We had two excellent Saturday temple excursions for some of our marines. On our first trip only one young man was able to attend. We greatly enjoyed getting to know this good young father better. He has a pregnant wife and 3 children back in Dallas, but they are all fully supporting him in his quest to be a marine officer. He is a mechanical engineer at the Halliburton Company, so it was fun for me (Dan) to hear about his job. He helps design oil drilling rigs. He will be a reserve officer, so once he is done with all of his marine training he will go back to his engineering job and do his reserve work on weekends and summers. We had an excellent session at the temple, which was beautiful in the bright sunshine. We made stops at the temple visitor’s center and the LDS bookstore, both of which were new to him. After an excellent Mexican lunch we headed home. For our second trip we took 3 marines, two guys and a girl (see photo below). Of course they were right on time for our 8am pickup, and we had a smooth drive into Washington DC. We attended an excellent temple session and all enjoyed it very much. It was a full session and there was a young man there that was soon to leave on his mission, so it made it kind of special. All three of our marines expressed their joy at being there. We then had an excellent lunch at the Hong Kong Café where we enjoyed visiting with these 3 great young people and getting to know them better. One of them is kind of a country boy (the tall guy), very laid back and easygoing. He is going to be a marine pilot. The girl is very outgoing and friendly, and is a tough young lady. But she is also kind and motherly to all the male LDS marines. The other guy is the mechanical engineer from Texas that we took last week. It was a joy to spend time with them. After a large lunch of cashew chicken, fried rice, beef and broccoli, and various other Chinese delights we headed back to the base. Everyone else napped on the hour long drive. We made a stop at the commissary so that all three of them could buy groceries. They are so busy during the week it is almost impossible for them to get over to commissary to shop for food. Although they do have a mess hall, they are always hungry, so they have small refrigerators and microwaves in their rooms. They bought tons of snacks and fruit. About 4pm we finally returned them to their barracks, tired but happy that we could take them all to the temple. We dropped them off and then went to an interesting birthday party for a wife of a TBS student in Stafford. She is from Muldova and had made some amazing Russian type food.
We had a touching experience Sunday morning. During our first Officer Candidate School (OCS) class last September I (Dan) developed 5 different lessons to present during our Sunday services with the OCS students. We try to give lessons that are applicable to being a leader and officer in the marines. As the new OCS class began a few weeks ago I looked at all the different lessons I had and was trying to decide the best order for presenting them. I decided I should say a prayer about it, which I did. I then placed them in the order that seemed best. The topic of this morning’s lesson and discussion was Courage. We talked about the types of courage – stepping outside your comfort zone, standing up for what is right, persevering in the face of adversity, facing suffering with dignity, and feeling fear yet choosing to act. I had some videos to support these concepts of courage and the lesson went just fine. Immediately at the end of the lesson our sole OCS student said that it was exactly the lesson he needed today. He received his first peer evaluations this week. That is when the other platoon members evaluate how they think the others in their platoon are doing. One of the others wrote that “…he does not have the moral courage to correct his peers.” These peer evaluations do not make or break a candidate, so it is not overly important. But it really bothered him. He kind of poured out his heart about that. He was very sad that someone had thought that of him because as far as living church standards he felt he had strong moral courage. He said he also realized he kind of keeps to himself and does not say things to others to correct them when they are doing something wrong. So he was able to take bits and pieces of the lesson and think about them in relation to his own situation. He said he realizes he needs to step out of his comfort zone a bit and push others in his platoon to do better. He also had a couple of other setbacks this week, so we were glad to give him some encouragement. I was so pleased that the courage lesson was just what he needed and felt humbled that God had planted a seed that this was the right lesson to teach this week. Lezlie had baked a wonderful apple crisp and our marine ate almost the whole pan. That also may have been exactly what he needed today. We always are a bit tired when we have to get up early for these break-of-dawn services for our OCS marines, so church seemed especially long today. But we did have some excellent testimonies, lessons and visits with friends.
Today Abby was blessed, and she is the first grandchild whose blessing we missed. Becky Billings sent us several texts and photos that kept arriving during our Sunday school class. We knew what they were so we did sneak a few peaks during class. Abby looked beautiful in her white handmade dress made by Grandma Larue Mauger. So today is one of those mixed feeling days where we are sad to miss Abby’s blessing but still glad we are on our mission. We would not miss the amazing experiences, blessings and miracles as a result of being here. We have made wonderful friends here and we love our marines. But still, we really missed not being with family today and were sad to miss Abby’s blessing.
