Off We Go into the Wild Blue Yonder…

Since hitting the road two and a half years ago with our 5th wheel RV, we’ve
visited and/or stayed at several campgrounds on military facilities aka known as ‘FamCamps’.  Our percentage of staying at FamCamps vs. other parks/resorts is about 65%.  They are an approach to help reduce the cost of vacations, weekend excursions, PCS moves, TDY and leave travel by offering military families and retirees the use of military facilities.  Though ‘FamCamp’ is technically an Air Force term, we (Liberty Crew) apply it to all military campgrounds.  We are extremely grateful that we have this privilege as it allows us a base security, enables continued military comraderie, usage of other facilities (ie. commissary, PX/BX, medical facilities, etc.).  



When we are parked at them, we have been opportuned to see some beautiful memorials, an  invitation to a military ball, and attended a ceremony or two.  Recently, we added attending an Air Force Basic Military Training Graduation at Lackland AFB in San Antonio,
Texas.  Even though we are retired military, we’ve not forgotten where we came from.  We still feel compelled to continue our duties of patriotism, honor and extending
appreciation to our new(est) generations who now stand on that wall of freedom who protect our
Nation. 

Since Liberty was moored at Lackland AFB FamCamp,
we learned when the Air Force ‘boot camp’ graduations were and promised ourselves to attend one before leaving San Antonio.  The graduation ceremony was within walking distance from the FamCamp so that made it even better.  
The event was/is held outdoors at the War Birds
Park and Parade Grounds which in itself, has an amazing display of Air Force “War Bird” aircraft that helped our Country defense 
(future blog post…stay tuned!).

If you’ve never attended a military event, we encourage you to go; whether it’s a graduation, deployment ceremony
or homecoming…GO!  In our opinion, there is no greater display of patriotism than
honoring those who give their selfless
service to our great Country.  Afterall, if it weren’t for them, our Country wouldn’t be.  

At such events, you’ll be seated amongst other military Servicemembers, military spouses, children, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers and
extended families of our Heroes.  We give
as much respect to them as we do to our military men and women because, through our own experiences, their dedication, devotion to duty and success is much owed by the support from back home.  

The Families:

The Friday I went, I walked over with my DSLR camera and sat on the top bleacher seat between two families; “Luis’s Family” (from Southern California) and “Austin’s
Family” (from Wyoming).  It was a coincidence that both of these new Airmen were flag bearers for two state flags which made it easy for me to look for Luis and Austin.  As I sat with the families, I WANTED to
learn a little about them prior to the ceremony beginning.  I shared with them that I was in their same shoes 14 years ago when our own son graduated from his Army Basic Combat Training at
Fort Knox and I appreciated how special this was as a mother and as a military Veteran.  Luis’s mother told me that Luis was her 4th
child to enlist…WOW!  FOUR children who are serving our Country at the same time in the same service! 

Alex in the center of the photo
poised and proud of her Airman
I also chatted with Austin’s mother and his young bride,
Alex.  As I watched Alex took me back to my
young military wife days of excitement and pride.  I promised them that I would take lots of
photos of the ceremony so they could  enjoy it instead of snapping
photos.  Theyve given me permission to 
share some of them.  

We were amongst 700+ other families of many different backgrounds who came to see their Airman muster on the field, “Pass in Review” marching the
field and Airmen’s Enlisted Heroes Walk to reaffirm their Oath of Enlistment.

The Ceremony:

Posting the Colors
Marching in the National Ensigns and State Flags
Alex and Luis are in there somewhere

The Band led the parade

One of the companies passing in review

One of the MANY companies passing in review

Look for Alex with the Wyoming flag and Luis with the Arizona flag!
The March:

The field was huge; larger than a football field that’s parametered by a paved sidewalk with the War Birds historical aircraft positioned around the parade field.  

Where the first set of bleachers were located, their ‘march’ begins on the Enlisted Heroes Memorial; a symbolic 32’ x 32’ walk that is comprised of 1024 inlaid tan bricks.  To date, approximately 175 of those bricks are etched with the Heroes names at the beginning of the bomb run with their rank, decoration and war participated.  These heroes earned the Medal of Honor, Air Force Cross or Silver Star.  You could feel their story as you read each Hero’s name.

Every graduate marches over these bricks to remind them of the journey they are about to embark on as new Airman of the United States Air Force and to reflect on the significance of their enlisted heritage; realizing there are heroes amongst them as well as heroes past. 



After the ceremony:
Its celebration time!  
Mass exodus of families from the bleachers.
The new Airmen must stand in formation to wait for their
families to come for them.

It was an incredible honor to meet Luis and Austin.  Both were very young; I’m guessing right out
of high school or early college.  As
expected, both were quite handsome in their Air Force blues, extremely
professional with their military bearing was exemplary.  

Luis in the middle with his family
As I took Luis’s photo with
his family; he was quite apprehensive of hugging and kissing his mom because of military protocol  of ‘No PDA’
(public display of affection) however, I affirmed it was
okay to hug and kiss his mom; especially for pictures.  He looked a bit relieved.  After leaving his
family, he loosened up a bit and I even got a hug from Luis and a thank you for photographing this important event.


Luis’s proud Mom and Dad
I noticed he let out a little grin as his Mom kissed his cheek.

I caught up with Austin’s family before everyone dispersed.  Austin and his wife, Alex, grabbed a few moments a short distance from their family to pose for a photo
or two of them together.  They were so
grateful.  I hurriedly snapped their
photos and hugged them as I left; not wanting to take anymore of their precious reunion
moments away from them…I ‘understand’ having been a military wife for over 30
years myself of those priceless private moments.  

A bittersweet reunion


Alex with her Airman, Austin

A congratulatory kiss from Austin’s wife and his Mom
Austin’s family

These are just a few of the many photos I took that wonderful day.  It was an honor to share these moments with two amazing families who have embarked on their own journey; one of…duty, committment, honor and service. 


If you’re in the San Antonio area, include a Friday in your visit so you can witness another 700+ men and women march into their new rolls as United States Air Force Airmen and perhaps you’ll meet some our Nation’s next great generation.


If you are reading this Austin and Luis, blessed thoughts to you both in your futures as Airmen.  Dan and I wish you success and pray for your safety in all you and journeys you embark on.  Semper Paratus!


Blogger’s Note:  When I post ‘Airman’ or ‘Airmen’, I did not purposely disqualify or exclude women.  As a woman Veteran myself, changing labels or titles for the sake of gender, in my opinion, does nothing but create division and lessens cohesiveness.