, he graciously paid for his younger siblings to make the trek to Texas.
Brown Sugar and Foley had not been on a plane since they came to America almost four years ago. They were both excited.
The above picture is of Brown Sugar playing with her "computer" that she created with a single piece of paper. She had drawn a keyboard and all. This little creation of hers kept her busy for a good half an hour which, for anyone who has a toddler knows, is a long time. Talk about kids growing up with one point she said she was Skyping with a friend of ours!

Everyone loves to fly in our family!
Thursday found us up at the crack of dawn hoping to catch a glimpse of Nate among the 800+ Airmen running in the graduation run.
We could not have asked for better weather. It was a bit cool in the morning and evening but during the day it hovered around 80 degrees. What a blessing!

While we were waiting for the run to start we got to see two groups of recruits. One had already had their heads shaved and were waiting to get their uniforms while the other group was waiting to get their heads shaved. It was kind of fun to see the differences between these two groups and the one that would be graduating that day.

We were all anxious to see our loved one running down the street. They ran while chanting their group's chant...I know that is so not the right word but I just can't think of what they call those jingles!
Anyway, Phil had the brilliant idea of lifting Brown Sugar up on his shoulders which then enabled Nate to find us among the crowd of people. We spotted him on the first time down the road but were happy to find out that they run back down the road so that we could see his smiling face. There was a lot of noise made when he came back by.

Such a dark picture but, if you look closely, Nate is smack dab in the middle of the picture looking right at you with a big smile on his face.

After the run we went to save seats for the coin ceremony. Now, I must admit that I was rather naive about this coin ceremony. I seriously thought it had something to do with a coin toss. Wow...did I feel silly when I found out that it really is when the Airmen graduate. You officially become an Airman when you are given that coin.

Yep, that Airman in the middle of the photo is Nate. He was not allowed to talk to me or anyone else for that matter but he did mouth the words "honor graduate" when he passed by me. I immediately teared up. He was hoping that he had made honors but was not completely sure until that morning.
Out of 833 grads only 9%, or 75 grads, were given honors this time around. This was based on overall performance: physical, social, academics, and leadership. Nate also earned every ribbon available for Basic Training.

Doggonit! I cried like a baby when they retired the flag. The last time I had seen a flag being retired was when Eric's was folded for me at the National Cemetery.
I have pretty much spent my entire adult life being a Navy wife. I am not lost in the world of military traditions or pageantry and they continue to cause me to choke back the tears.
Add to that the thought of Eric not being there to watch his son graduate just made it all the harder to choke those tears back!
Phil felt the same way...we all felt as if this was a sad moment and yet a wonderful one as well.

This picture shows all the flight squadrons in their formation. Watching them march in was so was the wonderful awning protecting us from the Texas sun!

After the coin ceremony the Airmen are required to wait for their loved ones to find them. That is much harder to do than you realize...mainly because everyone else wants to find their Airman as well. We found Nate and boy, was there a lot of hugging going on...well, three seconds worth anyway. Nate counted 1-2-3 every time he hugged one of us. Brown Sugar got the most love since the affection restrictions are much more lenient with little ones.

During the ceremony we watched as one of the Airmen started to wobble. It was quite an amazing sight to see two Training Instructors (or MTI) come and take this guy by the elbows and escort him off of the field. They zoomed in there pretty quickly before the Airman found himself on the ground.
Even though it wasn't necessarily hot outside I can only imagine how standing at attention with the sun beating down on you and the excitement of the day could cause your knees to buckle.

Many people have told me that I would most likely see a lot of changes in my son. I was prepared for it but was not sure how he would change considering that he had been raised in a military home and had already taken on so much of the military look and lifestyle.
Well, Nate didn't change much. He was the same old guy...the only difference that we could see was that when we took him off base and asked him what he wanted to do his response was always "I don't care." Now, for those of you who knew Nate before Basic Training you would know that he always had some grand plan. But, after a eight weeks of being told what to do, when to eat, and when to sleep he now does not care what but is perfectly happy to do whatever anyone else wants to do.
And, really, taking a nap, watching movies, and hanging out with his family was a nice change of pace for him.

After the coin ceremony, we headed over to the Reception Hall to watch Nate get his Honor medallion.

These glasses are affectionately referred to as Birth Control glasses. Enough said!

The day of the coin ceremony was spent on base. Nate had base liberty but not a town pass so we spent our day eating on base (Subway for lunch and pizza for dinner), bowling, visiting the Exchange, and just talking about anything and everything.
The following morning we made our way back to the base for the Graduation Parade. It was a bit breezy in the morning but again, the awning protected us from the sun.
We were joined by Rick (Eric's best friend) and Andy Fletcher, Nate's mentor and good friend to the family.
This was definitely a very special ceremony that had significant meaning throughout.
It was very helpful to have an MC that described every detail for us.

Nathan's training group.

