After graduation Austin had ten days of leave, officially called "boot leave." It doesn't count toward the 30 days of leave he gets each year. So we all drove back to our motel and changed for the drive home. Austin couldn't wait to get into civilian clothes.
A cool thing happened while he was changing. He showed us the Marine Corps emblem he received after at the Eagle, Globe and Anchor ceremony after the Crucible, and then he said to us, "I want you guys to have this, because I couldn't have done this without you.
Pretty cool moment for parents, as you can imagine.
Then he said, "I'd probably lose it anyway." OK, he could have left that part out, but it was still a cool moment.
After changing clothes we all headed over to the Outback for lunch. Since Austin turned 21 while in boot camp, he couldn't wait to get his first legal drink, so he ordered a Long Island Ice Tea. I think he was a little disappointed that the waitress didn't card him.
Then we piled in the cars for the 10-hour drive home. Judy and I went with Matt in his car since neither Pam, Angela, nor Ariella wanted to be separated from him. For the last leg of the trip I drove with Ariella, Austin and Judy so that we could drop Judy off at her house in Jefferson while Pam, Angela and Matt could arrive home first to surprise Austin by setting out yard signs.
Reunited with Kobi:
A big welcome:
Back in his room, just as he left it:
A camo fashion show at 1 a.m.:
Sunday morning he came to church in his dress blues. People were excited to see him and many wanted their pictures taken with him. Won't show you all of them, but here's one with Tim Krauss and his mother Becky. Tim is a young man with Asburger's whom Austin has worked with since he was young. Throughout boot camp Austin was the first person that Tim would pray for each night.
Pam's parents and sister Karen came up for church; this was the first time they got to see him, and I imagine seeing him in his dress blues was quite moving.
Pat Orr has been Austin's best friend since elementary school, and has the shirt to prove it:
We love Pat.
After church we headed home for a feast of barbeque from Famous Dave's, where Ariella works, and, more than two months afterwards, Austin's 21st Birthday Cake, which Angela made:
OK, sorry, I know I'm biased, but you gotta admit those are two good-looking kids Pam and I raised.
Celebratory cigars on the back deck:
Ten days went by fast, as you might imagine. He ate A LOT--I couldn't afford to feed him for more than 10 days, although he used his new salary to eat out a lot with Ariella. He went swimming at my parents' neighbor's pool:
And he, Ariella, Matt and Angela went to King's Dominion one day, which obviously drew Austin and Matt closer together:
Getting in touch with their inner...whatever.
One little boy from church, Jared McWilliams, had been looking forward to seeing Austin, but he was sick the day Austin was in church, so we arranged to have Jill bring Jared by the house the night before Austin left, and had Austin dress in his uniform. Jared says he wants to be a Marine chaplain, so he was thrilled to see Austin and had a ton of questions for him.
Austin with our next door neighbors Maddie and Justin:
Then it was time to take him to BWI so he could report to Camp Geiger in North Carolina for Marine Combat Training.
His flight left at 6:30 a.m., which means we had to be there around 4:30, which means...yeah, we didn't get much sleep.
And then he was gone again. We are, of course, very proud of him, and excited about how far he has come in the last few years to get to this point.
And hoping that things will get better in Afghanistan before he has to go there, whenever that might be. We have some time before that could happen, so we'll enjoy these times right now.
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