On Monday we had a highly successful day of visits. We had found about 6 additional families on our ward roster that lived on base so we decided to track them down. Lezlie baked several batches of brownies and cookies, and we headed for the base. Although 3 of them had moved the other 3 were there and were friendly and happy to get a plate of brownies. In addition we spontaneously decided (after prayer) to visit a few other families and those visits went really well. We caught one family just before they were leaving on a two week vacation, another dad was home early from work so we got to chat with him, and we delivered brownies to a young single female marine that we had not seen for several weeks. It all went very well. Then we did our family home evening on obedience for one less active family and it was well received. This mom of two is home without a husband or car, while he is away for two months of marine training in South Carolina. We mentioned before about the young bachelor marine who had the serious surgery last week. On the spur of the moment we called him at this barracks and asked if we could stop by and say hello. He said yes. We had never been inside his barracks before and it was interesting to see. We had to sign in at a security guard desk and then our young friend walked us to his room, which was very nice. It was a two man room, but it was pretty large and set up with some shelves in between the two halves as a divider. It was also very clean and well kept. The marines do field day every Thursday after which their rooms are inspected. We had a nice chat with this young man, and Lezlie gave him a big hug as we left. He had never acted warm enough before but tonight she just spontaneously hugged him and told him how happy we are that his surgery went okay. It was an excellent visit. He has future challenges to overcome since he has two more surgeries to reconstruct his bowels. But he seems to be facing the challenges with confidence and optimism.
After a morning of preparing we headed to the base on Tuesday. We first visited our dear friends who are leaving in just a few days . This is the family where I blessed their baby boy and baptized the dad. We had a nice visit with them and reminisced about the 8 months we have been visiting them. We were able to give them the address, phone number, and bishop's name for their new ward in Arizona. We got a really nice email from the ward clerk of their new ward saying that they had a lot of marine members from the base there and would welcome them with open arms. Our time with this family is almost over, so we are a little sad. But we are also very happy for them because they really wanted to be assigned to the base that they got. We feel so blessed and fortunate that we got to be a part of their lives for some important events, like baptism and baby blessing. We were also just happy to be their friends. We departed their home and did a few errands, then loaded up on Subway sandwiches and chips. The next stop was to pick up a group of our The Basic School (TBS) marines. We had planned an excursion to see the Sunset Parade, which is a performance by the Marine Drum and Bugle corps and the Silent Drill Team. They hold this parade at the site of the Iwo Jima monument at Arlington National Cemetery. It is a beautiful setting. We had told the marines that we had to leave at 5:00 pm to make it through the traffic in DC and arrive on time for the parade. At 5pm nobody had arrived yet. Their company commander was giving some kind of speech and it took forever. But finally, about 5:10, they all showed up. They enjoyed sandwiches, chips and a plethora of cookies that Lezlie had baked on the ride into DC. We made it just on time. The parade was wonderful. The band was excellent and the silent drill team was simply amazing. Their maneuvers were crisp, precise and in perfect synchronization. And some of them were dangerous! They had bayonets on their rifles, and many moves involved tossing their rifle into the air or catching another person’s rifle. And it was all done in silence. Our young marines really seemed to enjoy it, and they were proud tonight to be a part of the tradition and heritage of the Marine Corps. Afterwards we got to meet the serious girlfriend of one of our marines. She seemed like a great person and we told our marine so. Maybe we will get to go to a wedding before the end of our mission. They all talked and laughed all the way back to the base and offered many thanks for the outing. We likely will only get to see this group one or two more times. It will be very sad to see them go, as we have been working with them since the second week of our mission. They have been a true inspiration to us.
We worked a good shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society on Wednesday. I had a complex case that I worked on for over two hours, and we still were not able to resolve things and help the young marine. He is returning tomorrow with more information and he should be able to get some financial assistance then. Our NMCRS shifts have been getting more miserable as the days go by because the air conditioning is not working. They are remodeling the entire heating and cooling system in the building. They gave us some fans and portable air conditioners, but they do not do a great job. So it can get very hot there! The humidity is really starting to climb, which makes things even tougher. It brought back many memories of our life in the military! But we are coping. We dashed home, had a quick dinner, and then packed up two huge platters, one with fruit and the other with many cookies. We had a record turnout at our The Basic School family home evening – twenty-one. We crammed everyone into our small room (see pics) and had a wonderful time. Lezlie gave her superb presentation on how we can see God in nature and in all of God’s creations. When the marines are in the woods working hard they can remember God by looking at the beauty of nature. The lesson went very well and the marines said they enjoyed it. They loved the fruit and cookies and consumed hundreds and hundreds of calories in minutes. But they need it! It was a fantastic meeting with our beloved marines.
