My latest trip took me to a place I didn't think I would ever visit again, Beaufort, SC. My first trip to Beaufort was in 1997 when I attended Hargrave Military Academy. We visited Parris Island (Beaufort) to have a workshop with the Marine Corps Band. Little did I know that 10 years later I would be visiting again to see my boyfriend graduation from Marine Boot Camp.
My boyfriend, Jim, after attaining a college degree, working for several years, moving to Virginia Beach made a now or never decision to join the Marine Corps Reserves. Reservists are required to receive the exact training as active duty. Therefore, our newest journey together took him to Parris Island and left me in Virginia Beach for 3 months. No phone calls, no internet, no email, just plain ol' snail mail. I do have to say that only corresponding by written letters allowed us to explore elements of our relationship unknown to either of us. There is something inherently romantic about the soldier writing home to his girl and the selflessness of his actions to put duty first to serve and protect his loved ones.
Enough of the mushiness! So my trip began on October 3, 2007 at approximately 7:00pm. Why so late" I had previously committed to sponsoring a golf tournament for my job atCandlewood Suites, Virginia Beach. My friend and co-worker Katie (from the Crowne Plaza Hotel) and I were not able to leave the tournament any sooner than 4:45pm--hence the delay in travel.
So...I arrive home to the Dads. Jim's father had traveled from Canton, MI (a 13 hour trip for him by car) and my father had traveled that morning from Danville, VA (a 3.5 hour trip). The Dads of course were packed and ready to go--I, on the other hand, being a seasoned traveler and last minute Liz, still had to pack! To make a long story short--15 minutes of packing, stopping to get gas, and grabbing a sub sandwich had us leaving Virginia at 7:00pm that night.
Seven hours and 30 minutes later we found ourselves at the Comfort Inn Suites Hotel in Beaufort. Let me interject for a minute about the pronunciation of Beaufort--see, there is a Beaufort, SC and a Beaufort, NC--however--each is pronounced differently. I was visiting BU-FORT, SC---not to be confused with BO-FORT, NC. Any who, we got to the hotel at approximately 2:30AM. The room I reserved was a queen suite with twin sleeper sofa---just enough room for the 3 of us to crash. And crash we did--that is until our phone rang at 3:15AM. It was the night auditor giving us a courtesy call to make sure everything was ok with the room. SERIOUSLY!"! Who on the planet earth thinks that it is a GOOD idea to call a guest at 3:15AM"""" We were already in bed and dozing off! I work in a hotel and I think I would be mortified if my staff was calling people at that ungodly hour!
We had to be on base by 6:30AM that morning--October 4, 2007 for the MOTO (Motivational Run). We watched the Mike Co. and November Co. run the base (1,2,3,4 UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS!) After the run, we had to wait several hours to see Jim--but finally at around 1:30PM we were reunited. It was amazing to see the transformation he had made in 3 months. Despite the fact that he was about 40 lbs. lighter, he stood a little taller, and had discovered a confidence that prior to PI had been lacking. It was so good to see him. I knew I had missed him, but I didn't realize how much until I saw him again. He had about 5 hours of liberty that day. He was in a daze; the poor guy was so overwhelmed. He had been told what to do and how to do it for 3 months, so suddenly finding himself with family he hadn't seen for 3 months on a base that he had only traveled by foot in the company of other recruits was enough to leave him disoriented. We ate lunch, chatted, visited the Marine Corps Exchange, and tried to catch up. He had to be back on barracks by 6:45pm and we headed back to the hotel. After only getting 2 hours of sleep the Dads and I were exhausted--so EXHAUSTED that I fell asleep watching Grey's Anatomy--that is unheard of, my friends.
October 5, 2007--Graduation Day--again we arrived on base at 7:30AM. We had to find parking, attend a Q&A session and wait for graduation to begin at 10:00AM. Due to the inclement weather the ceremony was indoors and was very brief. At 10:30AM we were able to take our new Marine home! Of course, we had to make sure we had enough USMC shirts and souvenirs to cloth the entire family.
I failed to mention that on the way to Beaufort we lost a weight on one of the tires on my dad's Durango--so on the way out of town we stopped at a Goodyear Store and had the tires balanced and re-weighted. Jim was anxious to get home and 7.5 hours in the car listening to the Dads talk about the military definitely made our arrival into Virginia Beach--all that much sweeter! We did make one stop on the way back to our apartment and that was to eat dinner at Jim's favorite place, Red Robin. After 3 months of military chow and MRE's he was quite thrilled to sink his teeth into that bacon cheeseburger!
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