I know that everyone has been pining away at their computers just waiting for an update from the Guilers!! :) Well, you can finally step away from your computer, get something to eat and drink and then come back to read the fascinating events of the past week!
Last Tuesday morning (a week ago yesterday, we met up with my folks at Lindsay's house and seven of us (my folks; Kev's girlfriend, Sara; Lindsay; Reagan and us) got into two vehicles and hit the road around 9:30 am. We planned to take two days to get to Fort Benning, which is just outside of Columbus, GA. We had no idea how Reagan would travel, but we couldn't wait to get there! (Turns out Reagan is a fantastic traveler - all grins and giggles! YAY!!)
God granted us safe travel and we arrived at Fort Benning's campground, Uchee Creek, around 6:00 pm on Wednesday evening. All of us were exhausted and ready to flop, so we did. Lindsay, Sara & Reagan were in one cabin and Randy, my folks and I were in another. We needed to get a good night's rest so that we could enjoy the next couple of days.
Thursday's ceremony was Turning Blue. This is where the infantrymen are awarded their blue cords for their uniforms. The cord is blue because it distinguishes the infantrymen from other troops. This was done very early in the history of the infantry because there were many different colored uniforms and it was decided there needed to be one constant in those uniforms, thus the blue cord.
We had attended a briefing before the ceremony during which the company's Drill Sergeants were introduced to us and we watched a couple of videos that showed us what our sons had been doing these past few months. Of course, all any of us wanted to do was see our sons!! Finally, it was time to gather outside and wait for the Soldiers to assemble.
What a feeling when those platoons first appeared around the corner!! Oh my gosh - we heard them first and then four platoons appeared in disciplined formation and moving as one unit. How impressive - I'm tearing up just remembering how it felt to see them for the first time. After an introduction of the company, the national anthem, and the Soldiers singing the Army songs, it was time for them to "turn blue." The families were invited up to place the cord on their soldier's uniform. Well, I didn't need a second invitation!! :) However, Kevin had told us he wanted his favorite drill sergeant, DS Hansen, to put his cord on. And I was thrilled with that - that told me that Kevin felt ultimate respect for this man and that he wanted to honor the DS with this act. I was so proud of him. After the Soldiers had turned, it was time for a couple of pictures and then they were released to us for the rest of the day! Needless to say, Kevin couldn't wait to be reunited with Sara - three and a half months is a long time!
After the Turning Blue ceremony, we met Kevin's best buddy, Ted & his family at Red Lobster for a celebratory lunch. There were 14 of us! We even had another Soldier with us, Shane Lucas, because he had no family with him. (As you think of it, please pray for Shane - he is headed to Iraq at the end of the month.) We had a wonderful time just reveling in having our sons with us. After lunch, we went back to the campground to just relax and listen to Kevin's stories. For those of you who know Kev, you know he had some to tell! :) All too soon it was time to take Kevin back to the barracks one last time.
Friday morning we had to be in the cars at 7:30 am in order to get to the graduation! That is no easy feat when you're trying to get seven people moving, but we did it! We were at the field in plenty of time to get a good parking space and peruse the many souvenirs available for purchase. Promptly at 9 am, it is the Army after all, the ceremony started with the base band playing several patriotic songs. Then we had a demonstration of what our sons had learned during training - complete with gun fire, tanks and smoke bombs. Pretty cool. But then, what we all had been waiting for - our Soldiers marched onto the field in their combat uniforms (because we are at war, instead of dress uniforms). Just as impressive as the day before, maybe a little more so because this was IT!! As they recited the Infantryman's Creed, I realized that my son was now a man and one who has become someone who I can depend upon. I cannot describe to you what I was feeling, "proud" just doesn't cut it.
It was hard to believe that at the end of graduation we could actually take Kevin home with us!! We hadn't known how long a leave Kev would get and I was praying for 11 days - that would mean he would have to be in Atlanta to catch a plane on June 18. But, God always surpasses our greatest desires - He gave us almost THREE weeks! Kevin is with us until June 27!! We couldn't believe it. He has to be on a plane out of Atlanta at 7:48 am on June 27. What a gift.
After a two day trip back home, we arrived at Lindsay's around 6pm last Saturday. Needless to say, Lindsay & Reagan were very excited to see Jason. It was fun to watch - Jason was in the driveway when we pulled up and Reagan let out a squeal that would have had dogs running!! :)
Kevin & Sara stayed with us in the RV for a couple of days, then we hit Hershey Park on Monday. We took them down to Columbia Monday evening and then they left this morning to spend a couple of days in Ocean City. Sara has to go back to work next Monday, so they are spending as much time together as possible. We have enjoyed watching their relationship. We like Sara very much. She seems to be really good for Kevin. It was fun to get to know her better on the trip. What a courageous young woman - traveling with her boyfriend's family!!
Saturday we will celebrate Kevin's homecoming with a party at my sister's. We wish everyone who loves Kevin could be there, but we know your prayers will be with him. Look forward to pictures of the party!