(the view from our balcony)
Did I mention that we are an hour off on time now? Yep. That means I woke up at 3:45 instead of my normal 4:45 (which my body thought it was 4:45). I'm not bugged though, just starting to feel like I am getting sick again. You know, the whole airplane ride, public places, people, germs, yep I am most def getting sick again.
As early as I dared, I ventured to the shower, got ready and headed to the lobby and the hotel front desk. I am hoping I have left Pillow Pet in the shuttle van or in the lobby near the fireplace and where we were sitting the night before. My fear is that he was left sitting on the cement bench at the shuttle pick up area at the airport. I certainly don't remember seeing him after that.
The gods were smiling on me. Or it was just an omen of what a great day lied ahead for us. Just a few moments earlier, the shuttle driver had turned in the pillow pet! Huge sigh of relief! All is going to be right with the world now. I can feel it's gonna be a great day!
Everyone gets showered dressed and we take the shuttle over to MCRD. It literally was a few miles away. I was amazed at how big the place is. HUGE! As the van dropped us off, the driver instructed us where they would be to pick up again at the end of the day. We saw the crowds of people, and walked towards where they seemed to be lining up.
There were signs with the different platoon numbers on them to indicate where you should line up to see the boys run by. Since 'dawg was the first platoon, we had to walk the furthest distance alongside the parade deck.
The parade deck is a HUGE blacktop area, that is extremely special and revered. No one in civilian clothes is to walk on it. And enlisted men must be in uniform or in platoons. Otherwise, you walk AROUND the deck. It was quite fascinating. On the west side of the deck are bleachers and the east side is the mall, exchange, museum and other gathering areas.
We were summoned into a courtyard area and given some basic instructions from a drill sergeant. Some basic commands, information about what would happen. What we were allowed to do and not do etc....
After that, we made our way back to our platoon area and waited.
While we waited, the DI had some more talking to do, and then they brought the Marine mascot dog out. A beautiful English Bulldog named Bella. GAH! I want one of those now!! She was delightful and Sissy loved her!
We finally could see them lining up in the distance and the parade was about to begin. I say parade, but it was more of the platoons running up. Stopping in front of their area and turning towards the families. Since we knew where 'dawg would be lined up, we were in perfect position.
The honor guard for the individual platoons came in first with their platoon flag.
(Lance Corporal Gonzalez - 'dawg and him were pretty close. He did very well, not only honor guard for the platoon but also company honor guard. Well done Gonzalez)
Some video - I'm not proud of my, um, loudness - but in my defense I was excited and forgot the audio would catch all my screaming.
Are there words to explain how I felt at that moment? Nope. There isn't. Just seeing him in that element was overwhelming! And for Sissy??? She was so excited to see him! My rebellious side wanted to yell out something directly to him. A code, a something to see if I could draw his attention. I restrained myself. A little.
(I caught him right after he saw us. You can see the emotion cross his face)
After some simple and basic commands and letting us see them, they ran off again and the families were directed to the Theater. As we made our way over there, we had them run by us once more. The crowd was so huge though, that I didn't get a good look.
Inside the theater we were seated and then introduced to another drill sergeant. He outlined the different phases of boot camp. Explained some of the things that they had been doing. What to expect from our sons and their transformations. And then introduced each of the drill instructors for each platoon. I watched those announced for my son's closely. I wondered what they really thought of him. I wondered if he measured up to their expectation of a good Marine, or if he was "a garbage recruit". I KNEW what I knew about my own son, but I wondered if they saw the same things. I realized that they literally were all my son had for the past 13 weeks. They were responsible for shaping him into a man worthy to call himself a Marine. I gave them a standing ovation.
They showed a short film and of course Sissy had to go potty. Off we toddle to the women's restroom, wait in line, get into a stall, get seated and she lets it go. Now, ladies, have you ever peed hard enough that it shot straight out? Yeah. She peed that hard. Her panties and shorts were soaked. I had extra panties in the backpack but not pants. I figure we'll hit the exchange as quickly as we can and just buy her some new ones.
We made our way back to the theater, the film still going. It was really amazing. Very inspiring and motivating. Crap, it made ME want to be a Marine!
