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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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!

Home

Summer, a season that conjures up time outside, long days and late nights, ice cold drinks under a tree or by a pool, and HOT days, especially here in Arizona. Summer is also a season for moving….at least in the military world that my husband and I lived in for 30 years.  And now my news feeds on facebook are filled with moving stories from my many friends and the excitement of that next adventure they are embarking on.

The past few months have found me purging closets, boxes, and rooms in our house. I have been reorganizing, rearranging, throwing things out and setting aside items to be donated.  Yet, I have NO PLANS on moving……..

Being a military wife meant moving, A LOT! My husband served in the Air Force for 30 years.  Our first military move came 4 years after he started his Air Force life.  Most of our moves were in the summer months, though a couple of the moves came suddenly in the middle of a school year.  Each move was a new adventure for our family, a new place to explore….even the places I NEVER imagined living in or thought about visiting. 

We moved 13 times in 26 years. And starting a few months before every move, I would start purging, organizing and prepping all our belongings for the next house.  I hung onto curtains far longer than any one should because, maybe, just maybe, they will fit into the next house……

Moving was a way of life for our military family. And moving was a part of my early years, despite the fact that my parents were not in the military.  Between the ages of 3 and 18, I moved 19 times…..yes, 19 different homes, different cities and different school districts all in the span of 15 years.  I went to 7 different high schools but changed high schools 9 times in 4 years.  No wonder I could not graduate with my class and had to go an extra year of high school to get my diploma…….I could have given up, not finished school or gone a different route, but I persisted, and succeeded despite all of the obstacles I faced.  Even in difficult times, we can find our path, our footing and find a way to get through.

My life has meant a lot of moves and a lot of changes. And I DO NOT like change, as I mentioned in my previous blog post.  Yet, some of those changes….maybe all of those changes, have led me to who I am today and where I am today.

The longest place I have lived and the longest place my husband has lived, was our home in Virginia when he was stationed at the Pentagon.  We were there for 6 years.  After the first 2 years in Virginia, I started purging, organizing and prepping……a lot of years of moving habits had me on autopilot.  Without realizing it I was prepping for a move, one that was not coming for another 4 years.  After that first 2 years in Virginia, we started to plant some roots, and to settle in…..

Today, in this house I have lived in for almost 2 years, I am contemplating the idea of a permanent home…….a home where I know I won’t be moving again. A place to put deep roots, to establish a settled life and to make a home that feels like “home” when my adult children visit…a place my future grandchildren will build memories in. 

As I find myself in this old habit of moving preparation, I have discovered something new, something different……I am purging, organizing and rearranging, not in anticipation of an upcoming move, but in preparation for our forever home……getting rid of the things that I don’t need to keep “just in case” it will work in our next house and keeping the mementos of our life adventures, of the places we have lived, places we have visited and the people we have met along the way.

All of my life I have wanted a “home”, a house that I would never move from, that place I could feel safe and settled, that place I would spend my life, raise my kids and make lots of memories in. For my younger self with my mom, “home” was safe but not permanent….with my dad “home” was chaotic, dysfunctional and constantly moving.  As an adult, “home” was where the Air Force sent us.

What I have learned through all these years and all those many moves, is that “home” isn’t about a building or belongings. “Home” is about the people, the feeling, the connection and the love.  My home is with my husband, wherever we are.  Though I didn’t realize it, we have put down roots, in many locations, across thousands of miles, in different states and countries.  Our roots are expansive, deep in some places and shallower in others, but we have roots and they lead us to the many friends and family we have across the miles.

And now our roots are being planted here, in this community and in this house where we have mementos of our adventures and the life we have made. Our home is not made of sticks, bricks or stone.  Our home is made of love, laughter, tears, joy and memories.  Our home is built on a foundation of trust, compassion, friendship and love. 

My hope is that our move here was our last move, but if it is not and we pull up stakes and head out again, I know that “home” will be with us, is within us.

With my husband, I am now and always have been, home.