A Visit to Our Nation’s Capital

Last month my husband and I took 6 teenagers, his students, to Washington DC on a Leadership Fieldtrip for 6 days. Those 6 days were filled from morning until night with tours of historic sites, historic buildings, monuments, memorials, military sites, museums and a ton of walking. We were pretty worn out after that trip.

But it was so much fun!

And we learned a lot!

My husband and I had lived in Northern Virginia for 6 years and knew our way around so we were excited to take the kids to see our Nation’s Capital. Some of them had never been and some had been before but did not see all that we were planning.

The kids got to see and learn about the workings of all three branches of our government through our tours of the Whitehouse, Capital Building (where they also met their Representative), and the Supreme Court. These tours gave them insight into the way our government works and let them see for themselves what they had learned about in books in a classroom.

 

We took them to the monuments and memorials—for some of our Presidents, for our military and the wars fought and for historic figures who had great impact on our country. All of them moving, especially when toured at night. So many only see these sights in books or on tv….but to stand there in person, next to or inside these great monuments, well, the emotion overtakes you…..they really are a sight to behold, the inscribed words inspiring all those who have come after and those who are still to come….a reminder of our great country and those inspiring individuals.

We visited some of the Smithsonian museums, letting the kids explore and see what interested them.

We spent some time on an island in the middle of the hustle and bustle……an oasis that has long been one of my husband’s favorite places and a place that honors one of his heroes, Theodore Roosevelt. As we walked through the trees and down the paths, we could not help but relax and enjoy the time there together as a group.

We also stopped and toured our National Cathedral, a first for most of the kids and a first for my husband and I. And we also spent time inside the Library of Congress, one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington DC.

 

Midweek, after our tour of the Whitehouse, we went to the National Archives, where we saw the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, the original oct 6 a Mt Vernon (4) copydocuments…..amazed to see the signatures of the very brave men who helped to establish our democracy and create our country. Our last day, before our flight, we visited Mt Vernon, home to our first president. These historic documents and the historic home of George Washington made the founding of our country, real. How wonderful it is that our country has kept so much of its history.  

We saw a lot while in Washington DC. There was traffic and tour groups to deal with. There was great food to be had. There was shopping. There were protests witnessed, reminding us of the freedoms afforded Americans. There were also more security screenings than we have EVER experienced! And yes, there was LOTS of walking!

oct 1 Air Force Memorial (4) copyAnd then there were the military sites—a cemetery, a battlefield, museums, the Pentagon and war memorials….all honoring our military men and women. The military sites were among the first sites we visited, starting with the Air Force Memorial, standing tall on a hill above the Pentagon with an amazing view of Washington DC. We had arrived in DC at 7am after a long night of flying, stopped for breakfast and then headed out to see some sites before checking into our hotel. It was only fitting that our first stop should be at the Air Force Memorial…..after all, these kids are part of the Air Force JROTC at their high school.

We then attempted to stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but it was closed for refurbishment and could only be viewed as we drove past it….so we instead went to the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial. The kids were all babies when the horrific events of that morning in 2011 happened, so they only knew it through the stories told to them…….unlike most of us, who remember it all, every moment of that morning and the days that followed. We solemnly walked around the memorial, stopping to read the names of those lost on the plane that morning and those lost inside the Pentagon. This was a sobering memorial, bringing to reality all those lost that day. The kids, as part of their AFJROTC group, participate every year in a 9/11 Flag Raising Ceremony and now they were seeing for themselves, why they do it, why they honor and remember those many lives.

Over the next few days we visited more military sites and memorials—The war memorials on the National Mall to those who fought and died in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and Manassas Battlefield, the site of the first major battle in a war that almost tore our country apart. We took the kids on a tour of the Pentagon, where they learned about all branches of our military. And we visited both Smithsonian Air and Space museums.

Our visit to Arlington National Cemetery was quite moving. We walked, rather than taking the shuttle, to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We walked so that we could see the graves, read some of the names on those white headstones and honor those who have protected our country. Heroes, all of them buried here in our Nation’s Military Cemetery. And then we watched the changing of the Guard at the tomb of the unknowns. The kids all stood for the ceremony, watching as the Changing of the Guard occurred…..honoring the unknown soldiers buried there, the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including their identity. Words are hard to come by to adequately describe the Changing of the Guard, the reverence these Sentinels show for those entombed here. A solemn ceremony. And the kids watched. They absorbed it all…..the meaning, the honor, the sacrifice. And for the kids who themselves are part of the AFJROTC Honor Guard, this ceremony held even more meaning, showing them the highest honor for any Honor Guard member. Arlington was a very emotional, solemn place.

