As we were eating on Monday morning, after having walked two miles at the mall, the phone rang. It was not a typical time to receive a call. It was a young bachelor marine that we have come to know and love. He is not active, but we have taken him out to lunch and dinner about 5 or 6 times. We often wonder if this is enough with these young marines. But we feel that we are at least a connection to church for them, however small that link may be. Today we realized that link is important. We may have mentioned this young man before. He told us the last time we met that he may have to have surgery to have part of his intestine removed because of an auto-immune deficiency that is causing his intestines to deteriorate. We knew his parents would not be able to afford to fly out here, and we asked him to please let us know if the surgery got scheduled so that we could help him out. The call was from him, informing us that he was having surgery tomorrow morning. In fact he was in the car on his way to Wash DC to check in to the Navy hospital there, the Walter Reed Hospital. We checked our schedule had important responsibilities here for the next two days that we could not cancel or delegate. So we put our church connections into action. First we contacted a marine wife we know (her husband is a student on base) that works at Walter Reed. She immediately texted us back and said she would find him and make a connection. About 3 hours later she texted that she had found him right after he checked in and had a nice talk, promising him that she would check on him periodically. Second we contacted the Washington DC North mission, which encompasses the hospital. It just so happens that some old friends of ours from our hometown of Richland, WA are the senior missionaries that work in the mission office there. So we called them and they jumped right on it. Several hours later we were informed that two senior sister missionaries that are assigned to work with folks at Walter Reed has already visited our young man and had arranged for two elders to visit and give him a blessing. Around that time we got a call from the young man’s mom who understandably was worried. However, he had given her our phone number and told her we were his acting grandparents here at Quantico. We reassured her that there were a lot of good church folks that were already looking after her son and we gave her contact information for the sisters that visit folks at the hospital. Needless to say, we were making many phone calls and exchanging multiple texts all day long. But this evening we know that several missionaries and church folks that have good access to the hospital are looking after this young man. We felt blessed to be able to put all the right folks in touch with each other. Another part of our Monday was spent visiting a couple of marine wives. One mom, who has five children under 7, recently lost her mom and has been struggling a bit. While Lezlie chatted with her I entertained the 5 kids with treasure hunts and balloon games. She talked and talked, kind of unburdening herself. The kids seemed to have fun, but my it was tiring. Her husband has PTSD so we had to put all the balloons away so they wouldn't pop when he got home. We visited the last wife just to check on her. Her husband is away for 2 months of training, but she just has 2 children so has things pretty much under control. Finally, we took another young bachelor Navy guy out to dinner. We had to say goodbye to him, as he is transferring to Japan in July so is leaving next week. We had a good visit and we gave him a little going away gift. This is another young man that does not attend church, but we still provided that small connection that may be needed some day. We sent all of his contact information to the military relations senior missionaries at his new base, so they will look after him while he is in Japan.
Today (Tuesday) is our 41st anniversary. What cherished memories we have of all those years! It is hard to believe. It goes faster than you think. Don’t Blink! We celebrated our anniversary a couple of weeks ago with our trip to Chincoteague Island, so today was a missionary work day. About one minute after I started doing my morning workout two elders called me. They are the zone leaders, so they have a van. They had gone out to their car to drive somewhere for their morning exercise and had a flat tire. They had no idea how to change it or find the spare. They knew my van is just like theirs, so asked if I could come help. So at 7am the three of us were jacking up their car and trying to get to their spare. We decided it would be just as easy for me to run them and the tire to the Firestone store. About an hour later they had a new tire – their old one was totally shot. After that unexpected chore we had to hustle to make it to District Meeting on time. Lezlie and I gave a training lesson and it went well, so we were pleased. Our next activity was to visit our marine wife that has the new baby girl. Her husband is away at training. I played with her 4 year old son while mom helped her with the baby and a few household chores. Finally we met with our wonderful The Basic School group. In attendance were all of our original Officer Candidate School gang that went to TBS together, and it was great fun to meet with them. We have seen them once or twice a week almost every week for the past 9 months. They graduate in two weeks, so there will be some tough goodbyes. We taught a lesson on families and marriage, which was pretty appropriate on our anniversary. We said a lot of good things about how well our children had turned out! It was a great discussion and we really enjoyed the group. Mom made an outstanding banana pudding that was devoured by the marines. We feel enriched for having been involved with these good young folks for these past 9 months.
Wednesday was unusual since Lezlie and I were apart most of the day. First thing in the morning she drove to Richmond with some young sisters to attend an all day training meeting. Meanwhile I stayed home and baked brownies for our upcoming OCS family home evening. Using the car of the sisters that Lezlie took to Richmond I went to the base and worked my shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. It was a pretty good shift. I got to give one young marine a check for $1300 to get him out of some financial trouble. Was he happy! Upon arrival home some unexpected trouble arose. I had tried to bake too many pans of brownies at the same time. The pans on the bottom got burnt, and the ones on the top were raw. Since time was running short I immediately loaded up everything for the OCS family home evening and drove to the store. I bought about 9 dozen cookies for our refreshments and met Lezlie as she returned from Richmond. The OCS FHE could not have been better. The new company of 10 week trainees arrived, and we had a total of 18 at our meeting. About half of them are church members and half visitors. What a great bunch of young men and women! We had a short lesson and spent most of the time with introductions and just getting to know them. We had announced that the other man from the ward and I could give blessings. One young man, not a church member, asked what a blessing was. Another marine and I explained it, and the other marine asked if he wanted one. He said yes, that he had been really missing his wife and kids and was an emotional wreck. We found an empty closet and the other marine gave him a beautiful, peaceful blessing. The marine that received the blessing had tears in his eyes as he thanked us, and we all exchanged hugs right there in the closet. It was a sweet moment. All too soon they had to depart, with their Gunnery Sergeants yelling at them to get in line, stand up straight, quit looking around, and on and on. We were thrilled to have 18 folks there and were happy to get to know this new group. We feel so much joy at working with these young people. And we think that what we do helps them make it through this difficult marine training.