What a great Thursday. We had a wonderful lunch with the wife and family of one of our marines who is leaving soon. She is staying in a hotel for a week with 4 small children, so we thought she might need some time away from the hotel. We had lunch with her and the kids at a Chik-fil-a with a playground. The kids played and played while we sat and visited. I think it was a needed break for her. It was fun to get to know her better. We then visited another one of our TBS marine families in the newer TBS class. We had an excellent visit with her and the kids as well. Finally we stopped and made an appointment with another marine wife so that we can visit them when the dad is home. We were very pleased because the wife, who has been a little shy with us before, was very friendly and made an appointment for us to come back next week in the evening. The weather has become very humid and the days are usually up in the high 80s or low 90s. It really saps our energy to be out in that weather much. And today was an exceptionally hot one. So we find that we cannot do quite as much away from home. After 3 or 4 hours of driving around and visiting folks we are quite tired and ready to come home, which is exactly what we did today.
On Friday we worked an extra shift at Navy Marine Corps Relief Society. It was a very slow afternoon with only a few phone calls and no clients stopping by. But after that we met Butch and Catherine Wick for dinner. Butch is my sister’s brother-in-law that I have known for years. We had a wonderful steak dinner with them in Manassas. It was delightful to visit with them and have a great meal.
Our whole Saturday was taken up by two activities – Temple and Stake Conference. Today one of our marine wives, went to the temple for the first time. She had to go up to the Washington DC temple very early. So we picked up her husband, who is not a member, a little later and drove up to the temple with him. He is a really great guy and was so easy to talk to. He and I dropped Lezlie off at the temple and she went in so that she could go to the temple session with his wife. Then he and I headed out to spend a couple of hours together while the women were in the temple. We decided to drive to a nearby mall to grab something to eat. Along the way we saw a farmers market set up for the day. I remembered he had made a comment that he liked farmers markets. So we made a quick, unexpected stop there. We got some honey, fresh corn and broccoli, and he bought some pickles. We then went to the mall, had a nice walk, and stopped for a drink and snack. Once again he was very enjoyable to talk to and very easy to be with. We went back to the temple and spent an hour touring the visitors center, where I got to teach him a lot about church and what went on in the temple. Finally we waited just inside the door to the temple in the family waiting area. Soon the girls emerged and we were all reunited. She seemed to enjoy her first visit to the temple and was happy that her husband had been there to support her even though he could not go inside. We stopped for a late lunch at Great Harvest Bread in Lorton. Shortly after arriving home we headed out for our Saturday evening session of Stake Conference. It was very good, and we heard several excellent talks about “Hastening the Work.” The Stake President was given a goal to grow the Stake large enough to split it before he is released. So he talks about missionary work a lot in order to grow the Stake. Our Ward is certainly doing its part... We have had 19 bapsms in the last 5 month!. It was a good meeting and we were filled with joy as we departed. Our day was not quite over though. We had to spend time getting ready for Officer Candidate School (OCS) at 0730 tomorrow. I have the lesson so polished it up a bit. Lezlie worked on a beautiful fruit plate and organized the muffins and sweet breads we will take. The sweet breads came from Great Harvest Bread Company, the last of our gift card generously provided by our children (Thank You).
Our Sunday began with our service at OCS at 7:30 AM. However we have to leave our home at 6:15 in order to get there and get set up in time. Although we had a smaller group (9) because they have liberty now, we had a great service. As soon as liberty starts the non-members seldom come on Sunday since they can sleep in instead. But we still had a good meeting. We talked about courage today and they had some insightful comments. They loved the fruit and bread, and even the small group ate up almost every morsel. We then picked up a marine wife and her two children to take them to Stake Conference. Her marine husband is away at a school for two months and she does not have a car. So she hasn't been able to get to Church for the last few weeks. So we picked her up and took her to the meeting. It was a good stake conference session, but I must confess I had trouble staying awake because of getting up at 5:30 am this morning. Still, it was really good to be there and see all the faithful members of our Stake. In the evening the couple that works with us at OCS hosted a dinner at their house for our group of marines that are graduating from TBS next week. It was bittersweet. We were happy to see them together socializing and talking about all of their experiences in training here. They have supported each other tremendously and have truly become friends. But it was sad because it is about the last time we will all be together. There was plenty of good natured teasing and reminiscing about the hardest things that they had done during their training. We enjoyed seeing all of them in a casual social situation, but all too quickly we had to leave for home. We will be proud to see them at their graduation, but it will be very sad to finally say our last goodbye.