Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bike to the Washington Monument? Why not! it sounded like a good idea, and it was, for the most part...just don't ask my butt right now to do it again.  I used to make fun of people with padded bike pants...never again.  Soon I will be an owner of said pants.

We parked at the Pentagon.  Pedaled through LBJ Park.  Found our way by a yacht club to a tunnel to go under the 4 lane road way safely.  Stayed out of the way of fast bikers.  Managed to not run over any runners.  Crossed the Potomac on the Memorial Bridge with Arlington to our back.  Dodged traffic by the Lincoln Memorial.  The girls got a Jr. Ranger patch on the Mall with some amazing Rangers who were having fun with all the kiddos.  Pedaled to the WW2 Memorial for a rest and then up to the Washington Monument and then back to the Pentagon and the truck.  Oh, my achin' backside.  Can you say walk like a cowboy for a day?  But so worth it!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Strong Bonds in Virginia Beach

The Army does a few things right.  Lots of things, really.  But one of the things that I love is Strong Bonds, a marriage retreat.  The Army Reserve realized that one of the fall outs of long deployments (Army deploys for 12-18 month tours) and many of them, is divorce.  So, they created these marriage retreats, run by the chaplains, so equip Army marriages with conflict resolution techniques.  The best part about these is the locations!  We took the kids and headed to a Strong Bonds in Virgina Beach.  The retreat was great, but it was all about spending time together. 

Saturday night is date night.  Mark was lucky enough to have 3 dates!!  After an amazing meal on the waterfront, we walked the beach at sunset!  Very romantic!

Then we found a little amusement park where Hope conquered the rock wall!!  Check out that smile!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Last year on September 11th, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend a 9-11 memorial service.  It really impacted the kids and lead to an amazing discussion, enough to stop our day and focus on what happened that day, the changes to our country, the patriotism that came from it, the prayer meetings that were held at churches each day for weeks, how I felt, how Mark felt, and the chain of events that lead from that day to the year that Mark was in Iraq and how it all connected.  We watched to movie The Cross and The Towers.  Have you seen it?  It's worth checking out. 

So this year, Julia asked what special thing we were going to do to remember September 11th.  Since last year we had visited, as a family, the memorial in Pennsylvania and the memorial at the Pentagon, I think 9-11 has taken on new meaning with the girls.  I'm grateful for that.  I want them to understand and know what that day was all about and how it directly affected them. I'm thankful for their patriotism at such young ages, which may have been forced upon them, but they are reflecting it, nonetheless.  Mark had day shift, which meant that he was off at 6, I proposed a meet up at 6:30 and he agreed.  We walked over to the Pentagon Memorial, there were more people there than had been there when we visited this summer, but it wasn't crowded by any means.  There were flowers and memories left on many of the benches.  I had a huge lump in my throat.  The flag that was placed on the Pentagon, next to the gaping hole left by the plane, was unfurled.  The color difference in the exterior of the building was clear as the sun was setting.

The girls were quiet and pensive.  But then I saw Hope bend over and write in the dirt next to one of the memorial benches (each bench has a name inscribed on it for one of the fallen), I glanced at Mark and he snapped her up quick asking her what she was doing.  She looked up at him with sorrowful eyes and said, "Daddy, I'm drawing a heart so they know that I remember their sacrifice."  Oh my word.  Talk about a kid putting her parents in their place instead of the opposite that I thought was going to happen.  Mark says, "Keep making hearts, kiddo.  Keep remembering."

As we wandered quietly through the memorial, there were people like us there.  The services for the families had been held at 9am and they were long gone.  It is such a peaceful place and very quiet due to the wall that was built between the memorial garden and 395 Southbound.

Each person who died that day has a bench.  The name is inscribed on the end of the bench.  In the reflecting pool below there are lights which make the garden beautiful at night.  If they had a family member that perished with them, the names of the family member(s) is inscribed in the pool.  When you look at the name then look above and see sky (like the bench in the foreground of the above picture), the person died in the plane, if you look up and the Pentagon, they died in the Pentagon.  The benches are sorted another way, by age.  As you walk into the main entrance of the memorial, you come to the littlest victims, as you go further into the garden, the older the people were when they died. 

The flag that few in this exact spot on September 11, 2001
Here's a picture to jog your memory.

After we left the memorial, Mark took us into the Pentagon for our first tour.  It was neat to finally see the inside.  We could not go down to where he works, we don't have security clearance, but we did see the door that he goes into.  He took us to the entrance the Joint Chiefs use, beautiful!  I had packed a picnic supper, so we were able to go into the center courtyard and eat there.  Mark said that during the Cold War, the Soviets were convinced that we had a weapons cache in middle of the Pentagon.  It's quite the opposite.  A beautiful, serene, peaceful garden is there to escape all the craziness of life inside the Pentagon.  We were the only ones out there besides a security guard making rounds.  It was so quiet.  Amazing.  A fitting end to the day.