A Graduation Ceremony Worth Flying Almost a Thousand Miles to Attend

Brand new Airman Ben McMichael standing in front of the Alamo at San Antonio, TX. We had just left a small theater that showed a movie about the history of the Alamo. During the introduction the volunteer docent looked at Ben and thanked him for his service to his country which caused everyone in the audience to applaud. Then, on the way to the van a man walked up to Ben, shook his hand, and thanked him for his service.

It is always moving to see families coming from all over the United  States to see their progeny graduating from basic training at Fort Benning. Not just  the ceremonies, but in the restaurants and shopping malls around Columbus.  I got a taste of what  it means to those families and their military service members last weekend when I went to San Antonio, TX to see my grandson Ben graduate from U.S. Air Force basic training at Lackland Air  Force Base.  I was there with my son Rick, daughter-in-law Marian, grandson Christopher and his wife Kristen.

Not only did Ben go through the basic training course, but on top of that, he played first trumpet in the 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps.  When he introduced me to the lt. colonel commanding the 323rd,  he told him, “That’s my granddad. He was a drum major of an Army Band.” The colonel said, “Well, this must be really special for you, even if he only did it for 8 weeks.” Indeed it was.  I was a full-time bandsman,  but, even if he was only in an Air Force band for 8 weeks, we can both say we were in American military bands.  Ben is now at  Sheppard Air Force Base at Wichita Falls, TX, where he is in training to  be an ordnance supply and maintenance technician.

The 323rd Training Squadron Drum and Bugle Corps marching and playing for the 323rd graduation ceremony, Lackland U.S. Air Force Base, San Antonio, TX..

For someone who was a young boy during World War II, the graduation ceremony was quite impressive.  Surrounding the graduation pareade grounds were the  great fighters and bombers of that time.  Among those historic war birds was a P-51 “Mustang” – Ben’s training squadron is called the Mustangs, and there is a mural of a Mustang on his barrack’s wall – and there was a P-38 fighter, and a B-29 bomber, a B-17 “Flying Fortress,” a B-24 “Liberator,”  and the transport work horse of World War II, the C-47.

P-51 "Mustang" World War II fighter.

You take all of that, add the 323rd Drum and Bugle Corps playing “The Air Force Anthem,” you know, the one that starts with “Off we go into the wild blue  yonder,” and “America the Beautiful,”  an Air Force general welcoming the new Airmen into the “most powerful air force in history,” and the 600 graduates and their instructors passing in review, and you get a lot of cheering in the stands from moms and dads, sisters and brothers, granddads and grandmothers, and even aunts and uncles. (I met a lady from California who had come to see her nephew graduate.) You also get a lot of moist eyes, including mine.

Me and Ben following the 323rd Training Squadron Retreat and Coin Ceremony. Even though family were allowed to come over and talk with the graduating airmen, the drum and bugle corps members had to stay in formation. Why? Don't ask me.

After the Retreat and Coin ceremony was over, we went to a base store where Ben bought a coin just like the one he was given by the Mustang association, put it in the palm of his hand, and shook hands with me leaving the coin in my hand. It's the most valuable coin I will ever have.

Ben and his proud dad, my son Rick.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , ,

3 Responses to “A Graduation Ceremony Worth Flying Almost a Thousand Miles to Attend”

  1. Mike Nichols Says:

    Congratulations to Ben, to Rick and his family and to you! Brings back memories of my Lackland graduation in 1969!

  2. John Cornett Says:

    Thanks for posting that Richard. I know you’re proud of him. Rick also posted some pix on Facebook and I responded.

    All the best….

  3. Ken C Says:

    I’ll bet that was a great visit. Ben looks so fit.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: