Thank you all SO MUCH for your prayers. Jeff did not make it to Family Day and is still sick. His fever broke around 6PM, though, so we are hopeful that he will be able to make it tomorrow for Graduation. I am heartsick for him that he missed today's events. We tried to take pictures and video--but of course it's not the same as seeing your son.
I had trouble sleeping last night--SO excited!! Would I be able to see him? Would I recognize him? They all look the same from far away. Would he be different? So many things I was wondering about...but mostly I just wanted to get my arms around him.
We arrived 90 minutes early for the opening ceremony. There was a looong line of traffic trying to get in. We eventually arrived at the field where the festivities were to start. My heart was pounding--not only from excitement, but from the stress of getting everyone dressed, ready, fed, and to the base. ha. I am SO thankful that my parents and my aunt and uncle are here and they pitched in and helped. The day would have been much more challenging without them!
Ryan had called the night before and told us where to sit so that we could see him. We filed in and found seats. There was some rousing patriotic music to get everyone even more pumped. Tension was in the air as we anxiously waited for the moment when we would see our soldiers.
Suddenly there was a loud explosion and we saw various colors of smoke rising from the ground. More and more grenades were thrown, colors looking very cool. And then....out of the smoke, the first figures of our soldiers started to appear. Everyone in the stands was on their feet, clapping and yelling wildly as we strained for a glimpse of our beloved family members.
There was a fairly brief presentation and FINALLY they excused us to 'go find your soldier!' OK--I wanted to run. However, we were in a line that was not moving. At all. After about five minutes of frustration, my dad and I looked down the bleachers and pretty much had the same thought at the same time. I said, "Let's go for it...climb down these babies and get to a part of the line that is actually moving, for cryin' out loud." So we each scooped up a little kid and down we went. We finally burst out of the stands and started searching. And searching. We couldn't find him! I tried to call him on my cell but the call wouldn't go through. So, we just started walking and then all of a sudden I heard, "MOM!" I whirled around and there he was. I threw my arms around him. Boy...did he feel good there. I didn't want to let go and neither did he.
He looks amazing.
Even without hair.
Even in his regular fatigues, he looks quite dashing in his black beret.
We spent the day seeing where he has slept the past 10 weeks, where he ate, etc. We went to the main PX (where the lowly guys in boot camp were not allowed to go) and tried to eat. There is a food court there and I haven't seen that many people crowded into a small space since we were in China. Seriously. I couldn't breathe. We finally went outside to an outdoor tent that was selling hot dogs, thinking that we could buzz through that line. It was already 12:30, so the kids were tired and hungry. (Did I mention that we arrived at our hotel at 10:30 and they had to get up at 7AM? Put toddlers in: hot sun, long line, no food, no drinks, and what do you get? Yeah...imagine it. Oh...and don't forget that they also had to go potty.) They actually weathered it fairly well. 90 minutes later...yes....90 minutes!!!, we ordered. We planned to get hot dogs.
They were out.
The only food they had left were these HUGE kielbasa things which looked like heartburn on a plate. But what could we do? We had already waited in line for 90 minutes while the sloooow workers painstakingly made. each. kielbasa.in.slow.motion. We ordered five and they made each one separately rather than putting five together and then putting the condiments on them all at the same time. It was excruciating to watch them. Seriously.
Well that was fun.
Most of the day was just spent hanging out with Ryan. We found a less crowded place for dinner and then went to church. There was a short program with the same singer who had performed at the opening ceremony. He is very talented and used to sing with Lee Greenwood. Very touching, patriotic songs for soldiers and their families. He ended with "I'm Proud to Be An American" and I think there were a lot of wet eyes in the pews. At the very end the chaplain called the soldiers and families to the front to lay hands on and pray a blessing over them. It was so cool. I think what blessed me the most was looking over and noticing that Chloe had stood on the pew behind Ryan and had placed her little hand on his shoulder. So precious. One very sweet thing about soldiers is that they learn to allow their mom's to put their arms around them. Since everyone is being treated that way, none of the guys seem to mind.
Speaking of sweet...Ryan handed me a card today that he bought--thanking me for raising him and for all I've done for him. Oh my goodness....it took my breath away. Some of the card was already printed, but he had added his own personal thank you. Wah...... I love that boy!
Now I know you all just really want to see pictures, so I will go through them now and attach some to this post. I'm not going to do any post-processing, so they are just straight out of the camera and might not be all that great. Just sayin'....
Can't wait to see our soldier!
"Come on! Let's get this show on the road!"
"Ooohhhh...what was that LOUD BANG?"
Here they come!!!! (Now that just gets your heart pumping, doesn't it?)
Do you see Ryan?! Me, either.... :)
Ensuing bedlam after families are told they can go find their soldiers
Jake salutes Ryan...badly..as in placing his hand in the middle of his forehead...
...which totally cracked Ryan up
I need more hugs...
Molly gets her hug
Hugs for Grandma
Chloe finally gets to see her Ryan. The bear is Bobo, which used to be Ryan's. Chloe has been faithfully babysitting it.
Posing with Grandma and Grandpa
Ryan and Nick (some of you wrote to Nick)
Letters from HOME
Gotta have the T-shirt