For all of my meticulous planning, we ran into a bit of a snafu before we ever left the house on Wednesday morning. I dutifully checked our flight shortly after I got up, only to find a big red X followed by the word I had been dreading...CANCELLED. I called my mom in a panic, and she reassured me that I would get there, just not on my original flight. I called the airline and was able to book a flight for a bit later. It was not a straight flight like the original, so Gunnar and I would be changing planes in Kansas City. Something I had gone great lengths to avoid. Not only was there no sign of Toto when we got to Kansas, but I tried clicking my heels 2 times and we still didn't get to Oklahoma any quicker. I realized later when I saw a young girl with sparkly red shoes that it was my shoes that had been the problem all along. I will have to remember to bring my ruby red slippers next time I pass through Kansas.
We made it to OKC (Oklahoma City) and got to our rental car. It was another 85 or so miles to Ft Sill, and lucky for me I met a wonderful Lt Col. on the flight who was nice enough to let me know that I-44 from OKC to Lawton/Ft Sill is a toll road. For those of you Arizonans who have no idea what I'm talking about, it means you have to stop every so often and pay a lovey person x amount to drive on the road you are taking. Cash money ONLY! Had I not been told, my AZ butt would have been SOL, because I had no cash on me. Lesson 1 of MANY, NEVER travel without cash!
Needless to say, we made it through the snow, frigid temperatures, multiple gate and road closures on post, and found our hotel. Gunnar was a trooper, although I believe he thinks mydon'ts and hold my hand's thrown in for good measure. Did I mention it was a mere 6 degrees when we pulled into Ft Sill that night? vocabulary the first day or 2 was reduced to, NO! Ice, Watch, Stop, Be Careful, Ice, NO! With a few
The next day was Thursday and the first day we would get to see Curt, but it would be on the Army's terms. This was called "Family Day". Curt's portion of Family Day was not until 11am, so we first went to my friend Shawnda's husband, Brent's Family Day ceremony which was right before Curt's. This was great because not only did we get a feel for what was coming, but we also get great seats for Curt's. Once the Family Day ceremony was finished we had to wait for the platoon to be officially dismissed, and we were strongly "encouraged" not to rush the formation. By the time Gunnar and I got across the parking lot of ice and snow, the formation had already been dismissed and it was all we could do not to run straight to Curt! This did not stop me from stepping right into a 2 foot pile of snow...what a way to see him for the first time after 6 weeks, huh, covered to the knees in snow! Leave it to me to make a graceful appearance! After hugging us both, he promptly swooped down to brush the snow from my jeans before whisking us away to meet everyone in sight.
Each was introduced by last name only, unless it was a spouse, parent or sibling, and then I had the pleasure of getting both names. Luckily I was already pretty familiar with most of the names I was hearing, either from letters, or from our all too brief time together over Christmas. It was great to meet everyone in person, and put names with faces. I can honestly say this was the most amazing group of people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Each shook my hand, and Gunnar's, and by the time we left we were all hugging our goodbyes, or "see you soons" as I now no longer say good bye, or am learning not to.
We went to lunch with quite a few of the wonderful people I had met and had a great time! After that we headed back to the hotel. Gunnar and I were not feeling quite up to par and we just wanted to relax with Curt. We spent time relaxing and just being together before we headed to dinner with our dear friends Brent, Shawnda, and their son Parker. We had a great dinner at Olive Garden that had been a long time coming. I am pretty sure Shawnda and I had been planning it for about 6 months! Before I knew it, dinner was over and it was time to get Curt back to his bay. It is a very strange feeling to drop your husband off to sleep somewhere else knowing that you will be just a mile or so away.
Friday was the actual graduation. We started the morning with Brent's graduation. A perfect example of the inconsistency of the Army. We were told Brent's graduation would be at 9am so we lined up in the cold outside the auditorium at 8:15ish to get good seats. What we found out, along with MANY other families, was that this information was wrong and graduation did not start until 10am. The auditorium staff was nice enough to let us into the front of the building so we did not freeze until the main seating opened up at 9:45am. Once seated things went smoothly, and both the boys were good. Gunnar and I went to get something to eat after Brent's graduation while we waited for Curt's to start.
Lucky for us, Curt's started on time, and it had warmed up a bit by the time we had to wait to get in for his. Poor Gunnar was so tired by this point he slept through the entire thing, including the Army band. I am very proud to say, Curt graduated with honors in the top 5 percent of his class. It was an amazing feeling to watch him walk across that stage, I can only imagine the pride he had, because the pride in me was overwhelming.
After graduation everyone had to be picked up at the bays. This posed a challenge for me, as my GPS doesn't work on post, and as I said above, multiple roads and gates were closed, causing lots of detours. I was fortunate enough to have the wife of one of Curt's good friends lead the way, and even pull over on the side of the road to wait for me when security decided I would be a good person to pull over for a routine check since my rental didn't have a post sticker. We caravaned with parents of another of the wonderful soldiers I met while I was there and got to the bays along with 100's of other people.