As mentioned before one of our young bachelor marines had surgery at the Walter Reed Military Hospital in Wash DC on Tuesday of this week. On Thursday we journeyed into DC to see him. We tried a new transportation method. We drove to the closest metro stop, which is about 25 minutes from our house, and then took the subway all the way to the hospital. It was a long ride, but we were able to sit for the whole trip so it was not bad at all. We got a bit lost in the hospital. It is a huge complex of about ten buildings with bridges and basements that connect them. We finally found our young marine and visited with him for about an hour. He was in some pain but generally was in good spirits. He told us his doctor had said that the surgery went well. However, the doc also told him he was going to need two more surgeries to fix the whole problem. We departed the hospital en-route to meeting up with our friends the Colsons. They used to live next door to us in Richland and were members of our ward for years. As mentioned before, they just happen to be the office administrators in the Washington DC North mission where the hospital is located. So we had a nice lunch and visit with them. It is always great to catch up with old friends. After the long subway and car rides home we headed right out to the base. We taught a new member lesson to the family in which I just baptized the dad. They are leaving in about ten days, so it was bitter sweet. They have been a huge part of our mission experience thus far, and we will miss them a lot. But we are happy they are getting transferred to the place they most wanted, and glad that they will be in a good ward there. We had a great day, but after the long trip to DC we were very tired. We both headed to bed much earlier than normal for some much needed rest.
On Saturday we attended a Senior Missionary Training meeting in Richmond. We had a fairly short training session, but it was very good. Several seniors that are going home in the next month talked, and there were some emotional stories. One of the couples was from Pasco. WA and the other couple lives in Woodbridge with us, so we are close to both of them. All of us know how hard it is to go back home at the end of one’s mission. It is the leaving that is hard – leaving this place where you have made new friends, developed a new ward family, and experienced so many miracles and tender mercies. I think that once folks actually depart and start heading home that it is okay, because then they are thinking about home and family. But in the days leading up to that point there must be many mixed emotions. We did hear some sweet stories from these seniors that are leaving soon. After the training session we had a nice lunch and then headed for the Richmond Canal. We took a 45 minute boat tour during which the boat driver/guide told us a lot about Richmond history and the building and sites we were seeing. It was relaxing and fun. And I always love to be on the water. Our drive home was pretty miserable, stuck in massive traffic under a hot sun. It took us an hour longer than expected because of all the stop and go traffic. Anyone that has ever driven I-95 in Northern Virginia knows what I am talking about. But we have come to expect traffic delays, and we had a great day and we thoroughly enjoyed visiting with all the other senior missionaries in spite of it. The below pictures show Lezlie (in red) with other senior missionaries waiting for the boat. The 2nd one is our mission president and his wife on the left and another senior couple with them.
We had a wonderful Sunday. It began with a sacrament service for our amazing Officer Candidate School group at 0730 (that’s oh-seven-thirty). We had 14 at our service today. It is always so good to spend time with these officer candidates. We are their refuge from the storm they undergo as part of their training. Once they have attended a couple of times they know that they can relax as soon as they come in the door. They immediately start smiling, chatting with us, and comparing notes with each other about the training. There are many different types in this group – a young dad that is missing his two sons like crazy, a husband in law school that aspires to be a Marine JAG lawyer, a young woman of only 19 that grew up with lots of brothers, several returned missionaries, a visitor that heard we had treats, another visitor that came with a friend, and so on. But once we start giving a lesson they are all right with us, wanting that spiritual nourishment and mental renewal. They also love the food nourishment after the services, but treat time is a great time for them to unwind and talk to each other as well. We had a great service and gave another blessing to a marine afterwards. Many of the marines wished me a happy Father's Day. It was sweet. We then went directly to a second sacrament meeting in Stafford. We wanted to attend this ward to meet the family of one of our TBS marines. He is the one from Texas that has four children. His amazing wife drove all the way from Texas with four children under 7. She came to participate in some of the activities leading up to graduation, although they will have to leave for his next school before graduation ceremony. It was excellent to get to know his wife and children a little bit. We stayed through Sunday School with them. A great family. After an hour break to eat sack lunches we went to our own ward and got to see another young family that we love. This is the family of the Navy guy that I baptized last month. They are leaving in a week so this was their last time at our ward. It was so good to see them there but sad as well. We had them meet with the ward clerk so that their records could be sent to their new ward. We came home early because we were so tired and worn out from going to 3 different wards today. It was a nice Father’s Day – I got cards/phonecalls/Skype from all of my children, which was wholly enjoyable. Thank you everyone for your nice sentiments. Lezlie fixed me a yummy Father's Day dinner of turkey burgers, mushroom gravy, rolls and broccoli. Ahhhhhhh........