The Great Camel Experiment: Part II – Camp Verde, TX

If you have been following us, back in January of 2017, we converged with the Xscapers in Quartzsite, Arizona. That following Spring, we happened upon a cool little General Store and Post Office in a small town near San Antonio, Texas. Not realizing it, the two cities we’ve been to over a thousand miles apart were connected in history.

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Warbirds at Lackland Air Force Base

This piece is about magnificient war-fighting planes aka…WAR BIRDS…and the men and women who put themselves in the pilot’s seats and crews to unleash their wrath on our Nation’s enemies from past wars and conflicts.  


When we were parked at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas this past February, we caught up with our RV besties, Tim and Emily from OwnLessDoMore for a couple weeks.  While there, Emily and I took a power walk over to the War Birds Park so she could show me some ‘awesome airplanes’.  She appreciated how much we enjoyed military history so she thought this was just perfect for us to experience.  After they “Timily” (Tim & Emily) set out on the road again, we frequented the park on our walks to score some photos.   


The park’s concrete walkway circled around the ceremonial parade field.  On the outer parameter of the parade field is an amazing collection of ‘War Birds’ of past wars and conflicts.  Nicely manicured landscaping allows visitors an up-close-and-personal look at these incredible aircraft that credits our Air Force’s fighting success.  You can touch the planes and feel their once, vibrant spirit.
Nice to look at, cool to touch but please don’t climb.
This is an ‘outdoor museum’
Chief Master SGT William Petrie


Assembled between various War Birds were ‘…an enlisted story’ plaquards of notable Enlisted Airmen of the Air Force.  Since Lackland AFB is home to the Air Force’s Basic Military Training facility, it’s fitting to have these as inspiration and historical notables of the service’s enlisted heroes to teach our newest generations. We were privileged to attend an Air Force BMT Graduation and wrote a previous blog about our experience; Off We Go into the Wild Blue Wonder. This is just one of the many ‘an enlisted story’ plaques.



One of my favorites was the SR-71 Blackbird!  Like all of the aircraft exhibits, it was cool that we could actually touch and look completely around the Blackbird’s fuselage.  This is one of those, ‘you gotta see it to believe it’. The SR-71 first flew in December 1964; we were only about two years old back then.  It was retired by NASA in 1999.  For over 30 years, this spy plane flew over Mach 3 speeds and was the fastest plane which could outfly any missle.  This bird ranged 3682 miles without fueling.  To put that into perspective, its 2572 miles from New York City to San Francisco.  

The Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird”
The information below is from http://www.sr-71.org/  
Click the link for more information on the Blackbird.
SR-71 Specifications
Manufacturer: Lockheed Aircraft Corporation
Length: 107′ 5″
Length of Nose Probe: 4′ 11″
Wing Span: 55′ 7″
Wing Area: 1,795 ft. sq.
Wing Aspect Ratio: 1.939
Wing Root Chord: 60.533
Wing Dihedral Angle: 0 degrees
Wing Chord: 0.00
Wing Sweep: 52.629 degrees
Inboard Elevon Area: 39.00 ft. sq.
Outboard Elevon Area: 52.50 ft. sq.
Total Vertical Rudder Area: 150.76 ft. sq.
Moveable Rudder Area: 70.24 ft. sq.
Rudder Root Chord: 14.803 ft.
Rudder Tip Chord: 7.833 ft.
Height: 18′ 6″
Empty Weight: 59,000 lbs.
Maximum Weight: 170,000 lbs.
Fuselage Diameter: 5.33 ft.
Service Ceiling: 85,000’+
Maximum Speed: Mach 3.3+ (Limit CIT of 427 degrees C)
Cruising Speed: Mach 3.2
Engines: 2 Pratt & Whittney J-58 (JT11D-20A) with 34,000 lbs. of thrust.
Range: 3,200 nautical miles (without refueling)
Some photos of some other aircraft…
Each of the aircraft were provided with a plaquard describing their historic use:
One of the most notable and heartstring-pulling exhibits is the Medal of Honor Memorial that lists all the Air Force Medal of Honor Recipients:
Let’s not forget highlighting the nostalgic ‘Nose Art’.  Military Aircraft Nose Art began for practical reasons of identifying friendly units. What started as simple creativity evolved to express the individuality often constrained by the uniformity of the military, to evoke memories of home and peacetime life, and as a kind of psychological protection against the stresses of war and the probability of death.  It was a morale keeper for the Troops.

