Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Hoosier Homecoming

Members of the 3-19th ADT reunite with their families 

Greetings from Hoosier soil! I'm happy to report that this update (although several weeks tardy) was completed in the comfort of my parent's home, the same dwelling that I've called "home" for the last 28 years. In addition to this blog being the first done while back on the farm, it is also the first that I've been able to enlist the efforts of a tasty glass of port when facing a writer's block.

During my last post, I mentioned "an undisclosed location in SW Asia". Today I write from "from an extremely familiar, hospitable location in Allen County". Fortunately, within about four days of writing that post I was notified that it was time for me to begin my final leg of travel back to Indiana. After nearly three weeks in transit, you might imagine this was music to my ears. There was a slight deviation in my flight plan though- instead of traveling into Indianapolis, they informed me that I would be flying to Ft. Wayne in an effort to return to my Air National Guard base. 

Upon learning that I would be traveling into Ft. Wayne, a light bulb instantly turned on alerting me of a chance to surprise my parents. For weeks, I had been telling my father that I would be home in time for his 72nd birthday which fell on August 4th. As the delays continued, it appeared that there was no way I would be in Indianapolis before August 5th. Therefore, I decided it'd be best not to tell my parents (or anyone for that matter) that I might now be coming into Ft. Wayne until I was physically on the ground. 

Several months ago the Indiana News Center featured a segment on the work of our team in Afghanistan. One of the producers (Krystal) for the INC actually used to intern in the Indiana Senate's Media Office, so she and have I kept in touch over the years since we were colleagues in the Statehouse. Just for fun, I emailed Krystal to gauge her interest in helping me stage a surprise homecoming for my family. Needless to say, she loved the idea and the rest is history. My sister Ellen was the only person in the family who knew about my plan and this entire surprise would not have been possible without her assistance/coordination. The following link will take you to the story and accompanying video clip. Thanks again to Krystal and Max for all of your help!

Within 30 minutes of conducting the interviews with the Indiana News Center, my dear mother was hard at work preparing "the quintessential Indiana summer meal" I publicly announced I was hungry for. Just as the story goes about the loaves and fishes, mother dearest performed several miraculous feats with her BLT's and sweet corn as all 16 of us ate to our heart's content. 

State Fair Fun
For the last four years, I've had the opportunity to attend the Indiana Pork Producers Ham Breakfast. The breakfast, essentially a "Who's Who" in Indiana agriculture, is held at 6:15AM each year on the Opening Day of the Indiana State Fair. In an effort to spend as much time as possible with my parents in the immediate days following my homecoming, I invited them to join me for the breakfast. With close to 300 people in attendance that morning, the look on my parents' faces when Lt. Governor Skillman mentioned publicly that they were in the crowd was one I'll not soon forget. Following the breakfast, the official Opening Ceremonies took place over in the Pioneer Village section of the fairgrounds. During the program, one of the Queen contestants sang a rendition of "Back Home Again in Indiana" that honestly could have made a bald man's hair stand-up. Standing with a close friend at the moment, I mentioned that the song now had an entirely new meaning and has never sounded more beautiful. Although I've heard countless renditions of the classic, I'm certain that version will stand out in my mind for years to come. The State Fair was a great welcome home for so many, our thoughts and prayers go out to those killed or injured during last weekend's tragic accident where the stage collapsed just before the Sugarland concert.

The remainder of our unit, a group of 57 soldiers, all arrived back to Indianapolis this past Wednesday. It was  wonderful to see all of them as they stepped off of the aircraft, but as you might imagine- other military members were the last people they wanted to see at that point. Awaiting just a few miles away, families who hadn't seen their loved ones in close to a year were just as anxious for their reunion.

In the short week that I've officially been back at home, we as a family have been able to accomplish an entire summer's worth of activities. Together we've logged countless hours down at the family swimming hole, snuck in quick trip to Cedar Point, enjoyed far too many extravagant meals, and even managed to shoot a few squirrel during a morning father/son hunting expedition. 

Cedar Point with the nephews
(Mitch on the left and Zach on the right)

I couldn't help but laugh at the irony involved in the squirrel hunting episode with my father this past week- Just three short weeks ago it seemed the day where I could wake up, put on civilian clothes, and not have a weapon in my hands could not come soon enough. How quickly we forget though...

Suiting up in my camouflage once again, I was headed out the door for some quality bonding time with my father- after all we've got plenty of catching up to do. As we pulled back to our hunting spot, the landscape we encountered could have been the cover shot of a National Geographic. Two buck deer, a doe, and a fawn were all carefully observing our every move as we entered the woods under a very patchy sheet of morning fog. After several hours of enjoying the serenity of an Indiana August morning, we made our way back home with a meager one squirrel each.

As Dad gave me a refresher course on the proper skinning and cleaning techniques necessary to prepare squirrel for consumption, I couldn't help but think that this was yet just another example of type of lessons we as Americans take for granted in the hustle and bustle of today's society. After having spent time in a part of the world where many men don't have the luxury of learning such lessons from their fathers, you can rest assured that I took great notes.


1 comment:

  1. What an amazing story you have. I hope you continue to blog about it to share with everyone.