On Tuesday we had an exceptional Family Home Evening with our The Basic School (TBS) group. We arrived early to set up, but things started out poorly. The conference room that is reserved for us was locked. We got in touch with the duty officer who showed up with a master key, but his key did not work. By the time the duty officer determined that he did not have any key that worked, nearly all of our folks had arrived. Thankfully they took us to another building and gave us a nice classroom to use. We had to wait for the duty marines to finish mopping it. By then we had 8 folks in attendance, including our young gal friend Richland here at the FBI academy and a new young marine that we had never met before. He had seen a sign that listed all of the various faiths’ services and decided to come to our meeting. He is a new member of the church, having been baptized only a year ago. So we had a good mix of our regular TBS attendees and new folks. It was a great evening. Lezlie’s lesson went really well and there was a lot of great discussion. We had chocolate cupcakes and fruit. I think everyone had about 3 cupcakes each, and the fruit was gone quickly. Even though the start was rough, it turned out to be one of our best family home evenings yet. We are excited to have this large group to meet with each week and hope that we can provide meaningful lessons and discussions.
We worked out routine shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society on Wednesday. Everything went well, and we were able to help out some young marines that had real financial crises going on. It always feels good to be able to help them. I was able to give a $2800 check to one young marine. He had changed bank accounts and provided the new account numbers so his pay could be direct deposited. But there had been an error in the number and the bank refused to accept his pay check. He lives from payday to payday as it is, so he basically had nothing for his basics, like food and rent, for the next two weeks. He was a nice young man and seemed to have his finances in pretty good shape. But he just had nothing extra to get him through this pay error. We hope his pay will get straightened out and he will repay us right away. After our volunteer work we had our OCS FHE with our sole OCS candidate. Lezlie gave her lesson on seeing God in nature, with her exceptional PowerPoint, musical presentation showing stunning scenes in nature. It went well. Even though we only have one young man this time we still enjoy our OCS meetings very much. He is a great guy, and is always very appreciative.
On Thursday we had no appointments or scheduled activities. So after a few routine errands like getting the car washed and shopping a bit, we worked on Valentine cookies. We reviewed all of our marine families and calculated about 22 sets of treats we wanted to deliver. Lezlie baked, I cleaned up, and we both decorated. We were happy with the result and look forward to delivering them to our great marine families. We included the following a verse with each plate of cookies - John 13:35 "..as I have loved you, lone one another." Although we do not have live television, I do keep up on the news online. So we celebrated the Seahawks Super Bowl victory even though we did not watch it. Here is a picture of our new granddaughter, the littlest Seahawk fan of all.
Our Friday morning started early, marine time I guess you would say. We had a Chaplains Briefing at 0800 on base for 240 marine Warrant Officer Students. They are just beginning their 4 months of classwork at The Basic School so all the lay leaders and the chaplain introduced themselves. After that we began our deliveries of Valentine treats, passing out 3 plates of cookies. Our visits were inspired. We got to see the family with the premature baby that has multiple health problems, and they were happy to show off their son to us. We met with a family that has a young girl that was born with just one eye, and the little girl was happy to see us. Her big eye surgery is in two weeks, and we got to wish her well. And finally we stopped and saw a marine family where the dad had just had a heart episode and had to have angioplasty surgery to install a stint. We knew nothing about it, but were able to deliver some Valentine heart cookies for him, wish him well, and promise to keep him in our prayers. After that we drove back to Woodbridge and inspected 4 missionary apartments. This was our first time doing this senior missionary chore, and it was easier than we thought. In general the missionaries did a good job and were conscientious is their cleaning and tidying up. We did have a few dirty microwaves, some dusty air vents, and some signs of mildew in a couple of showers. But mostly the apartments were in pretty good shape. We told them all they did a good job and gave them each a Valentine cookie. Then we headed back to the base and delivered about five more plates of cookies. It was great fun and we had nice, short visits with all of the families. Finally we hosted two elders for a spaghetti dinner. These young men both are doing a Spanish Speaking mission, and it was interesting to hear all about their adventures with the Hispanic community here. There are many Spanish speakers here and these young elders are kept very busy. So we had a busy, but wonderful and enjoyable day.