Trip to Columbia, South Carolina - Day 3 & 4

Thursday, January 12th

Another day, that we were up very early. I don't think the bugle call woke us Thursday though. I think we were so exhausted that we slept right through it.  Thankfully our alarms on our phones woke us up. We got around slowly, and I probably drank twice the coffee that morning. We did make it down to breakfast and then out to Hilton Field still quite early. It looked so packed and we had to park much further away than we did the day before, but when we got up to the lines, they were much shorter, and in fact we jumped to a line on the other side and didn't end up waiting at all. Inside, the bleachers were a little fuller, making us move further up the bleachers than the day before, but we still had a great view, so I can't complain at all.

We sat in the bleachers chit chatting and taking in every minute.

We could see the soldiers on the far end of the field in a clearing through the trees.  They were hard to see but you could see them sparkle. That's the best way to describe it. They were all in their dress blues and the sunlight reflecting from their shiny shoes, and the metal badges on their coat made them sparkle from so far away.  They may have been invisible to us if it weren't for that sparkle.

All morning long, we had been getting these snapchats from Andy. I saved them because I wasn't sure if he was saving them, and wanted to make sure he'd have these in the future. Andy and his friends he met at Basic.

Soon, out came the Army band. I was a band geek in high school. I played the flute in the marching/pep band as well as symphonic band. I thought I'd go on to play in college and maybe even after that, but life had other plans for me. It all worked out ok though, because high school band is where I met my husband.  Shawn played the bari sax in the school jazz band.  Anyway, when that Army band came out, I was in Heaven. I loved it!

As they played and entertained us, the soldiers came marching out. Once again, they'd almost have been invisible if it weren't for that sparkle.  If you look closely you can see them coming down the field.

The ceremony was obviously much more formal than the one the day before. But it was pretty amazing too. I cried a lot. 

After it was over, we could all go down to the end of the field and collect our soldiers. When we got to Andy he was standing near a friend and bunk mate. We met the friend and his wonderful family.

Also, when my dad died, we started seeing orbs appear in some pictures. We were told by several people that it could be him. I like to think it's true and that he was right there with us, laughing, crying, hugging, and just being so proud of our boy.

Ok, so I'm by no means a uniform chaser. I'm an extremely happy, married mom of 4 kids, but I'm well aware how hot a man in uniform can be, and just because I'm happily married, doesn't mean I can't look and appreciate a gorgeous man... I mean yum!

After graduation, Andy was allowed to leave base as long as he was back by 8pm. Even though this was the case, we went back to our rooms for a quick potty trip and so Andy could eat some leftover Popeyes.

Andy was pregaming because right after these pictures were taken we left to find Waffle House since he'd never had it before.

After we all had our bellies full of waffles, grits, eggs, bacon, and all the way hashbrowns, we went off to find a mall at Andy's request.  He was looking for some shoes.  I wish I'd have known exactly what he was looking for when we went because he left empty handed.

After a nice walk around the mall, we found a Starbucks and then went to the State Capital building to walk around.

For dinner, Andy had wanted to try a restaurant he'd heard a lot about, called Cookout.  We don't have anything like it here, so we didn't quite know what to expect.  It ended up being amazing! I loved that you could mix and match to make your own basket of what you wanted and it was cheap. I paid less for my meal there, including a milk shake, than I do for my large sized big mac meal at McDonalds. We definitely a Cookout here in my town.

After dinner we laid around in Mom's room before we had to take Andy back. This goodbye was even harder than the night before because he'd be leaving and we'd be leaving and we won't be together again until April. There were lots of hugs and many more tears.

We drove him back to the barracks and then headed back to the hotel. Mom wanted bottled water so we went to snack and soda machines in the hotel, but they were sold out, so we headed back out to the car to find a gas station. While driving around looking for a gas station we drove by the barracks again and noticed a lot of soldiers outside. I mean a lot! We parked the car and walked up thinking maybe we'd find our boy and get a little more time. He was inside and another company was outside. We had to look though, especially after him telling us about the night before. We finally found a gas station and bought some junk food and drinks and headed back to our hotel.  We talked and hung out for a while before going to bed.

Friday, January 13th

We got up so early on Friday! My flight out of Charleston was at around 10:00. We didn't know what to expect at the Charleston airport. Was it a big airport? What would returning the car entail? What would security be like? How busy would it be? I needed to be there around 7:30 to return the car. We had a 1 1/2 hour to 2 hour drive from Columbia, South Carolina to Charleston, South Carolina. We decided to leave around 5:30 am but didn't know what happened on base at that early hour.

They had barricaded off main roads for an early morning run.  We couldn't find our way out. We actually needed to make a quick stop at the Holiday Inn Hotel and Visitor Center on base so that mom could talk to them about the heater in our room. They were so nice and refunded her a night. We finally found our way, but I think it was because we drove around so long that they were starting to take the barricades down. On to the highway we went.

The whole ride to Charleston, my stomach was in knots about my first time flying alone.  Not only would I be flying alone but I was changing planes in Houston, Texas at a very large airport and then landing but not changing planes in Dallas.  I didn't want to get lost or miss my flight in Houston. I was such a mess. Towards the end of the car ride to the airport, I was so concentrated on not pooping my pants, that I forgot to fill up the car with gas until we were in line to return it.  The nice ladies at National (the place we rented the car from) told us where we could find a gas station. We left, filled up the car, came back, and returned the car, quickly and smoothly.

The airport at Charleston is quite small. At least what I saw of it was. I hugged Mom and Court, and they set off on their Charleston adventure. I headed in to go through security. My purse was flagged, which was new to me.  Apparently all of the change I had collected in my coin purse during this trip made it difficult to see what was what in my wallet through the x-ray machine. A TSA lady dumped the change into a bucket, sorted through it and poured it right back into my wallet. Even with this tiny hiccup, everyone was so friendly. I didn't encounter any mean or grumpy people on this entire trip. Not even in the TSA at any airport I was at, and they can get a bad rap for that.

While sitting at the airport, I snap chatted a little bit with my brother who was on his way, by bus, to Virginia for AIT.

The flights home were all easy and I had no issues navigating the Houston airport. I did get stuck next to a young man on the way to Houston, maybe mid 20s, that had never flown before and was very scared. He bailed out of his seat as we were taxi-ing away from the terminal only to be told by the flight attendant to sit back down.  They gave him a trash bag for puking and a cold wet rag for the back of his neck.  Thank goodness he didn't need the trash bag.

There was a cute flight attendant.

On the way home from Dallas we had a little trouble with a valve on the engine.

That made me a bit nervous, but it was all good. They got us all fixed up and on our way. A little delayed but better than nothing.  I was just so glad to get home and see my family.


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