When the kids were here last month, it wasn’t for wild road trips through Europe, it was for Dave’s official retirement from the US Army after more than 30 years of service. While we held the ceremony a little early, his actual retirement date is September 30. There is an awful lot of paperwork and steps and rules and regulations and hoops to jump through before his service ends, but we wanted to celebrate with as much of our family as we could. We were blessed that almost all our kids were there, Nicholas unfortunately had to work, and both my parents. We did manage to Facetime most of the ceremony for Dave’s parents and Nick. Yay for technology!

That Friday was a beautiful, sunny, not-too-warm afternoon. Two of my photography students, and Dane, served as our official photographers, putting their new-found skills to work. We were lucky enough to hold our ceremony outdoors, on a covered patio on base under the American flag, the Army flag and our host-nations, Germany, flag.

The Retirement Ceremony opened with the national anthem, a beautiful prayer by our base chaplain, and speeches by several of Dave’s Colonels. Speeches not just about Dave’s wonderfulness and long, distinguished service but also about us. About me. About the kids. An official acknowledgement of our silent service. There are many wonderful things about being an Army family, especially the opportunity to see the world, but it is not an easy life. The moves. The goodbye’s. The friends and family that come and go. The loneliness. It is hard. It is challenging. It is a little overwhelming to be thanked for just being us.

Dave had warned me that I too would get awards. I wasn’t surprised when I was called up to receive my awards, or my letter from the President, but I was shaking in my boots all the same. I knew every face in the room. Still, standing in front of them all while being praised is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I got the nervous giggles a little bit and I couldn’t wait to sit back down.

What I didn’t know was that Dave was going to give a speech. To thank his command. To thank his country. To thank his fellow soldiers. But mostly, again, to thank us. He thanked each of us. One by one. He gave each of us a gift, a token of his appreciation. And that was good. It felt wonderful. Until he got to Christian. Our Marine. Our beautiful boy. He got to Christian and his voice cracked. He thanked Christian for his service and he thanked God for bringing Christian back home to us. Safe. Alive.

A sob escaped me, and I could hear my mom, my friend, the Colonel’s wife, and Tess choke back sobs of their own. There were dark days when Chris was deployed, when we weren’t sure he’d make it home. The news played 24/7 in our house during his deployment(s). Sometimes that was good, sometimes that was bad. Hearing Dave acknowledge the pain we’d felt. The pride. The overwhelming joy when Chris finally came home, with tears in his voice, it was too much.

Serving our country has been a huge source of pride for Dave, for me, for all of us. We believe in the United States. Her freedoms. Her opportunities. It has been an Honor to serve as one of her Military families. Thank you Dave for everything you have done for our country and our family. I am looking forward to the next chapter in our life.

Dane was very proud to be one of our official photographers.

Because we live in Germany the German flag, along with the American flag & the Army flag, is flown

Our national anthem means more today than it ever has

Dave got several awards and letters from Presidents Bush, Obama and Trump

Oh my! I got a letter for my service too!

And the American flag!

Photo by Dane: Dave’s “salad” or awards & medals

Dave had some beautiful words of thanks, especially for his family. One of my students working hard in the background.

Dave not only thanked each of us, but we all got presents. Dane was so happy & so surprised.

I put my glasses back on to hide tears. I got a dozen long-stem roses but Dave’s words overwhelmed me.

Every single person shook all of our hands and thanked us all of our service.

Dave and the US Army Flag. Hooah!

Dave, me, Soren, Cole Dane, Tess & Christian… we are missing Nicholas