Thursday, May 7, 2009
A Busy Time Of Year
Whew! Where have you all been??? Only kidding, of course. Where have I been? Seems like I've been around the world and back since I last blogged. Hard to believe my last post was about Susan Boyle, who just seems so ... oh, I don't know, yesterday's news? I actually stopped paying much attention to her after her Burberry makeover. Hopefully she'll get some good advice and won't pluck her eyebrows into oblivion.
Life for the Sullivan family has been crazy and fun over the past several weeks. Aside from the everyday excitement -- golf season has finally begun, for example (yawn...) -- two highlights include events marked by the slide shows I've included here.
First, Bill and I took Julia and my niece, Charlotte, to Washington State to visit Kristen & DJ. As many of you know, Kristen and her husband moved to Bellingham, WA about six months after their wedding in April of '07 (for those who joined us then, can you believe it's been two years?). Bellingham is approximately 2 hours north of Seattle, and is, well, completely gorgeous. I have never visited the Pacific Northwest, and was overwhelmed by its sheer beauty and magnificent natural features. When you stand at the edge of the ocean, you are flanked by farmlands (cows, tulips, silos, etc.) on one side and mountains (Mt. Baker, Canadian Rockies, Cascades) on the other. The mountains are huge (sorry, NH White Mt. fans) and the landscape breathtaking. The awesome beauty of the natural features created by glacial melting is truly incredible. Highlights from our trip included walking the boardwalk through Bellingham and Fairhaven, tugboating to and then hiking around Cypress Island with DJ's parents, visiting the tulip festival before having a delicious dinner at a restaurant by the oyster flats, driving into Canada and spending the day at Stanley Park in Vancouver, and then, finally, staying overnight in Seattle, with a fabulous dinner, funky hotel and quick stops at Pike Street Marketplace and the Space Needle. The girls Loved everything, though the highlight for them -- other than jumping off the back of the Bernardi into the freezing cold waters off Cypress Island -- may have been the Microsoft surface table at our hotel. Bill wants one for Christmas, but unfortunately for him (luckily for me) the table is still only available for purchase by businesses or entertainment/hotel retailers.
Shortly following our return, we had the privilege of attending my brother's Change of Command Ceremony in Brunswick, ME.
Now, I'll assume that most of my readers have no idea what this is, so here's a very brief explanation, probably with some errors (sorry, Rob). The U.S. Navy's airplane fleet is divided into squadrons, based on type of airplane. Each airplane in the fleet (not sure if fleet is even the correct term) has a specific function. Rob's current airplane performs surveillance functions.
Every few years, leadership of the squadron changes hands. The squadrons' leadership is handled by (in descending order) the Commandant, the Commanding Officer (CO), and then the Executive Officer (XO). Rob just became the XO of the squadron, and will become CO at some point down the road.
Let me just say, the Navy certainly knows how to do it right. The Change of Command ceremony was carried out with all the military honor and hoopla you could hope for. It began with the officers' families being escorted into the airplane hanger by junior officers in their dress whites. After we were seated, all the female relatives present received beautiful bouquets of flowers (I told Rob afterward that this was a moment that Julia will remember all her life; her jaw literally dropped -- and stayed open for a long time -- when the airman came over with a bouquet with her name on it). A military band played a few songs, and then various officers delivered speeches. Following the formal ceremony, we were treated to cake and coffee and escorted on board the actual airplanes that fly the squadron's missions. In the slide show below, you will see pictures of the airplane with Rob's name on it (you may have to zoom it open a big larger).
You will have to take my word for it when I say that until you are part of it, you have absolutely no idea of the full extent and scope of this largely separate military world. Reading the news and seeing it on television isn't the same. Not until you meet the men and women up close, in their environment, in their uniforms and surrounded by the customs of formalities of their daily lives, do you begin to have an understanding of the commitment, difficulties and honor of a life in the military. I can say with some certainty that if my brother weren't in it, I would have little if any knowledge of it.
I can also say with certainty that having a brother in the military is one of the highlights of my life and of my family's life. We are incredibly proud of Rob, and so proud of what he and his own family do every day for us and for the country. Pride in military service does not belong solely to republicans and conservative-minded Americans. There are plenty of liberals out there who no doubt share my deep faith in and appreciation for the men and women in uniform.
In a couple of weeks, Rob and his squadron will be deploying for six months at sea. My sister-in-law, Jen, has already taken on her recurring role of family manager to my two nieces and nephew, coordinating their very full life down in Jacksonville, Florida, while awaiting Rob's return in mid-December. When Michelle Obama talks about the need to support military families, we can totally relate.
Please keep Rob and Jen in your prayers over the next several months.
Congrats, Rob! Fly safe.