Trip to Columbia, South Carolina - Day 2

Wednesday, January 11th

My sister and I set alarms to get up nice and early.  Turns out, there was no need.  The bugle calls right outside our window woke us up well before our alarms went off. We got up and watched all of the soldiers running through the parking lot and up and down the street.

We got dressed and mom came down to our room where we sipped some coffee before heading down to breakfast. We ate a nice quick breakfast before heading down to the field where family day was going to be held.

We got to Hilton Field nice and early, but the line out front was incredible. We parked and walked up to stand in line.

It turned out that the line wasn't as bad as it had seemed and we were through pretty quickly and even got really great seats. As we sat there, the music blared from the stereo system. It was all sad, sentimental, music about soldiers and the Army.  Lots of stuff that made us cry. We could see so many people in the tree line.

Right on time, with stands full of people waiting for their soldiers to make their appearance, the family day ceremony began. There were speakers who talked about how much our soldiers have changed while they were there.  We watched a group of soldiers become citizens of the US.

Pretty soon it was time for us to see our soldiers.  I'm pretty sure my mom and sister had watched videos about what would happen next. I, however, had not.  I didn't go out of my way to not watch them, just never saw them pop up in my feed or anything, so I was truly surprised.

The speaker said that we were to cheer to have our soldiers come out. Everyone started clapping, whooping and hollering, and stomping on those metal bleachers.

What happened next was truly amazing!

Loud music started playing and smoke started bouncing across the field.

Pretty soon the whole field was filled with smoke and then, as it started to clear, we saw our soldiers.

It was honestly, the coolest thing I've ever gotten to see. It gave me chills and of course I cried too. 

Then, we saw our soldiers.

After the ceremony was over, we got to go get our soldier.  The soldiers were not allowed to leave base, but that was exactly why we got a hotel on base.  When we got to Andy, he told us that he had to hurry back to his room and change, because he was about to get baptized.  

We hurried over and huddled around a pool in the hallway to watch Andy and a few other people get baptized. We truly got more than we bargained for in this wonderful experience.

After the baptism, we had to get this boy some food. He went to change and then off to Popeye's we went.

We ate the Popeye's up in our room where we could sit and relax for a little bit.

After a short rest and filling our bellies we decided to go out and see what this base had to offer.  

First, we went to the big PX. Andy wanted to look around and we were able to pick up some souvenirs in there. I was surprised at how it was like a Dillards and Walmart all rolled into one.

After getting a little shopping in, we were off for another adventure.  We are museum people.  We grew up going to museums everywhere we went, so when we found out there was a museum on base, we had to go.

This museum was packed with history about Fort Jackson and lots of hands on displays.

Outside there were so many different tanks and other old vehicles to look at.

While we were standing outside looking at all the different old vehicles, there was a bugle call and a group of soldiers took off running across the street.  We asked Andy if he needed to do anything and he said not yet but would need to salute at the next one. We stayed put and sure enough, a few minutes later the bugle started again and from across the street there was a canon blast and then they soldier that had run across the street started taking down the flag. It was really neat to get to see.  We were in the right place at the right time.

After the museum we walked around base a little longer.  Exploring what turned out to be, as I was told on the airplane, a cute little base. It was beautiful.  There were palm trees everywhere, neat little buildings, this amazing energy. I was able to see how people can get so drawn into a place like that.

After all of the walking around we decided to jump in the car and find dinner.  I had a small panic attack along the way. I think that I'm quite allergic to all of the gorgeous holly bushes they had on base.  I was fine as long as I wasn't messing with them, but standing in them, touching them, taking their pictures up close and personal made me itchy and at one point even made my tongue and throat itch. If you've ever had anaphylaxis, you become a paranoid about that sort of thing. I pull the car over took some deep breaths to calm myself down and was soon back to normal.  The restaurant we were headed to though, seemed to be closed down for HVAC renovations, so we ended up going back to the PX and grabbing food in the food court. Mom and I got Arby's and Court and Andy ate Taco Bell. We took the food back to our hotel to eat and relax before it was time to take Andy back.

We'd gotten to spend the whole day with Andy, and would get to do the same again tomorrow, but goodbyes are hard... even when they are only actually see you laters. There were a few tears and lots of hugs then we hurried Andy back to his barracks. (He told us later that we should have stuck around and watched them all get smoked. I guess they made them run in place and stuff for a little bit as soon as they returned.)

We went back to our rooms and hung out with mom for a bit. Then after she decided she was tired and went to bed, Court and I, hit up the snack machine downstairs, and watched TV while eating junk and talking until way too late at night, but you know how sisters can be.


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