After the Motivational Run we have about two hours before the Leave Ceremony. We go to the visitor's center where we sign-in, get some coffee, and do a little souvenir shopping. We meet the depot mascot, Hummer:
Those are Corporal stripes on his uniform. Even the dog outranks Austin.
Finally we head over to the All-Weather Facility. There's a video showing the various aspects of recruit training, which we'd already seen, and finally the Base Commander addresses the crowd. After that the new Marines march in by platoon with everybody cheering and clapping. 1038 is last, and but they are directly in front of us. Unfortunately Austin is in the rear and is block so I can't see him.
After some pomp and ceremony, they are dismissed and we are allowed to go see them.
For three months I had to listen to Pam say how she wanted the first hug but that Ariella would probably get it. I seriously thought about buying handcuffs and at the last minute slapping them on them so that they would have to go up together. But in the end, Pam said, "I guess I'll let her go up first." That was big of her, and I said I thought it was nice. So as the time comes, Ariella leans forward and tells Pam to go first, and Pam says, no, you go first, and it went like that until I finally said, "Will you two please hold hands and go up together!"
So they did. And they were fast! I didn't get to see what happened, but they ran up together and Austin hugged them both, first Ariella and then Pam. By the time I got there Pam was hugging and crying:
Then it was my turn. Boy, that really felt good.
Angela's turn. She's really, really proud of him. (The women are really weepy too, huh?)
It was really surreal. It was Austin, but he was different. His bearing was straighter, and there was a formality that underlined his excitement, and I don't mean that in a bad way, like he was somehow reserved or not excited. It was more a matter of proper comportment. He was now a Marine, and he was taught that Marines always carry themselves in a certain way. When someone wasn't hugging him and he was just standing and talking to us, one hand held his "cover" (hat) while the other hand was held behind him at the small of his back.
This was new. But it was good.
Austin and his Sr. Drill Instructor:
Pam and Angela, still red-eyed, and not from the camera flash:
We were glad that Judy was able to come. In the almost two years that he and Ariella have been dating, Austin has become a part of her family as well.
Three generations of Eubanks men:
Proud parents, and we got the shirts to prove it:
From the time he left on February 22nd...
...our whole family has been waiting for this one moment:
And you just can't believe how good it is.
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