Thursday, May 7, 2015
Rowan's advice to Texas Legislature on Wednesday..."Make Good Choices".
I know these pictures will not do justice to the honor Rowan and our family experienced Wednesday, but they are the only ones I was able to take during this amazing day at the Capitol Building in Austin, so I hope they come close.
We started the day very early, getting dressed for this extra special occasion.
We arrived at the Capitol around 7:30 am, and Rowan was soooooo excited. He is NEVER up at this time of day, but yesterday he was wide awake.
Right from the start we were greeted by some very special friends, whom we had met at Camp Mabry back in March, during Rowan's honorary enlistment into the Texas National Guard. They accompanied Rowan all morning, which made it even more special.
Brigadier General Sean A. Ryan
Jordy Keith, Deputy Director-State
SGT Gabriel Leal
Rowan proudly wanted his picture taken with all of his "brothers in arms" that were present:)
First order of business was Rowan opening up the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance... or so we thought. They had more than that in store though. At the committee meeting, committee chairperson Representative Susan King also made a motion to make Rowan an honorary member...making him the youngest known member of any House committee:) I couldn't take pictures during the meeting, but here are the before and afters.
We had a little break before our Capitol tour started and Representative Susan King offered us the comforts of her office. It was amazing! We were immediately greeted by her staff, and by Rowan's magazine cover in the reception area.
Rowan couldn't stop smiling. As young as he is, he knew this was all a BIG deal.
Representative King was still in the committee meeting, so we were there alone. Brian told Rowan that he should leave Representative King a note on her desk. Here is the note that Rowan wrote...
Then, we left for the tour of the Capitol, which was amazingly informational...the history, the art, the architecture. We were all deeply intrigued.
Rowan sitting at the Governor's Desk (where he signs bills), pretending to sign a bill making it "Rowan Windham Day".
Then Ian, sitting down at the same desk, overturning that bill, making it "Ian Windham Day." :)
(Look at these engraved hinges on the doors.)
(...and the ornate 8 pound door knobs on the doors)
The boys loved reading about our state and countries' history and heroes.
Along the tour, and throughout the day, more and more, VIPs came and wanted to meet Rowan. He was so honored, and a bit overwhelmed.
Before he was scheduled to be on the House floor, Representative King found him again...this time with a little note in her hand...the one she found on her desk...from Rowan:)
She was so tickled, and inspired by his note. She asked him if she had his permission to read it on the floor during session. He of course said yes.
I wish I had pictures of what followed, but obviously I couldn't take photos myself when we were standing on the floor of the House with Rowan, during a session. It was a HUGE honor though, and had so many humbling surprises. Rowan was presented on the floor of the Texas House of Representatives, during a special proclamation. Representative King then told the story (to the entire House) of finding the note from Rowan in her office. She talked to them all about not just focusing on their own personal agendas, about remembering who they represented and what they were there for, and then read Rowan's note: "Make good choices. Love, Rowan". The entire room started to clap and cheer for Rowan, in agreement. It was a moment I will never, EVER, forget.
(Brian was able to take this one picture of the House Floor, so you have an idea of the scope of the room. The representatives (and their honored guests) were allowed on the floor, and the general public was only allowed in the upper level.)
Rowan had the opportunity to hit the gavel, in front of the entire room, and was then greeted by a huge reception line of representatives afterwards. Tears flowed as I watched men and women who represent our community and our state, many of them kneeling down to his level, speaking to him with such dignity and respect, telling him "Rowan you inspire me", "We could all learn a lot from your strength Rowan", "You are the real hero Rowan", "Rowan, I hope I grow up to be like you", etc. Some of these gentlemen and women were in their late 60s or even 70s. And Rowan looked over at me, after each person greeted him and spoke to him, with tears in his own eyes, so blown away by the respect of his elders. Many of them took special pins off of their lapels and pinned them on Rowan's uniform, or challenge coins out of their pockets and handed them to Rowan, or pulled their business card out of their pocket and told Rowan to call them if he ever needed anything. It was beautiful, simply beautiful, and so, so humbling. One of the most notable (though they were each unique, and extremely appreciated) was a Navy Captain, who told him that he wanted Rowan to wear this officer's insignia pin, in honor of his men who were overseas. His voice quivered when he pinned it on Rowan, and he told him of the men he had over there, in harms way. I cannot adequately describe the weight of this honor. Rowan felt it and understood it as well. Even more humbling was hearing Rowan tell each man who told him about what branch of service they served in or which war they fought in, and hearing Rowan repeatedly, and immediately, say "thank you for your service".
Afterwards, as we left the House of Representatives floor, Rowan was walking on air. This little guy made quite an impact on a lot off people, but they made quite an impact on him as well. Thank you Representative Susan King, for making all of this happen for Rowan. It is a day he will never forget.
Evidently, word of Rowan's presence spread, and soon, Rowan was tracked down, being asked to stay a little longer, so that he could also be recognized on the Senate Floor as well.
He of course graciously and gratefully accepted the honor.
Only Rowan and myself were allowed downstairs during the Senate session.
Brian, Ian, Cindy and the Texas National Guard Members were only allowed upstairs in the upper level during session.
And only Rowan, was allowed to cross the brass and velvet ropes. They made him an honorary "Senate Page" for a day, in order to allow him to cross the line.
Peter, the gentlemen who was our escort on the Senate Floor, told Rowan, "President Obama can't cross that line, the Queen of England can't cross that line, but Rowan, today, you can cross that line!" Rowan's eyes about popped out of his head.
He once again, was recognized from the floor, and was asked to hit the gavel, this time in front of the Upper House, the Senate. The experience was one of a kind. Being recognized on both the House and Senate Floors on the same day...unreal!
This whole amazing experience blew Rowan (and our entire family) away! And Rowan fell asleep before he could even finish his lunch at the "Capitol Grill".
The memories will never fade, and the tokens of appreciation and history that he received will be treasured forever! Whether they were pins, stickers, medals, business cards, letters, plaques, or id badges, he will keep them forever.
I hope these photos give you even an idea of how special Rowan's day at the Capitol was yesterday.
If I had to choose one moment as a favorite (and believe me, that is hard to do), I think I would choose these photos, this unbelievably humbling moment...
...of Brigadier Sean A. Ryan, Deputy Assistant Adjutant General-Army Commander,71st Troop Command, of the Texas National Guard, putting Rowan's 124th cavalry spurs on once again...
This is a poignant and humbling photo of an extremely patriotic moment. We are so grateful to know this man, and honored to have him serve our State and our Country. Thank you for your service Brigadier General Ryan, and thank you for your priceless, caring, interaction with our son.
The following picture makes my heart nearly burst with pride...
Once we got home, Rowan continued to sleep...for seven hours straight actually. But when he woke up, he looked over all of his memorabilia, got tears in his eyes again and said, "I don't know how my life could get any better."
I agree Rowan. I don't know how my life could get any better either, and when I see the gift you are to others, and the joy, generosity, faith and patriotism you bring out in people... I seriously don't know how any of our lives could get any better.
Thank you to Brigadier General Sean Ryan, Representative Susan King, Jordy Keith, Colby, Peter, the entire Texas National Guard, House of Representatives, Senate and Staff of the Capitol Building, and everyone else who made this day possible.
And remember, all of you making laws, voting on laws, and signing bills... well, actually, all of us who are simply living our own normal lives too...