Golly, what a handsome guy!

Showing off both of his for becoming an Airman and the other for Honors.

Showing off his four ribbons. I forgot to have him describe them to me again so that I could include it in this blogspot. I do know that one of them is for marksmanship. He made 47 bulls eye out of 50 with his M-16.
One of them is for honors as well. The other two? Not a clue!

Again, we had to go find our Airman in the sea of blue uniforms. This is a small example of the many, many people that filed out onto the parade grounds to meet with their loved one.

Nathan was given a special honor by being greeted by the Commander that oversaw the graduation ceremonies. This gentleman was retiring that day after 36 years of service.
Nate later told us that he was shocked to turn around and get a warm shake from this highly decorated officer. Thankfully, Miss M caught it on film.

Walking out with our Airman. I love Brown Sugar holding on to her older brother's hand.

Nate took us on a tour of his dorm. What fun to see where he worked and slept for the past eight weeks.

Is this the same boy who I could hardly make clean up his bedroom for the past nineteen years?

Nate and his MTI. Nice guy.

Again, um, how can I get the rest of my children to store their belongings like this? I think I need to go through MTI training so that I can get them to do this as well.

After walking through his "life" we spent the rest of the day touring the Alamo and the Riverwalk. But, that, I will leave for the next blogspot.

All in all, the two days we spent attending the different ceremonies was rewarding for both Nate and the rest of the family. I am so glad that we made the effort and spent the money to travel to Texas.
One of the hardest parts of this trip was the realization that Eric was not there to enjoy and support Nathan in his efforts. This created a lot of extra stress and quite a few emotional moments. I am thankful that Phil was there to help me with the kids and help me through the tough times. There were strange moments as well...hard to describe, really. It was strange to be on a military base with another man. It was strange to share with Phil a life that I had with Eric. But, Phil was gracious and we have grown because of it.
Traveling together and experiencing hard moments not only create great memories and milestones to look back on but also help grow closer relationships.
Next blogspot will be about our fun in San Antonio and Austin.


kymk99 said...

What a great experience that your whole family was able to share together. Thank you for sharing this special time with us. I just love that photo of Nate walking with his little sister. Too cute!

Jonathan Hunt said...

Thank you so much for sharing your life with us again. The photos make it all so real. I feel your pride!

Here to Serve Him... said...

Amazing...thanks for sharing! :o)


Cheryl (Copper's Wife) said...

Thanks for sharing the graduation with us!

Tonya said...

Aw, Congratulations to Nate. We're not at all surprised by how well he is doing. Does he know where he's going next? Miss you!

Jane said...

I rarely comment but I am a faithful reader.

Congratulations to Nate on graduating with honors, that takes real hard work and dedication, you all must be so proud of him.

Where does he go next? which trade has he decided to go into

Amanda in NC said...

That is just so, so cool. Congrats to Nate (and to your whole family!!) on his graduation with honors! My then-'boyfriend', now-hubby graduated from the Air Force Academy and I remember going to his ceremonies and LAUGHING so hard at his Birth Control glasses...brought back funny memories. :-)

Keep us posted (if you can) on Nate's future plans!

Sheri said...

Congratulation Heather! What precious, priceless pictures and thank your son for his service to our country. What a proud mommy you are, and it shows!!! =)

Sheri said...

Congratulation Heather! What precious, priceless pictures and thank your son for his service to our country. What a proud mommy you are, and it shows!!! =)

famayes said...

Congratulations Heather! This brought back memories of John's graduation from Marine recruit training almost four years ago. I was surprised that the ceremony, run, and some traditions were so similar. John had to wear those "birth control" glasses too (snicker).

I think the red ribbon may be for enlisting in a time of war. John had one like that when he graduated.

E.T.'s Mom said...

Congratulations, Nate! It is an honor to have such a distinguished and godly gentleman serving our country. Wonderful that the whole family got to be there.

Carlee said...

Beautiful pictures, what a wonderful celebration.

You have talked a few times about a book you read that discusses the different leadership styles of men--I think. I know you said one was Commander. I wondered if you could tell me the name of the book. I also know you said you don't necessarily endorse the whole book, so I will keep that in mind.

Thank you!

Carlee Russell

Lazy D Ranch said...

I have learned much from the book Created to be His Helpmeet by Debi Pearl. I must add a with all books I tend to take what I need and throw the rest out. I am not one of those "throw the baby out with the bathwater" people.
I have gained much insight from people like Gary Ezzo, The Pearls, and other controversial people.
That said, although I have enjoyed the Helpmeet book and tell others about it you will find me not recommending anything else from the Pearls mainly because we are so theologically different.
What I found most helpful with Created to be His Helpmeet was the "classification" of different male personalities. It was helpful for me to read someone who had experience in living with a Command man. There were few people who understood the wife I needed to be for my Command man. And, ironically, now I am the wife of a steady man. God has a sense of humor!