The sign at Camp LeJeune… I would have taken one of the gates but the Heroes had weapons, and quite frankly, they looked like they would use them. :) Of course, by the time I got through the check-in, I was ready to use one. Let me ‘splain, Lucy…
My girls and I went to get Joel Saturday morning. Lacey had been talking to him on the phone most of the morning, getting directions, etc. So, as we’re pulling in and parking at the visitor center (literally, I’m putting it in Park) she tells me “You need the vehicle registration, title, insurance card, driver’s license, etc.) I’m looking at her in shock. Ya’ll coulda mentioned this BEFORE we left Ohio… *sigh* Anyhow, I had everything I needed except a current insurance card. (Yes I have it; no I don’t have an updated card. It would be on my table at home.)
So we go in, where a very pleasant LCpl Perkins informed me that he needed to talk to my insurance company (yay – they’re open on Saturday) to verify my insurance. Got that out of the way and we finally get to sign in.
LCpl P: Who are you here to see?
Lacey: PFC Joel XXX
Me: Are you sure he’s a PFC?
LCP: *raises eyebrow, looks unamused* What unit is he in?
L: *calls Joel* what unit are you in?
Joel on Phone: Wuah wuah wuah wuah wuahh
LCP: Ahh, the 1/9 – the Walking Dead.
Me and Haley: What??!!
LCP: They’re the only unit authorized to have their own unit flag; they were almost completely wiped out in Viet Nam. Lot of history with that unit.
M & H: *SIGH* Ok… (we are so ignorant about military stuff)
So we leave the visitor center (and a VERY little cutie LCpl Perkins - *sigh* all these uniforms are going to be my undoing) and drive through the gate. Signs everywhere about speeders being banned and no radar detectors allowed. Now, I drive through VA with one all the time and don’t sweat it. Somehow, I don’t think my postage paid envelope is gonna cut it if I’m caught. So I drive BELOW the limit (yea, I know) and take the dog off the dash and put it away.
We’re on the phone with Pvt Johnson (whose phone Joel has been using) driving around this place, checking out the sights and being called retards because they can’t give good directions. They’re lucky they’re young Heroes… jeez.
We get back to the barracks; park the Jeep and Joel comes bounding out in his little BDU’s. Seriously. He doesn’t walk, he runs. And he looks so CUTE in his little hat!!! (Or HOT as the girls would say – not I, he’s like my kid) He even has the little tan line on his head… LOL…
So we tour the base, he changes into civvies and we head back to the motel to get my son and my daughter’s friend. Went out to eat, then came back and they all took a nap. It was comical. The kids were worn out from the trip, and Joel was just plain whipped.
Once everyone woke up, we decided we were going to the beach. Ok, I KNOW it was only 47 degrees out (and believe me – it took a LOT of talking by all of us to convince her she would NOT be swimming) but I’ve never seen it. We were that close, and I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to mark one off my list of to-see’s. (Forgive, I'm still learning to work with my photos.)
On our way to Cape Carteret, we pass a sign for the Beirut Memorial. I was curious because I’d just read about this a few months ago in my Quest for Knowledge. I remembered hearing about this in school, but didn’t know what it was all about. So I read up on it and of course it was fitting that the Marine base would have a memorial for them nearby.
It was a gorgeous garden with beautiful flowers and many signs telling about “The Other Wall”. The names were there and although there was no one I knew, I felt the tears roll down my face. It was very moving. I looked at my oldest daughter (Joel’s closest friend) and told her quietly, “You know, there will be a Wall for this one as well.” She just looked at me and said, “I know, momma.” Then she walked away.
There was also a monument to the Heroes regarding the 9/11 tragedy… It was moving as well. Dedicated by the Firemen of NYC for the 343 lost to those who protect them in the Sandbox. From there, it was kind of a quiet ride to the beach. I believe the gravity of all of this is just beginning to dawn on them. Joel knows what its about, he’s very aware of what he’s doing. My kids, not so much. They love him very much; they’re very proud of him (as I) and they miss him a lot. They have had few people in their lives die. (We’ve been fortunate.) So I think this was weighing on their minds as we drive along.
Then the chatter picks up as we get closer. We cross a huge high bridge and come down into the cape and you can see it peeking from behind buildings. We find the pier, and we’re off! We get down there and it is just incredible! Puffy clouds in the sky, water breaking and sliding on into the sand. Seagulls flying around… awesome. I just stood there and was mesmerized for awhile. Down the pier people were fishing, so I went out to the edge and snapped some pictures. For those of you who live by the beach and are bored, I come from a 3 light town in the Midwest and 81 in my class. This is something cool to me. I got to stand in the ocean and feel the breeze on my face, walk through the sand and feel the cold water for just a moment in time.
We head back, all of us worn out, to drop Joel back off at the base. He had barracks duty that night and he was feelin’ the strain. Once in the camp, back at his housing area, we get a picture of all of us (ironically, the first time I’ve had my kids together for a picture for years). Joel is a part of our lives, and we’re thankful to have him. Even if only for a short while.
Stay tuned for part 2... the Road Trip...