On the opposite side of the ceremonial parade grounds visitors viewing area (bleachers) is the Air Force Military Training Instructors (MTI’s) Building:

More War Birds:

Dan reading an ‘…an enlisted story’ pertaining to this Warbird


At the opposite end of the parade field and on the War Bird Park is a newer memorial (2009) dedicated to our Nation’s Military Working K-9’s.  While we have visited many military memorials nationwide, including several in Washington D.C., this one truly moved us emotionally.  Perhaps it’s our love for animals but mostly it’s because of our appreciation of these ‘war dogs’ that were stationed with our son’s Cavalry units in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since we connected on a personal level, seeing this memorial put lumps in our throat, tears in our eyes and exceptional love in our hearts for our military working dogs.  

The Military Dog Handler’s helmet 
was filled with coin donations from visitors
The back of the memorial wall
is a beautifully etched mural of military working dogs 

from all five branches of the military




These are just a few of the many photos I took when there were very few visitors. The collection is much more extensive with other War Birds that you’ll just have to come see for yourself.  If you’re a military historian or military history enthusiast, we highly recommend visiting this fabulous display of military aircraft.  What an amazing place to not only take in the history of our Air Force but also to enjoy a good walking workout.


If you can, include a Friday so you can witness another 700+ men and women marching into their new rolls as United States Air Force Airmen.  You can read about our experience ‘Off We Went into the Wild Blue Wonder’.





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.  

Remembering the Alamo!

Remember the Alamo!!  


Did you know March 6, 2017 was the 181st Anniversary of the Siege of the Alamo.  


How many of you, without Googling, could tell what happened there and why the Alamo is such an important historical site?


*crickets…crickets…crickets…*


Let us help you out a little…


…the Alamo is the home of the 1836 battle where heroes, Esparza, Crocket, Bowie, and Travis died fighting for freedom.  Their sacrifice helped birth Texas and globally, put it on the map.  Their call for aid and refusal to surrender in the face of overwhelming odds stirred America and the world.  The seige lasted 13 days but there’s tons more in history to learn about the 13 days of siege of the Alamo.


Since it has such a great historical importance , we will just direct you to here to the Alamo website:  




Today, the Alamo is the heart of San Antonio and is Texas’ most visited historic landmark and we made it a point to visit it, inside and out.  Its not a far walk to the Riverwalk, so put this on your San Antonio To-Do’s.




The one thing that just surprised us was just how small it really is…the building that is and inside the fort area.  In movies, it shows a much larger image but the fact is, it’s quite small and takes up very little real estate.  It’s located in the middle of the city amongst towering modern buildings and shopping all around it.  The amazingly beautiful, architectured 300-year old former Spanish mission-turned-fortress is a great exhibit open year-round; free for school groups, families, travelers and all who visit and experience first hand the battlefield and hallowed grounds.  Literally, the hair on the backs of our necks stood up as we walked graciously with each step.


Here, in its current state:


About the buildings ——> HERE


The night we took these photos was actually a rarity to enjoy this…no people.  We consider ourselves lucky as we have walked by it several different times of the day on different occasions only to see it swarmed with visitors making it difficult to get good National Geographic type photos.  These are OUR photos.  

The Entrance

The outer ‘fortress’ wall and gate

Click on the photo to get a better look to read

This is what it normally looks like during the day, so you see what an incredible gift it was to get to see it ‘naked’.


Though we didn’t get to attend the 13 days of interactive living history events to commemorate the 181st anniversary of the 1836 siege and battle of THE ALAMO this year, we DID get to go last year this time when our son was in town visiting.  




We went on a 1-hour guided tour by Alamo History Interpreters exploring the story that made Texas famous.  We learned about the events and heroes that endured hardship, gallantry and valor. Our ‘guided tour’, cost us $30 but was well worth the money, took us along the original footprint of the Spanish mission and ended inside the Alamo Church.  The exhibits were very well done with artifacts and chronological historical lineage on plaquards.  Just a note, no photography inside the building of artifacts is permitted.

So, today, we tip our hats to Texas history today!!  Never forget THE ALAMO!



Castroville, Texas – Small Town with Big Personality

 

If you’ve been following our blog may have noticed that we love America’s small towns.  While the big cities boast so many cool and cultural attractions to do and see, the allure of Small Town America is what draws us.

 

Since 2014,, we’ve enjoyed our stays in small towns across the country like Taylorsville KY, Gering, NE, Lucas and Wilson, KS, Deer Lodge, MT as well as Penrose in Colorado. But one stands out; a quaint yet growing town just outside of San Antonio,  Castroville, Texas.

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Family Day in San Antonio

 

 

In 2016, about a month after our son returned from his fourth and final Middle East deployment, he drove down from his home and duty station in Colorado to come check out our new digs and visit for a few days.  We bragged about how wonderful San Antonio was and that he just had to come check it out for himself.  Unfortunately, his fiance’ couldn’t get time off from work to come with him but we made the best of his visit.

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