Sunday, September 25, 2011

TEXAS- Part 4 - The Coin Ceremony

It was finally here. The day I had been dreaming of for 9 (long) weeks.
The Airman's Run & The Coin Ceremony.
The day Ryan officially became an Airman in the United States Air Force.

That morning started early. Like 4 A.M. early. Only a crazy person gets up this early, early.
I woke up at our hotel (on base, at The Gateway Inn). Got myself, and the little man ready. Packed up our stuff for the day (banners, camera bag, binoculars, snacks, etc), and headed out the door.

Now almost, 6:00 A.M. It was still dark outside.
As we got closer to the bus stop, we could see training going on across the street. They were counting the number of whatever exercise they were doing at the time. Completely in sync and loud. It gave me goose bumps.
Oddly enough, hearing that was one of my most cherished moments while I was on base. Maybe because the cool brisk morning air was so fresh, along with my excitement for the days events. Finally seeing what Ryan had been doing every morning made it real.
I was in the same place as him. I was closer to him than I had been in such a long time.
I was there and it was finally happening.

Without a car, our only option was to ride the bus. (One of the reasons we had to wake up so early.)
The bus was scheduled to arrive 6 minutes past the hour, every hour.
We were early, which is a rare occurrence in our family, but for something like this I don't mess around.

A big white school bus pulled up in front of us. A nice older gentlemen was driving. I asked him "How much is it for both of us to ride over to the convention center?"
To which he replied, "Do you pay your taxes?"
"Well than, it's free."
Just the answer I was looking for.
We climbed up the stairs, onto the empty bus, sitting in the front seat, behind the driver.
It was kind of cool, because this was the first time my little man had ever been on a school bus.

Along the way, we made a couple stops, picking up soldiers on base. I'm not sure if they were trainees or if they actually lived there. I couldn't tell.
One of the stops was at Ryan's dorm. I knew because his Flight # and mascot were painted on the side of the building. Of course we were looking for him. We never did see him; but that would have been cool.

When it was our turn to get off the bus, he stopped a ways down the street and told us where to go.
Once we arrived at the convention center, there was parking across the street, and there were trainees (I think) directing us where to go. When we were inside, there was an information desk, with a few trainees answering visitors questions. Once we passed that, we turned left down a long hallway, past a food court and gift shop, into a big conference room. Where they were having the first orientation.

I was told it was best to attend the 7 AM briefing. And to get a seat early, because the room fills up fast.
This is true.
I was also told that it is best to sit on the right side of the room, closest to the side with glass doors. Since that is where you will exit to get your spot on the road for the Airman's Run.
This is also true.
But, we didn't get a choice of seats. Next in line, gets the next seat available, type of thing.

During this orientation, they did a couple of "inspirational" videos, went over the schedule of events, and also talked about the rules we must follow.
To be completely honest, this was a big waste of time for me.

If I could go back in time, I would have skipped this orientation all together.
I pretty much knew all of the rules from reading the AF Wing Moms Facebook page. And anything I didn't know, Ryan knew what to do.

So yes, I would have skipped it and walked straight to road and grabbed a great spot for the Airman's run.
Because once that meeting let out, everyone was going every which way, trying to get a spot on the street to hold up their sign. It was a bit crazy.