oct 1 National Museum of the Marine Corp (1) copyOur last stop on our first day before we checked into our hotel was at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. We were all pretty tired by the time we arrived here, but once we stepped inside our energy renewed and we were ready to tour the museum and learn about our Marine Corps. When we first entered the museum we noticed chairs set up for some kind of ceremony, one we assumed had already occurred. We headed further into the museum, enjoying the history of the Marine Corps from inception to current day. The kids enjoyed the interactive exhibits. The museum was a wonderful way to honor our Marine Corps. We came to the end of the exhibits and wandered back into the main atrium, ready to head into the gift shop, when we noticed the ceremony was beginning…the chairs were filled with those there to celebrate the Commissioning Ceremony for a Navy Sailor. And we stopped for a minute, noticing that the Honor Guard was preparing to present the colors. We watched as the Honor Guard moved to the front of the ceremony and presented the colors and then the National Anthem began…..and we all stood, facing the flag with our hands over our hearts. This was our flag, our anthem and our military. And then I noticed we were not the only ones. Everyone there in the museum stopped walking, stopped talking, stopped moving and hands over their hearts they, too, faced our flag and honored this Sailor and our country. There was only honor and respect being shown. Here in the middle of a museum strangers stopped and paid tribute to our country and our military….young and old…..male and female….all races……for a moment we were all a part of this young man’s ceremony, a part of a military tradition.

I was moved to tears.

And the kids were moved by the respect shown here on this afternoon.

Our trip to DC was filled with many opportunities to learn and to see firsthand the greatness of our Country…..how our government works, the history of our government, the honor of military service, the freedom we all have to express our opinions, and how inspiring and impactful one individual can be in making things better for others.

This was a GREAT trip for many reasons, but especially because of how meaningful it all was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SOLD!

My husband was in the Air Force for 30 years and we moved a lot. For most of his Air Force career we lived in the housing on whatever base we were stationed at……. all over the US and in Turkey and England. I loved living in base housing, in the community where others were going through the same things we went through. Each house became our home, where we laughed, loved and created memories. It was never about the building, it was about the love and the memories. But we knew they were all temporary homes.

We only lived in off-base housing, twice in his career. The first time was when we were in Alabama for my husband to go to school. We rented a house then and loved the house and quickly made it a home.

After Alabama my husband was sent to the Pentagon and base housing was not going to be an option for us. We were okay with that. We made the decision to buy a house, a decision that was hard for me because I knew that the house we bought would become our home, I would get attached and I had never desired to buy a house until it was THE ONE, the last house we would live in. So, I went to Virginia, alone, to find us a house.

I looked at a lot of houses and then I found the one that I could picture us living in and in a neighborhood that looked wonderful.

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We bought that house.  Brand new.  Never lived in.  Ours.

A house is just a house, until you fill it with family, friends, love, memories and the sweat and tears that go into making a house a home. And we did just that.

our house

It was our home. Filled with lots of memories of holidays, birthdays, fun, and even sad times. We painted every room in the house and all of the halls…..colors that reflected us, no more white walls. And my husband and youngest son worked hard building the fence that would make our backyard an oasis for our dog. And they built a beautiful deck for us to relax on while watching the corn in the field behind us grow. We landscaped and planted the flowers, trees and bushes we wanted. We had friends and family visit us. And we all worked hard finishing our unfinished basement, creating a space where more fun family memories were made—playing pool and playing Wii games.

We had only planned to live here 2 years, the norm for us. But that two years became three, then four and before we knew it we lived in our home for 6 years…..the LONGEST home either my husband or I  had ever lived in. Our youngest son completed all of his high school years in that home. We had teenagers in and out of the house, became close with our neighbors and built a life in that community. This home was the last one our dog would live in.

We were putting down deep roots.

The memories created are strong in that home, filled with love.

Then the day came when the Air Force moved us and the thought of leaving my home, my friends, my community really hurt. I was attached to this place and I wanted to stay. But the Air Force had other plans.

At the time, we could not sell the house, the market had dropped drastically. So we rented it out, in the hopes that we would return after two years and move back into our home. But the Air Force had other plans for us……we never did move back to our beautiful home.

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Now here I am, 8 years after leaving the house we made a home. Others have been living in the house since we left, renting from us. 3 years ago, we went back to Virginia to make repairs to our house to get it ready for the next tenant and it was then, in the midst of the damage caused by our first tenant that I realized this house was no longer our home. We weren’t living there, creating memories anymore and what we had created was no longer there…..it was now just a house.

The only reminder of the family who made this house a home was the growth marks still visible on the laundry room wall.

