Our week started with a special visit to the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS). NMCRS provides financial counseling and no-interest loans to marines having budget problems. We volunteer there once a week. About a month ago the NMCRS Director mentioned she was working on a PowerPoint presentation for a meeting of the community services groups on base. Lezlie volunteered that she knew a lot about PowerPoint presentations because it was one of her responsibilities at work. So the director asked her help, and since then PowerPoints have been one of Lezlie’s side jobs at NMCRS. Today we went in for a short shift at NMCRS just so Lezlie could help with a new presentation. That went well and the director was appreciative. Having two hours before our The Basic School (TBS) family home evening we stopped at the Stafford County Library, where Lezlie found some additional genealogy information on her Virginia ancestors. We then stumbled upon a great little café where we ate dinner. The Honey Baked Ham Company is based in Virginia, and we found a Honey Baked Ham café. It was small and cozy, and we were the only ones in the whole place. We had some excellent ham sandwiches and salads for dinner. We hope to take any visitors to this place because you can taste some outstanding Virginia ham there. We then stopped at the Embassy School, where future embassy guards are trained, to pick up one of our young female marine friends. She has been assigned to be a guard at the embassy in Croatia. She has been trying to come to our FHE, but she often has classes until 8 or 9pm. We took her to TBS for our family home evening. As you can see from the pictures we had a good group. Lezlie went all out on a “chips and dips” night. We had about 3 kinds of tortilla and pita chips. I made some sweet chips by baking cut up tortillas with butter spray, sugar and cinnamon on them. Lezlie made about 5 kinds of dips and salsas – a tropical mango dip, blueberries & cilantro dips, corn dip, apple pie dip, and a couple more I can’t remember. The marine group loved them. We went with tons of chips and dips and came home with almost nothing. We had a great discussion, led by Lezlie, about the nature of God and Jesus Christ, and talked about their characteristics that we should emulate. It was excellent. On the way home we talked about how fortunate we feel to be working with these young marines. Every time we have an activity they thank us, but we feel that we should be thanking them. It is so inspiring and humbling to work with these young people that are just getting started in their lives with career and family. They are all trying so hard to be good marines, good family members, and faithful church members. It is just amazing to be a part of it. We feel blessed. Military relations missions are the best! Here are our TBS marines at family home evening.
We had an unusual Wednesday working separately. Lezlie took off for Richmond at 8am with four young sister missionaries. There was a training meeting for all of the sister missionaries from 10am – 3pm and there was a need for transportation for some sisters. At the same time there was a training class for volunteers at the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. So Lezlie drove the sisters down in our van and I took one of the missionary cars to attend the NMCRS training. It all worked out okay. Lezlie did a good job driving and enjoyed the training meeting and association with the young sisters. I got some chores done and enjoyed my volunteer training, which was worthwhile. However, it was unusual for us to be apart all day. That is the first time it has happened on our mission. And we really missed each other! But all went well and good training was had by all.
A cancelled District Meeting on Thursday greatly eased the business of the day. We focused on two of our marine families in Stafford, south of the base. First we visited a marine wife, her son and her new baby girl. When we visit she loves to chat with Lezlie while I play with her 4 year old son. This is fine with me as her son and I have great fun. He has been getting a little less attention with the new baby sister so he enjoyed playing for an hour. We were thrilled to see the healthy baby girl (and Mom) because it was a very difficult pregnancy. This gal has had several miscarriages because she has an unusual chromosome abnormality. So she and the baby were in our prayers a lot over the past three months, and we visited her frequently. It was wonderful to see both mom and baby healthy, happy and doing well. After that we went to the home of another young marine family for dinner. We were a bit surprised when we received this invitation, because the wife has always been very busy with her children, her business and many projects. The household always seems a bit disorganized, so we weren't sure what we might find. But it was a wonderful dinner. Not only was the food excellent – a delicious Virginia ham dinner – but we really enjoyed visiting and getting to know them better. We really enjoyed our afternoon and evening visiting these excellent LDS marine families.
