Last Saturday felt like the best hug from my beloved Airman. As I walked beneath the wings and bellies of Air Force planes and shared time with our troops at Robins AFB, I missed my dad. These machines and our cherished armed forces apparently course through the blood. I felt like I was coming home.
Robins serves as the U-2 program headquarters, and I shared much of the day in the company of a few of its leading experts. This is one impressive glider. My little man and I drank up every word the crew shared... not to mention a little liquid food. (For the uninitiated, go for the cherry pie! They totally had my number! Thumbs up!) We laughed with them; we learned from them; we said good-bye at the road.
Colonel Buhler, thank you for your welcome and your time with us. You inspired young hearts and endeared yourself to all. You have much for which to be proud! This base enfolded us as family from the moment we arrived to the moment we parted. Robins AFB is a jewel, highly valued.
I wasn't the only one with an open heart that day. I watched aging fathers with their adult sons unmasking memories, removing their caps, hiding their eyes in their shoulders to sweep away the tears. I watched husbands and wives... holding hands... standing motionless in silence. Remembering. We cannot forget. We are one family.
My fingers trace bronze lettering gleaming in the sun. Tears wash my eyes and tighten my throat. You are not forgotten, Jay. I hold lilacs in my heart. Picked by my grandma, brought by my dad, laid by me, watched by my son. Four generations... and you're in every heart.
One solitary moment will always stand out about that day. My littlest guy and I strolled about these hulking planes beneath a scorching Georgia sun, clay parched and cracked beneath our feet. I looked up at the familiar Air Force markings beneath a silver wing. Images of my dad flash... focused and under pressure among these machines preparing for take-off on Vietnam missions. Timing imperative. Accuracy crucial. Dedication paramount. And I laid down. Delicate, white poplin blouse pressed against a rough scrub of a field. Half-pint eyes gazing up at a silver wing... USAF symbol stretching above my head. A brilliant ocean of sky... wisps of slowly drifting cotton clouds. "Mama, what are you doing?" "Just being close to Grandpa for a minute buddy..." A little girl and her daddy. Miles apart. Bound by heart. So grateful. So proud.
With all my heart... I thank you.
To the dear military families who visit with me here regularly, know that I hold you in my heart and keep you in my prayers. I am unspeakably honored to be a tie to home... until you return and we welcome you with waiting arms.
If you would like to see some of the planes we enjoyed, I invite you to browse the gallery. And thank an Airman... all of our men and women in service... every chance you get.