Saturday, March 28, 2015
Part 2: "Rowan Windham, Private First Class, Texas Army National Guard" (hand shakes, interviews, gifts, gear, and more)
At the conclusion of Rowan's enlistment ceremony yesterday, we all filed out into the hall, thinking that was the end of the day. But no. The following pictures show all the amazing people who were there to honor and welcome Rowan, and our family. It was overwhelming. Rowan handled himself so well though.
He was presented with framed certificates, coins, medallions, a Texas Flag that had been flown over the Capital in his honor, and more...
They even presented Ian with a medal, for his loving care and protection of his "Battle Buddy" Rowan. Ian doesn't like the spotlight on him, he never has, but he really cherished receiving this honor. He loves his little brother so much.
Look at all of the press that interviewed Rowan. I have to admit that I was nervous, worried that he would freeze up with all of the lights, cameras and microphones. But he didn't. His answers, as you may have seen on the news, were so sweet and humble. When they asked him his favorite thing to do, he of course said "spend time with my family and play with my brother." When asked what his favorite part of the day was so far, he said "meeting all of the people." And when asked why he wanted to join the military, he answered, "because I like to help people and I want to fight for my country." When they asked about his trip to Seattle, he told them that he had to "go see if I need a bone marrow transplant, because that's what my disease does, it makes me have not very good bone marrow." We couldn't have prepped him for this, because we had kept the whole day a surprise, but he did a fabulous job and made us very proud.
Rowan got to thank SGT David Hixson, his buddy from his nights in the hospital, and he gave him one of his own bracelets. SGT Hixson is being deployed soon and Rowan wanted him to wear it while he was away. It has Rowan's full name on it and his life scripture "Let me live (that I may praise you)." Psalm 119:175. Rowan wears one on his ankle every day.
Again, we thought that was the end of this unbelievable day. But wait, there's more. Once outside, Rowan received another coin from the Chaplain who told him they would be praying for him. And a Medic coin from one of the medics.
Then Rowan and Ian were whisked away again, this time in a military HUMV. I didn't get any pictures, but Ian took this one on one of their stops, which was for a weapons demonstration.
We all met back up again in a field behind the buildings, and that is when things got real for the boys.
(I love this picture. Ian took it.)
A Chinook had landed earlier and they got to go explore it, up close and personal.
It was HUGE! And so cool.
The men were all so kind and really took their time to explain every detail of the aircraft to Rowan and Ian.
He received some more awesome treasures from these guys, including a pair of flight wings that they pinned on his Stetson.
It was so humbling and truly appreciated. Brian and I commented how apparent it was that none of these men were doing this for themselves, or for any gain other than blessing Rowan. You could tell they were thankful and grateful for the opportunity to do this for us. I overheard multiple soldiers and officers telling SGT Hixson "thank you for bringing Rowan to our attention", and telling their Superiors "thank you for putting this together", or" thank you for letting us be a part of this". They were all truly happy to be there. I have never been so proud to be an American in my life. It was just beyond perfect.
Rowan really started to look droopy at that point. It had just been so much non-stop excitement for him. He started looking pale, and couldn't smile anymore. I asked him if he needed his chair, and he said yes. The medics and his nurse Cindy checked him out, checking all of his vitals, making sure he was just tired. He was indeed, just exhausted, and fell asleep the minute we put him in his chair.
It started to get a little loud all of the sudden, and then we realized why...a second aircraft was landing, an Apache helicopter! Rowan slept through it all, but now, Ian was in heaven...
He probably spent thirty minutes getting the full tour and inspection of the Apache, and then they gave him his wing pin. So cool. He couldn't stop talking about that helicopter in the car later. It was definitely his favorite part. And God has a funny way of working. I think Rowan fell asleep at that point so that Ian could get the full attention of the pilots in charge of the Apache. He learned so much, and was so grateful.
It started getting even louder, and we got to watch the Chinook this time, taking off in the distance. It was so cool.
The Texas National Guard had a few more gifts for Rowan: two huge backpacks filled with goodies...
...and something they all said is the BEST item ever issued by the United States Army... his very own "woobie" or all-weather poncho liner. They said it keeps you warm in the cold weather and cool in the hot weather, and that it is everyone's security blanket. His escort, SSG Leal said he could go 31 days without a shower, but not one night without his woobie:) I am pretty sure it will be going with Rowan to Seattle and every time he is in the hospital or going in to surgery. Priceless!
We stopped at a restaurant in Austin on our way home. Rowan woke up, looked down and inspected his dog tags, saying "I can't believe I'm a real soldier now".
And he was so happy that his Battle Buddy Ian had been honored too, for what Rowan says is for being "the best brother ever".
Then, when our car pulled into the driveway, Rowan stood up, smiled big and said it again: "I really do have the best life ever!"
Once we got settled in at home again, I started looking more closely at all of the amazing gear, coins, certificates and other treasures the boys received today...it was crazy! And we haven't even unpacked the backpacks yet.
...and of course, the "woobie"!
PFC Rowan Jameson Windham,
our very own real soldier,
would like to thank everyone involved with this amazing day, with a special thank you to CPT Martha Nigrelle, who I have a feeling did a lot of the behind the scenes leg work to make this all run so smoothly:) The men and women of the United States Army National Guard are class acts! Thank you from the bottom of our hearts...
...for this picture perfect day that will be etched in our minds and in our hearts forever...