We made the decision to put the house in Virginia up for sale when the lease ended. I was ready. My husband was ready. Being landlords was not a job we enjoyed or envisioned we would ever find ourselves doing. So, when we started the process, I was surprised by the emotions I found welling up in me…….this had been our home……the memories made there flooded back…….I was sad about selling our home. But it wasn’t ours anymore and hadn’t been ours for the past 8 years.

Today we closed on our house, selling it to a young couple who I hope will see those growth marks and realize that at one time this house was a home, filled with love, laughter and tears. And my hope is that they make this house into a home and fill it with wonderful memories and lots of love and raise their family, with new growth marks on the laundry room wall.

We only own one home now! We are relieved. The stress associated with owning a house on the other side of the country is gone. A weight lifted off of our shoulders.

And I am a little sad…..it was our home and the memories made inside those walls will forever be cherished!

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Family

We are born into a family, related to them by virtue of birth.

And some of us, me for instance, are adopted into a family, related not by blood but by love, chosen to be a family. My mother often reminded me that she CHOSE me.

We have family that we marry into and family we gain when our children marry.

We have family born of old friendships from our years growing up.

Families come in ALL forms…….Thankfully!

And then there is the family that is related by a common bond, born out of a shared nomadic life—a life in the military.

My husband served 30 years in the Air Force and we moved A LOT. Everywhere we moved to was new, foreign and a little scary for this shy girl.

Our first move away from home was the hardest for me. We were moving many states away and it would be the first time I moved out of the northwest……away from my sister, my in-laws and my friends. It would just the three of us—my husband, our three-year-old son and myself…..alone. I was nervous and scared. I was shy and making friends had been hard for me every time I moved as a child. And now we were moving to a state in the northern tier, in winter.

I didn’t know how I was going to survive the cold and snow, let alone survive without my support system.

Despite the long months of snow covered ground and roads, and despite the isolation in a time when we did not have internet or cell phones to stay in touch with long distance friends and family, I thrived in our new home.

I made friends.

And I learned during that first assignment away from home that the Air Force was a family. We were all related through this common bond of service. My support system grew and the bonds of those friendships grew stronger every day, lasting all these many years later.

Each time we moved, our family grew. We were so very blessed to be given this family and to be there to support each other through moves, deployments, long hours, births of children, deaths in families and so much more….through everything–the good, the bad and the difficult–our Air Force family was there and I could always count on them. We celebrated together, we spent holidays together, we laughed and cried together and we took trips together. This was a family I did not originally choose, but am so very grateful for, Every. Single. Day! My Air Force family made the good days better and made the struggles survivable.

My husband retired from the Air Force a couple of years ago and we are no longer moving around the country. But that does not change the family we have in the Air Force. We are blessed to still count all those friends we made through our military life as our family. And no matter where we go, we have family to visit—around the country and the world.

It is a blessing to us when we get to visit with our military family—to catch up with their lives and laugh with them again. When we see them, we pick right up where we were the last time we were together, no matter how long it has been.

Over the past couple of months, we have had the opportunity to visit with those family members while we were traveling…..such a blessing to have so many to visit wherever we go.

And we have been visited by family as well, while they were traveling through……just last weekend we got to spend a few hours with friends, family really, who were in the area for a short visit.

Families come in all forms—through birth, adoption, marriage and shared bonds.

I am truly blessed to have such a large family, in ALL forms!

Aviation Nation

It has been a while since I have spent time on an Air Force base……early last summer when I attended a friends Change of Command Ceremony was the last time I was on a base and it was only for a couple of hours.

And it has been even longer since I have gone to an Airshow…….5 years, actually.

So, when my husband asked if I would be the female chaperone for a weekend field trip to Nellis AFB, in Las Vegas, I said yes!

We took the top 5 seniors, who were in the top leadership positions in the JROTC program that my husband teaches at a local high school, to Aviation Nation. It was a quick trip, just for the Airshow……a long drive to Las Vegas on Saturday, a long day at the Airshow on Sunday, followed by a long drive home Sunday night.

I was excited. I love Airshows. I love the roar of engines. And I have missed hearing, feeling and seeing these magnificent jets fly.

I had a great time and enjoyed spending the weekend with a group of teenagers and my husband.

I have often been told that I can be just a “big kid” filled with excitement and anticipation. And I felt like a big kid as we walked onto the flight line, seeing all of the jets parked there for us to view. Ahhhh, yes, this felt like home and made my heart and soul dance.

And then I got to experience this day through the eyes of five teens…..the excitement, curiosity and joy these five teens exuded, grabbed me and pulled me in. It was thrilling to see the jets, some new to me and many I had spent years around, through their eyes.

It was a thrilling, feel good heart, kind of weekend.

I can’t wait to go again next year with another group of teenagers!

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