Friday, May 20, 2011

Freedom is Never Free

It was historically cold the week that we flew to San Antonio’s Lackland Air Force Base to see my brother graduate Basic Military Training. As we bundled up in the stands waiting for him to come out with his flight, we reminisced about just last year at that time, he was in college on a cross-country running scholarship. Now my baby brother had become an airman – a soldier that had dedicated his life for our country’s freedom. 

He came home from college one weekend back in 2009 to talk to my mom. He said he didn’t think college was for him, and felt a calling to the Air Force. My dad was in the Air Force, and Dallas had pictures of stealth bombers and F-15 jets on his walls ever since he was old enough to talk. I think we were all a little taken aback at his decision – it was such an honorable thing to do, but also a little frightening to imagine him decked out in camouflage in a middle eastern desert on a rescue helicopter with an M16.

Basic Training took him 8 weeks to complete. He could send some letters, but could only make a phone call about once a week so communication was difficult. He was pushed to mental and physical limits for 56 days straight days in ways that I can’t ever imagine pushing myself.

Since graduation, he has been at Moody Air Force Base where he specializes in electronic warfare for the Pave Hawk Helicopters. (Fancy, right?!) We got to see one at a recent air show at his base, and for lack of a better term they are just really cool.

He was anticipating a deployment to Afghanistan sometime later this year, maybe October-ish, but none of us really mentally prepared ourselves for that yet. Then, I got the phone call a few days ago that he got orders to go to Iraq…..and was leaving sometime by the end of next week.


Nobody was prepared for it, not even Dallas himself! He’s spending the next few days getting briefed, trained, and tested before he leaves for his new base thousands of miles away.

He should be there until sometime at the end of this year, and everything I’ve researched so far and heard from my peers is that it’s relatively safe on base. While I'm still reeling somewhat emotionally, I’m trying to look at it as a sort of blessing in disguise: The fact that he’s not going to terror-stricken Afghanistan is in and of itself a blessing, and we also have a good family friend who is in the Air Force that will be stationed at Dallas' base in Iraq during the same time period!

Still, the thought of them in a war zone (in the heat of the desert summer, mind you) is not exactly a springtime stroll in Central Park. Has anyone ever sent care packages to troops before? Looks like I’ll be mailing some very soon and would love some ideas!

Dallas, I’m so proud of you and so glad you have the strength, courage, and confidence to stand up and fight for this country's rights. We’ll all be praying for you and can't wait for your safe return! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Day Older Only Matters if You're A Banana

Typically I’m the one that always plans my own birthday party – get the invites out early, plan a big extravagant night on the town with friends, the whole bit. This year was different. I was at odds with what I wanted to do, if anything, and waited until the last minute to decide. Plus, 27 isn’t that fun of a number, and to be honest I was a little freaked out that I was going to “officially” be in my late twenties! Shouldn’t I have my long-term future kind of planned out by now? Financial independence, a set career path, raising a family? I had a slight quarter-life-crisis moment, even though I would never admit it face to face with anyone.

It just so happened that the Tampa Bay Rays had a game on Saturday night, and it also happened to be that Darius Rucker was doing a post-game concert! It was the perfect solution to a birthday celebration. I love Darius, with his unique baritone voice and easy cool attitude, from Hootie and the Blowfish all the way to his current country career. Plus, Cracked Rear View was the first CD I ever owned, so Darius and his songs will always have a special place in my heart. 

We told a few people what we were up to, just in case they were in the area, but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it since it was so last minute. 
As it all turns out, it was one of the most fun birthdays to date!The game was fun, the concert was awesome, and dinner and drinks afterwards was the perfect mix of chill and celebration.

It’s amazing what a great time you can have on an impromptu night with good friends, and this weekend made me realize that I don’t have to plan a lavish event in order to have an awesome birthday. It also helped me focus less on what I haven’t experienced yet at this point in my life, and turn it into an appreciation of what wonderful experiences I have had so far, and acknowledge the abundant life I already live!

My birthday wish this year -- that nothing will let me forget that :)