After finding Curt among the many soldiers we decided to look for a few things around post that we wanted. First stop was finding the teddy bear in ACU's that Gunnar has been coveting for some time. He saw a picture of Parker with one and hasn't stopped talking about it since. That turned out to be the easiest of our "wants" to find. Next on the list was a pair of miniature ACU's for Gunnar himself. This is also something G-man has wanted since the first time we met with a recruiter. He knew they existed because he has had a miniature flight suit, 2 to be exact. When he grew out of the first one, he promptly requested a second from Great Papas also known as my mom's dad. The mini ACU's turned out to be harder to find than I ever anticipated. We started at what we thought would be the most logical place, the PX (Post Exchange). We started with the small PX because Brent had seen them there, but they only had a size 4, no go for our humungo kiddo. Then we went to the big PX. When we came up empty handed there we went to the tactical store which sells military clothes, etc. Again a no go, but this time I got smart. I was running out of stores to check, so I asked the woman behind the counter if she had any inkling as to where I could find such a thing. It's amazing where asking a simple question can get you! She pointed us to a store in the same parking lot....Military Clothing and Sales...who'd thunk! Sure enough they had all types of military attire from ASU's, ACU's, PT's, and everything in between. In the back there was a kids section with miniature ACU's in all sizes and even full PT's too! I swiped up a PT shirt while G was trying on the ACU's for size, but stayed away from the all too small PT shorts ;-)
By this time it was yet again time to feed our faces. We were meeting another of Curt's friends and her parents for dinner. We headed off post to Chili's and ordered Gunnar's dinner while we waited. We had a wonderful time getting to know each other, and I had an incredible respect for her by the time we had to leave. I know I could not do what she has done and what she will continue to do, just as I cannot do what Curt has done and will continue to do. She did tell me that she felt she couldn't be in my shoes, so we agreed that I will continue to support from the sidelines with all I have while they continue to serve and protect while being as safe as humanly possible in their Army careers.
Then it was back to the bays for yet another drop off. Gunnar is routinely asleep by this time, so we make it a point to say a quick goodbye, or "see ya soon" as I am trying so hard to get used to. As the Army frowns on PDA in uniform, especially ASU's (Also known as dress blues).
Saturday is our true family day. Curt was allowed to wear his ACU's as long as we stayed on post. This meant that G-man would be wearing his too so he could look like daddy! We were not able to pick up Curt until noon so Gunnar and I went for some breakfast and then back to the hotel to do some of his homework. Shortly before pick up time I got a text requesting I come baring Starbucks, and that if I did my husband would love me forever and ever and ever, even more than he already does. In case you haven't guessed, I had to go off post to get the Starbucks. So Gunnar and I scurried to get the coffee and get to the bays on time AND without getting lost since I no longer had an escort. Mission accomplished!
We grabbed a bite to eat at the food court at the PX and then started exploring the post. Ft Sill has a historical portion that is beautiful! We even found the home of the wonderful Lt. Col. from the plane who was so helpful. I only know because he told me what to look for, and that this last name would be on the outside of the house. We also went to a museum with all kinds of Civil War era cannons and weapons. We even got to see a working catapult replica. We learner some interesting information about "gunners" that I will share another time. I got a few good pictures of both of my boys in their ACU's by some cool cannons, but the sun was not being my friend, I hadn't planned my photo session very well :-(
Then we went back to the hotel, ordered salads and pizza and just spent some quality time together. Before I knew it, it was yet again time to head to the bays. We were told that we would have Sunday to spend together, but based on the MANY times that Curt's AIT (advanced individual training) had been changed, my Army Wife "gut" told me I should say my goodbyes or "see ya soons" that night. I even said to Curt, "Do I need to say goodbye now? I can handle a lot of things, but I can't handle not saying goodbye." As tears flooded my eyes. He assured me that he was not going to AIT until Monday and we would have the next day together. I hugged him tight and drove back to the hotel. No sooner did I have Gunnar tucked in an snoring than I got a text confirming what my gut knew all along. Curt would be crossing the tracks to AIT the next day. I said a short prayer that we get at least 30 seconds to say goodbye to him before we had to leave for our other hotel in OKC the next night.
My prayer was granted after waiting over 2 hours in the car, we got about 28 seconds to say goodbye with Curt's battle buddy/roommate by his side. Hey, at least I got to meet him before I left, how many wives can say that ;-) The only real reason they even let him come out was because I brought his cigars, and they are considered contraband until he passes his first PT test. Instead of making him toss $100+ worth of cigars and his traveling humidor, they took pity on him, or me, or the cigars, who knows! Either way, he was allowed those few precious seconds to say farewell. Now whoever said the Army is all bad? NOT ME for sure! Although I did learn another very valuable lesson that day. I am an Army Wife now, it's okay for my prayers to be a bit more selfish. Next time it'll be 5 minutes instead of 30 seconds!
Gunnar and I headed into Lawton for a late lunch before making our way to OKC for the last night in Oklahoma. We had an early flight home, and by now we were both ready. I was an easy drive, until I had to figure out how to return the rental car at the airport. Errr...airport layouts and I do not get along, I don't care how many signs there are! By the 3rd loop (or so) I made it to the drop off and called the hotel for the shuttle. Lucky for me the driver was on break and they said to take "just any cab" and it would be hotel pay. So I did just that. Apparently in hotel speak "just any cab" means "airport shuttle only" and the cab I took wasn't one, so I had to pay, or the poor guy would have gotten stiffed, and I wasn't going to let him not get paid because I don't understand hotel lingo. Then set up a shuttle for the morning. Come to find out I wasn't the only one who didn't speak the guys "lingo" because the next morning when the shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 4:45am and didn't show by 4:50am I went in to find out what was going on. Turns out the genius sent the shuttle to the wrong hotel. Good to know it wasn't just me who didn't speak moran.
We made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare because I have yet to kick the neurotic bone in me. G-man and I got some breakfast and headed for our gate. Once on the plane we napped until we landed in AZ, where my favorite baby sister came to our rescue and swooped us home so we could get situated for our return to work and school the next day. And that my friends, was our trip to Ft Sill, OK for Curt's graduation from basic training. In a nut shell, it was an amazing experience, I wouldn't change for the world. I am so incredibly proud of all that my husband has accomplished and that Gunnar and I were able to be there to share that special moment with him and be able to spend time with him and meet the incredible people we met and get a true taste of the life we will be leading for the next undetermined amount of time. This may only be the beginning of our journey, but it is the start of something truly incredible for our family.