Having a 3 year old, and a bunch of bags, I could only go so fast.
We walked our little legs as fast as they would go across the field.
Once we were there, I knew holding a spot big enough for us, and the rest of Ryan's family who hadn't arrived yet was going to be a problem.
We set our stuff down. Little man sat on one end, and I stood on the other. Trying to make it known, we needed this much room for our banner to be seen- you better back off our spot.
But after my partner didn't want to hold his ground anymore and started running away and playing in the grass, all hope was lost and half of our spot was taken over by intruders with a sign even bigger than ours. Not their fault, no hard feelings.
It was more crowded than I expected.
Everyone was there for a reason. To be seen, and heard - by their airman. This was serious business.
It turns out, right where we were standing was not a great spot. For a few different reasons.
[Go for the middle. That is your best bet.]
If you go down where the road ends, you won't be able to see them when they run by for the second time. ...Yeah didn't know that at this point.
Excitement was growing by the second, everyone was trying to get ready for the big moment.
Banners being rolled out, cameras being focused, kids waving American flags, everyone looking in the same direction. Listening...
Waiting to hear the sound of them running our way.
Just in time for the Run, Ryan's family arrived.
In the matching shirts I had made for them.
This is Ryan's Brother Cameron, holding Noah's sign.
We all laughed about that one.
Finally we heard them!
Running together, in flight formation. Each group representing with a different color.
All I could think was dark grey. Is that dark grey? nope... no... not him...
And then, we saw them! It was him. Dark Grey. Predators. My husband.
At that moment the clouds parted, and a ray of sunshine shined down on us
while Etta James, 'At last' played over the loud speaker.
Not really... but in my mind it did.

And just like that, they were gone. I wish I could have had a pause button. Or even a slow down button.
When they ran by again, going the other direction, I was able to catch some video.

Immediately, and I mean Immediately- people start running over to the bleachers. There are only so many seat in the area of each group so If you want to sit right in front of them, one person in your group better run and save a seat. We didn't do that. So... we sat on the other side and looked at their backs. Which really wasn't that bad. We ended up sitting at the top of the bleachers so the sun wasn't terrible.
The picture on the left is closest to the street where the Airman's Run took place. The middle is where they all stand during the ceremony, and the building on the right is the reception center.

Ryan's mom & her husband Tom

Auntie M (aka: Melissa- Tom's Daughter) & Ryan's brother Cameron.
During the 3 hour wait, before the ceremony started, they had a video camera set up in the middle of the bleachers where family members could go and record a message to their Airman.
None of us did it though, because Ryan had already told me he wasn't going to buy the video.
Across the street you could see brand new AB's training. Kind of neat to see where they started from.
It was a challenge keeping little ones waiting in ridiculous heat. I would suggest lots of toys, water - and going to the bathroom a few times before the ceremony starts... do you know where this is going?

First the Honor graduates came out.

Then we saw each flight # start to line up behind where we were sitting.
Patiently waiting for his flight. Finally we saw #321!
There he was. My Airman.
AB's watching from the side.
They walked in and the band followed behind.
That is Sgt. Fish yelling. - I met him. He scared me. The end.

Keep in mind during all of this it's about 105* outside and there are no fans, no mist machines, no bottles of water for the airmen, nothing.
We saw -at least- 10 of them faint while standing in line.
Speeches were read. Coins were then handed out. It was all very moving... until my 3 year old said he was going to pee his pants, because he had to go potty so bad. Typical. What great timing. Luckily, Uncle Cameron took him to the bathroom so I could stay. That was so nice of him.
I could not have been more proud of my husband and everything he has accomplished.
He worked really hard for this.
And now he's officially an Airman. Woooo whoo! Time to go get my hug!!!
I had asked Auntie M to take a few pictures for me, so I could go down and hug him. This was her practice shot.
Our first hug, after not seeing each other for over 9 weeks.

where have you been all my life?

Him telling me that he has a cold. (He could have told me he had the plague and I still would have kissed him.)
It was everything I imagined it would be. I found my missing piece. Everything was alright in the world.
Hugging our little guy, and his mom.

Thanks for being my personal assistant Auntie M. Your services were much appreciated.

After taking some family pictures with our new Airman, we headed over to the BX.
Talk about crowded!
We ended up getting food somewhere else, and just going back to The Gateway Inn to eat lunch.
It was so nice to be able to go back to our hotel and watch a movie as a family. (We watched War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise, if you were wondering. Ryan loves that movie.) Relaxed and not stuck in the heat. Getting a hotel on base was definitely worth the money!
Next is Ryan's Graduation, and Sea World! <3

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