USAF Graduation ~

Every time I see dark clouds in the sky, and then the sun shining brightly through them, like I did this afternoon, whether it be just a small crack or a larger opening in the cloud line, I think of November 27, 1998.  Bear with me as I tell you why.

 Growing up, my two eldest daughters were very close to my parents, especially my father, who was the only father-figure they ever knew in their lives.  He taught them all the essential things:  how to make peanut brittle, homemade applesauce, etc.  Dad and Karalyn seemed to have a particularly strong bond.

 In her Senior year at Auburn High School, Karrie attended Air Force ROTC with the intention of making the Air Force her career when she graduated.  Despite the turbulence at home, she was very involved in her ROTC activities, had good grades and seemed very focused.  Her grandparents and I were very proud.  It was designed so that she would travel to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, right after graduation and attend Basic Training there, as the start to her promising career in the military. 

 Starting in late August, Karrie would attend Basic and graduate just before Thanksgiving, and her grandfather could not have been more proud of her.  Karrie was so looking forward to coming home after graduation to share her graduation with him.  No one could have foreseen how things would progress before she would finally make it home.

 My father passed away on November 18, 1998, while Karrie was in the middle of finishing up basic training and taking exams.  I still remember the anguish in her voice, not only upon hearing the loss of her grandfather, but knowing that she had a choice to make:  either come home for the funeral, or graduate from basic … just a few days before her graduation ceremonies at Lackland.  I think we both knew the answer, but I had to confirm to her that her grandfather would no doubt want her to finish the beginning of her new career.

 Al and I flew out to San Antonio on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1998 to see Karrie graduate… only a very few days after my father had been buried.  It was going to be a “quick overnight trip” for us, just long enough to get out there, do a little on-base sightseeing, spend the night, see the graduation, then leave that same afternoon to come home.  Whirlwind!

 

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The weather was less than stellar on Thanksgiving Day, and the next day, on graduation day, it was cloudy and threatening rain the entire day.  The graduation ceremonies were conducted on a very large field, and guests were seated on bleachers, much like at a football game (I assume).  It was so overcast, and I was so certain it would open up and pour any minute as the ceremonies started with cadets/graduates marching and parading on the field in front of us.  I fought back tears (and still do when I think of it) as I thought of my dad, and how he would’ve liked to be there that day to see this.  I kept trying to focus on the processions and pomp & circumstance going on in front of us on the field.  It was difficult. 

 

Getting towards the middle of the marching ceremonies, as Karrie and her colleagues were marching very close to the bleachers, and were about to do an “eyes right” to the Commanding Officer, suddenly the skies opened up and down poured sunlight!  I stared, astonished, at the parting clouds and the sun shining through a separation that shone right down on just this group of cadets!  Just Karrie’s group!  And I knew.  My father and mother were watching, and God was behind them watching over their shoulders from Heaven, and they were all proud.  Yes, I burst into tears at that moment and I knew they were with us there.

 

I don’t tell this story to many, as I have been scoffed as coincidence.  But that’s okay.  I know.  Al knows.  I hope Karrie knows.

 

Karrie continued to begin her career in the Air Force, and was stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska.  However, she met and fell in love, then married a career Air Force Intelligence officer.  She soon left the active Air Force to be a stay-at-home Mom to three of my wonderful grandchildren, and an Air Force wife to a soon-to-be-retired from the Air Force son-in-law of mine.  They still reside in Alaska.

 

Thanks for stopping by and taking a look.  I hope you find inspiration in my story.  God is everywhere.  You don’t need to look for Him, he’s there… He’s right behind you, He’s got your back.  Believe it.

 

Until next time, TTFN ~ Tamara Eckstadt

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