After the theater presentation, we are told to walk on the west side of the parade deck, behind the bleachers and find our platoon's area. Clearly, we now do not have time to try and find some sort of bottoms for Sis, so it became a run around and dry off time for her.
We found our section, settled in and waited. I began to realize that it really is the name of the game a lot of the time. Hurry up and wait.
Finally, they announced the boys coming in by platoon. Again, where 'dawg was in formation, we have a great view.
(pretty impressive isn't it?)They made some announcements. Some reminders of what was allowed during base liberty and what wasn't. Public displays of affection are a no-no. His right hand needed to be free at all times in case he needed to salute, so I could hold his left arm in the escort position. He couldn't carry Sis. More rules, more reminders and FINALLY, they released them!
No public displays of affection my arse! I couldn't get to my boy fast enough! Hugging. More hugging. Some crying. Sissy being shy. He held her for a moment, but with her pants still wet and him in uniform, it was brief.
The LDS branch on base were hosting a family luncheon so we made our way over to that area. The Branch president, his wife, and all the missionaries were so nice! He introduced us to everyone and then we lined up for food. We were warned that our son would be hungry. That was no lie my friends. H to the UNGRY!
(checking the 'ol crackberry. He actually didn't look at it for very long, it said it felt weird and just ended up putting it away)
(Sis more interested in the sand. Thankfully her pants were dry by now!)They also did a nice ceremony. On the Marine birthday, November 10th, they always do a big Marine ball and cake cutting ceremony. A cake is cut with a sword and the oldest Marine feeds a piece to the youngest Marine and both deem the cake acceptable. It's symbolizing the passing from generation to generation of Marine's.
A member of the branch presidency is a retired WWII vet and he presided over the ceremony. Since 'dawg was the oldest Marine in the branch (of new Marine's), he was called forward. The vet fed him the cake and asked for his approval. Then the youngest Marine ( he turned 18 during boot camp) was called forward and 'dawg fed him a piece. He gave his approval and then they cut the rest (and another cake) for everyone else to have. Not gonna lie - pretty cool ceremony!
(look how they stand. It's very natural to them now.)
After the luncheon, we wanted to shop! I wanted swag and 'dawg wanted candy. We found the marketplace and the mall exchange.
(c'mon Sissy - smile)
(all my lil chickens together - My heart is full)
As I sat watching all the people, I was struck with the familiarity of it all. Not familiar in the sense that I've done this before, because certainly I have not, but familiar with how RIGHT it felt. Seeing him in his uniform. Standing so straight and tall. Hearing him talk in his raspy voice (from all the yelling), listening to his stories. Hearing 'yes maam'; 'yes sir'. It was a great feeling. A very happy and dare I say, PROUD feeling. Not just of him, but of all the people that were there. The other young men in uniforms and their families. They had all sacrificed to be here and to be a part of this, and we were all united in our feelings of patriotism and pride in our sons.
'dawg was very diligent about watching the time. He wanted to get his bags to us and be back in his barracks early. He was serving as 1st squad leader and he took his responsibility serious. He watched as other guys were sneaking candy bars back in their rooms, and he stood on the corner and wolfed his down. He was even careful to not chew and walk at the same time. Rules. Oh, how we thrive on rules.
Sissy and I started the long walk back to the theater and the shuttle pick up area, while the boys got his bags. We met up, I called the hotel and they said to just wait, the shuttle was coming and going.
By now, the sun was going down, it was getting chilly. Sissy was dry now, but bored. Everyone was hungry and just ready to be back at the hotel. After an hour and a half, and no shuttle ride yet, I was starting to get desperate. There was one other family ahead of us for the same shuttle. We were going to have to wait yet another round.
I watched as a different Best Western van came in. I waved him down and explained that even though he was from a different BW - could he PLEASE just take us back to ours? Or even close enough we could just walk? It took some serious pleading and a call to his supervisor for approval, but we finally were tucked in the warm van and on our way back.
It felt weird leaving the boy at the base. I wanted him to just come with us then, but I suppose that's part of the whole experience. Goodbye's again.
After making a stop in the hotel room, we ventured out in Old Town to Fred's for dinner before calling it a night.
Laying in bed, listening to Sissy's soft breath and tickling her arms while she drifted off, I wondered what the next day would bring. What would it be like? How could I feel any prouder than I already did?
I soon found out just how much one's heart can swell.