We had just about 80 miles left to drive on Thursday, so we slept in a little and then had breakfast in the lobby, before we made our way through Chicago,
and to Great Lakes Recruit Training Center.
From the looks of it, they got quite a bit of snow up here!
We located the Navy Lodge,
and got checked into our room. They were pretty nice rooms – for $72/ night we had (2) comfortable queen beds, and even a small kitchen. We originally booked the kitchenette because we thought we’d be bringing Casey with us, and we needed the extra space for her crate. She stayed back in Florida, though, so we didn’t really need the kitchen – I wasn’t cooking!
After we got settled and unpacked, we went out to get some lunch at Subway, and then stopped at the NEX to do a little shopping.
We couldn’t go into the main store (they did tell us to come on back the next day with our Sailor), but we were able to shop in the Navy Pride area and souvenir shop.
We got Navy T-shirts for all of us, and I picked up a couple navy coins to glue onto the frames that I bought for Tom’s Dad and my Mom.
Back in our room, we rested for a couple hours until it was time to go to the Meet & Greet. For the last several years, a man named “Sarge” and his wife, along with support from several area businesses, has been hosting this event for families of graduating sailors – every week of the year!
This week, there were about 225 family members in attendance – many of us having been connecting on Navy 4 Moms and various Facebook groups for the last 8 weeks! It was a great opportunity for the families to meet and share bootcamp experiences.
Sarge provides information about PIR (Graduation) and tips for getting to the Drill Hall without sitting in traffic.
There are also a lot of fun activities, including a dance contest and basket raffles . . . and he provides a delicious buffet dinner for everyone. It’s really amazing that he is able to do this, week after week, for all of these families!
The evening ends with a tribute to veterans in attendance.
It was a very enjoyable evening for everyone!
The next morning, we were up bright & early – 5:30am – for breakfast in the lodge lobby, along with all the other excited Navy families. Following Sarge’s advice, we arrived at the base and got through the gate with no trouble at all. We were one of the first in the Ceremonial Drill Hall, and we claimed seats in the balcony, directly across from the area where Division 065 would be standing.
Then it was time to wait . . . for 2 hours, until the ceremony would start.
As we waited, people continued to arrive, and gradually the bleachers filled up. The excitement was building!
We watched the drill team and band go through their final preparations,
and waited anxiously for the ceremony to begin.
and then it was time for the new sailors to arrive. Everyone’s eyes were glued to the large garage door!
As the door rolled up, the divisions began to march through.
In addition to the Performance Division, there were 6 more divisions graduating. A total of 568 sailors were graduating this week, and that’s a small group! Nicolas’ Division – 065 – was the 2nd to last group to enter the hall.
After entering the hall, they walked in front of the bleachers, but from our seats in the balcony, we couldn’t see them (too close). Nicolas said he was looking for us, but couldn’t find us – he didn’t know we were up in the balcony.
They reached their spot in front of us and got themselves lined up.
Rearranging and realigning . . .
Now we can pick Nicolas out easily!
He’s in the 3rd row from the left, immediately behind the sailor with the flag.
There’s my boy!!
all while the divisions stood at attention.
After a very moving speech by the visiting officer, whose son was in the graduating class, it was time for the concluding step, the pass-in-review.
With the ceremony complete, the sailors collected their outer garments and prepared for liberty call.
With the flags out of the way, I had a good view of Nicolas!
We quickly climbed down from our seats in the balcony and then made our way onto the drill hall floor to find our sailor. It took a few minutes to locate him in that sea of uniforms, but eventually we did!
It was so nice to finally be able to hug & kiss him . . . it’s been a long 8 weeks!!
Before we could leave for the day, Nicolas had to go back to his compartment to collect a few things and make sure everyone scheduled for liberty watch was in place, so it was almost noon by the time we left the base. He had to be back before 19:00 (7pm – I have to get used to military time!), so we decided against going into Chicago. Pretty much everybody advised against it, due to the amount of time you would spend driving, not leaving much time for visiting.
We took him back to the Navy Lodge for a few minutes, where he grabbed a few snacks and we took a couple pictures.
He didn’t want to stay in, though. It was kindof interesting to hear the boy who never wanted to advertise that he was joining the Navy, suddenly want to be “where people could see him.” It’s nice to see him so happy about what he’s accomplished, and wear his uniform so proudly.
So, we headed over to the mall where we walked around – along with many other sailors and their families, took some more pictures,
and met up with our friends Todd, Sue, Josh & Kylie for dinner.
We had been warned by Sarge on Thursday night that our sailors were having a pizza party, and probably would not want pizza on Friday . . . but he was wrong about Nicolas! Nick said that the pizza they got on Thursday night wasn’t that good, and he still wanted Chicago pizza on Friday!
YUM! It was delicious, and we had a great time catching up with our friends. Thanks for driving up to Great Lakes, guys!
After dinner, we walked around the mall some more and Nicolas called my mom and Tom’s dad.
I got a good picture of my two handsome
boys young men!
Nicolas didn’t want to risk getting back late, and lots of other sailors must have felt the same way – there was quite a long line of cars at the gate! We dropped him off before 7:00, and he had plenty of time to finish packing, take a nice long shower, and rest in his rack for awhile.
Yes, that’s what they decided to do with their free time!!
Nicolas was flying out to Charleston on Saturday afternoon, but their bus was getting them there by 6:30 am, so we got up and got checked out of the lodge after breakfast, and met him at the USO at O’Hare. We were able to get gate passes to go through security with him, and we found a place to sit with him and go through his paperwork.
There were lots of sailors around, all looking so good in their uniforms! Everywhere we went, strangers wanted to shake Nicolas’ hand, congratulate him, and thank him for his service.
I know it still feels a little funny to him, but he’s getting used to it. I still get a little choked up everytime . . .
All of the nukes from divisions 065 and 066 were flying out together, and they were gradually gathering at the gate. We sat and visited with all of them for awhile, and I was glad to see that they were a really nice group of intelligent, polite young men.
Nicolas is in good company!
We still had a 4-1/2 hour drive ahead of us, so with him settled with his buddies, we said good-bye until next week, and left the airport. He called me later to let me know they had landed in Charleston . . . just as we were pulling into my Mom’s driveway in Michigan!
It was a really nice weekend, and we were so happy to spend it with him . . . it was worth every one of the 1330 miles!!