Our Friday found us attending the graduation for the Marine Corps Embassy Security Guard (MCESG) school. As mentioned above we had one LDS gal in this school. Her parents live in Portland, OR and could not come all the way here for the graduation, so she invited us. We were the acting parents. It was a lovely ceremony and we were quite impressed by all these young marines who marched into the hall in their dress blues uniforms. They showed a film about the MCESG school, and it looked tough; a combination of rigorous physical training along with a lot of classroom work and tests. We were impressed! And it is quite selective. If there are any blemishes on your record as a marine you cannot get into this school. They call these American Embassy guards the front line of American policy because they are the first Americans foreigners meet when they come to the embassy. There were some speeches and special awards, and then they called each graduate by name and presented them with a diploma. The most impressive part about the whole graduation was this; when they called the graduate’s name they announced where they were going and then flashed a slide up on the screen behind the stage with a large map and a red arrow pointing toward the location of their assignment. These young marines were literally assigned to all points of the globe, from Argentina to New Zealand, and from Ukraine to Uganda. There were some “softer” assignments, like London, and some tougher ones like Syria and Sierra Leone, Africa. Our young marine friend is going to Croatia, and is very excited about it. After the graduation we took her to the Wash DC temple, which she really wanted to visit. Her hectic training schedule had no allowed it until now. We had a great temple session and spent a lot of time in the temple going through a session, doing some sealing work, and just walking around looking at the beauty in the temple. We made it back home just at dinner time, so we stopped at the Cheesecake Factory for a graduation celebration dinner. We had a fantastic meal, including some of their famous cheesecake. It was fun to get to know this young lady better. She is a great person who will make a fine marine emissary overseas. We finally dropped her back off at the base and returned home about 8pm. A long but enjoyable day. This is our marine friend with her class and shortly after her graduation.
On Saturday and we had another full schedule. At 9am I dropped Lezlie off for a Stake Women’s conference. She said it was excellent, not only with good speakers but also with superb, practical classes. She went to a class on using social media and got some good ideas for our single marine’s facebook page. I picked Lezlie up at noon and we immediately drove the marine base. We had received an invitation to an Eagle Scout court-of-honor. We were quite surprised as this family is a less active church family and they have not seemed all that friendly when we stop by. But we got the invitation so we attended. It was held in the large atrium of the Marine Corps Museum, a spectacular setting for such an event. The court-of-honor was held right next to a full scale model of a marine helicopter. It was a fine meetimg, and we were honored when the young man and his dad both made a special effort to say hello and welcome us. We then had a fortuitous meeting with some dog people. A group called Veterans Moving Forward trains and places service dogs with veterans that have mental or physical disabilities or suffer from PTSD. They were showing off some of their dogs and recruiting volunteers, so we are going to talk to them next week about volunteering. Following the boy scout event we actually had a short break before our next event. We then attended a sweet baptism. There is a young husband in our ward who married a gal who was not a Mormon. He recently decided to start coming back to church. Shortly after that his wife got interested and she was baptized today. This young husband’s family has been in this ward for a long time, so there was a huge turnout for the baptism. It was nice. Our finale for the day was to attend a party for the high priests group. It was held in a lovely home, which we really enjoyed. Although we have a very nice apartment, it was enjoyable to be in a big home. It made us miss ours though. We had some excellent food. It was a pitch in dinner and there were all sorts of interesting dishes. We sat with a Hispanic couple we did not know very well, and it was interesting to hear their story. She was from Columbia and he from Guatemala. Finally we played a group game, which was fun. It was a word game, so of course the women won. But it was great fun. We returned home around 8:30pm after a long but very rewarding day.
We had an excellent sacrament meeting with our solitary OCS candidate on Sunday. He is a great young person and we enjoy being a part of his journey through marine officer training. He actually got another guy to come in for refreshments after our service was over. The other guy was at protestant services and they got out early, so he timidly knocked on our door. Our guy said “Hey, come on in and have some food!” So we had a nice chat with this other young man today too. Our Sunday meetings all went well. One talk that was especially sweet for us was by Casey Clark, a young marine we had thought was inactive. He gave an excellent talk today. And he has helped the missionaries teach both of his sisters-in-law and his parents-in-law. One of the sisters just got baptized, and the rest of them are getting baptized this week. Wow. And we though he was a less active member. Afterward we had a linger longer, so we got to eat potluck dinner and visit with all of our ward friends. Our TBS marines, and our embassy marine came to join us in our ward. Once again a busy day, but our tiredness feels good.