Immediately after I was released from the hospital, we went to celebrate Shane’s 20th reunion at the Air Force Academy. Twenty years have flown by. In twenty years, we moved around twelve times (thirteen if you count extended TDYs)– Minnesota to Colorado Springs to Oklahoma to New Mexico (me) and Louisiana (him) to North Dakota (both) to Germany to North Dakota to Virginia to Ohio to Florida to Colorado Springs. We have survived five years of separation, and four deployments (two combat). And now we are back where it all began.
Thursday, we went to Antlers, a local hotel, and picked up our tickets. One thing about the reunion is it’s quite expensive (the tune of $900!). The registration alone was $100 each. It included a dinner and free drinks on Thursday night. There we met up with friends we hadn’t seen in years. I found out that several people Shane sang with in Catholic Choir were living here locally. It was so nice to see people I hadn’t seen in 20 years, and being asked to come hang out!
On Friday, we went to the actual Academy and toured it. We went to Shane’s old squadron. Talked to the cadets. We learned interesting statistics about the new class. The greatest statistic was the cadet class in 1997 was only 10% female, while the cadet class in 2021 is 30% female! It was so nice to see such a change in environment at the Academy. Most of the women at the academy are studying STEMM majors. So it’s not just “fuzzy” majors. These women are going to be the future leaders in Engineering and Math career fields.
We also found out that Shane’s boss in Florida, General Silvaria is now the Superintendent at the Air Force Academy. It was nice to see him and his wife again.
At the end of the day we went to the memorial service. There were several deaths in the four reunion classes (1972, 1992, 1997, and 2007). They read the names of the deceased this year (including one senior) in each class. Played Taps, and the Missing Man formation of A-10s. The clouds have begun to roll in, and the angels began to cry during the formation. It was beautiful and sad at the same time. There was one guy in Shane’s class that died this year in combat. It made this ceremony extra special, as the family was there to lay roses on his name. There was not a dry eye in the crowd.
At the end of the ceremony, I caught this nice fellow watching with his friend. He is a PTSD service dog, who was attending with a 2007 graduate. It’s a stark reminder of the sacrifices that living veterans are making. It has changed my attitude about being a veteran. I am considered a disabled veteran, and for years I was not proud of my service. I didn’t deploy. When I left the service I got someone else’s going away gift, and I felt like I didn’t sacrifice. But recognizing those that did make the ultimate sacrifice, and seeing the PTSD dog made me feel blessed, that even though I have service connected cancer, I did experience what my husband and other vets have experienced.
The weekend ended with the football game. I don’t have any pictures from this event. I brought my camera, but decided to put it back in the car. The game was a close one, but our Falcons could not pull it out in the end. Anyway, the kids, Shane, and I went to the class tailgate, where we met a friend from both Shane’s squadron AND pilot training, Ryan. Turns out Ryan is a published author, so I got his card to discuss with him how to get published (I have kind of decided to publish my book as a collection of short stories and novellas). When we got to our seats, it started raining. The rain started out lightly, then the wind picked up, and by 9:00 minutes into the game, it was 48-degrees, with driving rain, and 30 mph winds. We watched the Falcons score first, and then we decided to leave.
As we left, my son, decided to hit every puddle. We got home, fired up the fireplaces, and turned on the game. Luckily we left, as the game was on an 80-minute lightening delay. We flipped from various Big Ten games, drank hot chocolate, and ate chips and dip. All-in-all we really enjoyed ourselves at the reunion.