I am in San Diego, enjoying the 65 degrees and sunshine. I arrived yesterday from chilly Baltimore and will be here until the end of the week. I am then off to Camp McCrady in South Carolina for two to three weeks of Army Combat Service Support Training. The flight here was pleasantly uneventful. However, it was the Saturday after the inauguration, and BWI was chock full of folks draped in the trappings of the occasion. As I was sitting in the departure gate area I noticed an elderly lady traveling with a girl of about six. The word elderly is probably a poor choice of words, because she stood with enviable posture, was spry, and had an au courant glint in her eye--but she was Old. 80+ would be my guess. I looked at her, then glanced at her young companion and then back at her when our eyes met and we exchanged a brief smile. I then thought of how profoundly different her life must have been when she was the young girl's age she was travelling with. I immediately gained a deeper understanding of the historic significance of this week's inaugural.
Here in San Diego, I will get "processed." This includes, medical and dental checks, vaccinations, uniform issue, and other various and sundry administrative thingamabobs. I have a couple books to read to help pass time while I "hurry up and wait." I am reading the new Malcolm Gladwell book, "Outliers" and a book by Patrick Rothfuss titled, "The Name of the Wind."
Saying goodbye to friends and family is always difficult; but saying farewell to go off to war is a bit more painful. Some folks treat you as if they will never see you again, and look at you like a dead man walking. I know what I am going over to do, and honestly, I feel that my daily commute from Cub Hill to the Navy Yard was more fraught with peril than my current itinerary.
The last month has been filled with somber farewells and festive get togethers. I would like thank Ray for arranging the libation, tokens, and tribute at the pub on my final day at the office. The plaque is mounted on the wall behind my bar, and the titanium spork is being used regularly. My brother-in-law and his wife hosted a very nice gathering at their new home, where we all watched the Ravens beat the Titans. They were barely unpacked, but still opened up their home and a good time was had by all. I spent a day in Atlantic City playing poker and craps, and spent a weekend in Williamsburg at the Great Wolf Lodge.
Yesterday, I drove to the airport and had to say farewell to my parents, wife and kids. This was more emotional than the weeks of living in denial led me to believe it would be, and there was a sudden realization on all of our parts that, yes, I was actually leaving. It was difficult, and I found myself unable to turn my back on them and walk away. I ended up walking them back to the escalator that we had all just come down and, one by one said a final good bye and gave them each a gentle nudge onto the escalator that carried them up and away from me. As they each reached the top, they turned and waved one final time before disappearing around the corner. I then found myself alone. I wiped away a tear or two (or three), picked up my bags, glanced at the departure board for my flight information and took the First Footsteps...