Grandma Grasshopper is still recovering from knee surgery and wasn't able to come, but Grandpa Grasshopper, Kerry and I all trekked down to JBLM - Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Not only did the boys survive a grueling week of Boot Camp, they did it on the hottest week of the whole summer.
When we arrived, the boys had already been standing on the field for over an hour. They were a sea of blue shirts, visible from I-5, but seemed so far away, across the Parade Ground.
The kids were divided into four squadrons, with two flights in each squadron - six male, and two female. I knew the boys were over there, but had no idea where to look. Turns out Wyatt was in Squadron 2, Delta Flight, and Tate was Squadron 3, Echo Flight. They intentionally separate brothers and - as much as possible - kids from the same home squadron. Wyatt and Tate had hardly seen each other all week.
Cadets who have already completed Basic Encampment can apply to come back as staff. Of course there were "Senior Members" (adults) in charge of the whole thing, but experienced cadets ran much of the program. Here they are, ready to start the ceremony.
After the national anthem the guidon (flag) bearers came forward for awards.
Wyatt's Flight had already won "Honor Flight - Day 4" (the yellow ribbon) and then won another award for being the best at Drill. I don't remember what Tate's flight won, as I didn't yet know which groups were theirs and just happened to snap a photo of this one. Guess which Flight/Squadron won awards for Neatest Barracks and Nicest Uniforms? (I'll give you a clue: XX.)
After awards, the cadets all marched around the parade ground by Squadron and Flight. Here's Wyatt, fourth from right, looking sharp.
And Tate, harder to see since he was in the back, on the off side, third from left, all business.
I was more than happy to see them looking so well, especially since at least one cadet had fainted and was recuperating in the shade of that static jet behind them.
Because, yah, did I mention?
Why yes, yes I did...
It's hard to see in the photo, but as they announced and congratulated each graduating Flight, caps flew into the air! And then we were invited out onto the field to greet "our" cadets.
The officer in the back, (don't know his rank) Lennell, was one of Tate's teachers and had very positive things to say about him. That's always good to hear, and it was especially reassuring to know that he was very aware of Tate's hearing issues and working with him in noise.
I also loved that Tate had thought to swap out the lime green Neptune covers for blue, to match his uniform. He - well, both of them - look so professional! Love those dress blue ;D
Two of the older cadets, in charge of Tate's Flight, also spoke well of him and the effort he put out.
I was just SO EXCITED to finally get my hands on those boys :D
Wyatt's cadet leaders had equally positive reports of his Encampment week.
Ahhh, and this is Wyatt's "wingman" - Cadet Cox. I think they made a good team :D
I think this young lady was Tate's drill sergeant. And don't think that just because she's female she went easy on them. But she had a big smile and kind words at graduation.
We finally found Victoria and got a pic of three of the four Cadet Basics from our home squadron. We're so proud of ALL of them. I think she was pretty homesick, but she stuck it out.
We got asked if these three were all brothers, but the guy in the center (from our home squadron) was working in "D-Fac" - the Dining Facility. I think it was fun for the boys, and encouraging for Wyatt in particular, to see a familiar face at every meal.
We'll have to ask Victoria, but I think this other gal was her "wingman". Aren't they cute?!
And another face from home, who came down to lead the female Squadron.
The whole sign-out process was not exactly a model of military efficiency, so Grandpa Grasshopper took the opportunity to find some shade.
I thought I was a genius, bringing an umbrella for shade, and I was not the only one!
We finally got the boys signed out, found all their bags, and staggered over to Grandpa's truck. Wyatt knew exactly where the nearest McDonald's was (I told them I'd take them anywhere they wanted for lunch, and they picked McDonald's?) All became clear when we saw the military surplus store right next door ;D
Once we hit the freeway, with the AC going?
Didn't take long for the chatter to peter out.
I'm so glad to have these guys back home, and so very proud of them. Wyatt had a lot of anxiety going into the week and I was very concerned about his morale. He mentioned the chaplain a couple of times. He knew the chaplain had counseled other cadets and been an encouragement to them, though Wyatt didn't opt to meet with him. Wyatt never used the word "quit", but referred to having a really low point (Monday or Tuesday?), but he pushed through and persevered.
Tate has the determination of Winston Churchill, so I was less worried about his morale but a bit concerned with how his hearing might affect his week. First, would all his equipment (and his management of it) stand up to the whole, exhausting week? YES! But also, how would his hearing loss affect his relationship with the other cadets? He doesn't always hear all the conversation and joking around, and I didn't want him to feel left out.
Well, hallelujah, the staff - adult and cadet staff - all seemed very aware of his strengths and potential weaknesses, and while Tate never wants to be babied, apparently all worked together in a helpful and respectful way.
And interestingly, a comment Tate made about his wingman revealed even more. He said something to the effect that he liked his wingman, but he had a couple of annoying habits. (Hello, welcome to the real world! We all have annoying habits!) Apparently the boy was always putting his hand on Tate's shoulder, and was a real close-talker.
I bet anything that when they assigned this boy to be his wingman they clued him in about Tate's hearing loss, and instructed him to get Tate's attention before speaking to him (hand on shoulder) and to stand near him when speaking to him. Ta-daaa!
Okay, maybe the boy was over-compensating a bit, but how awesome!
They had also made sure that Tate was assigned a bunk near one of the (scarce) outlets, in the barracks.
Again, I'm just so proud of them both. They rose to the challenge, and came out grinning :D