Normally, as the calendar approaches 27 May, I think back to my graduation from the Air Force Academy on 27 May 1992. It didn't click at all this year. Last night as I was eating dinner at the DFAC (I was told it stands for Dining Facility; I assumed each letter stood for a word, such as Dining Facility All Conditions or some other military jargon), this year's graduation was being broadcast on the Pentagon Channel. Riveting television for sure. Watching this year's class graduate reminded me of my graduation. The Vice President as the commencement speaker and presiding official. Graduates' names being read, squadron by squadron. Graduates saluting the VP, then each other, and then hugging at the bottom of the platform. The beautiful weather.
Okay, well not so much that last part. We had a driving, bordering on freezing rain the day of our graduation. The weather was so bad the VP couldn't land in Colorado Springs, but instead flew into Pueblo and was driven up, which takes over an hour. All the graduates, family, and friends were waiting, in the rain, during this time. I think all of us were soaked to the bone and frozen by the time the ceremony started. The VP gave a long (and boring) speech on family values. This was during his public spat with Candice Bergen over her TV character, Murphy Brown, becoming a single mom. The Academy uniform for graduation includes white pants. You could clearly tell what color underwear people were wearing when they went up for their diplomas. I don't think there has been a louder cheer for when the last squadron, my squadron, was announced. In the picture of me shaking hands with the VP, he is turned away and talking to the cadet holding an umbrella for him. Thanks. The traditional flyover by the AF demonstration team, the Thunderbirds, was cancelled for only the second time in the history of the Academy. If nothing else, it was memorable.
Despite all that, I am very grateful for that day and all my family and friends who sat through it to support me. I am also grateful for the intervening 17 years and all the support I have received during them. I firmly believe each military assignment is what you make of it. Some have been better than others, but there is something good about all of them. I feel blessed by the places I've traveled, the experiences I've had, and the people I've met. Okay, I better stop before I get too sappy. Not to mention, I'm not done with this career yet. There is still more good to come.
Okay, that didn't really have anything to do with being in Iraq, but I warned you.