Let the countdown begin!

We finally have a time frame for Tony’s return!  It is a span of a few days, but at least I have something concrete to count down to now!  My mind is shifting to prepare for his arrival home….things to do before he comes home, and things to have ready for him, to make his homecoming sweeter.  It was only a month ago we were in Athens together, and now I am thinking about his homecoming!    

 

Here is his Facebook status from earlier this week:

 

“It is soon that time again, where I will be coming home. This time will truly be bitter sweet though. I’m excited to see loved ones and be with my family and friends, but I must also now face the reality of saying goodbye to a true friend and brother. Brad has always been there for me, has always been at the airport to welcome me home with his smile and wise cracks. Although I have had several months to mourn the lost of my dear friend and to come to terms with things, I have to admit at times, it just didn’t seem real. Maybe it was because I was so far away, maybe because this is Brad, so of course he’s ok, of course he will be there waiting to welcome me home.

Well, the moment I land in my local airport, regardless of the time, I plan on grabbing my gear, throwing it in the car and going to visit Brad. If anyone would like to go with me or meet me at the gravesite, please let me know. I know when I will be returning to the U.S. and a round about date when I will be back home. Of course, I can’t post those dates, nor can I tell you (sorry), but I will gladly DM you and give you a general time period so you can plan accordingly.

Some would say I’m not sensitive or emotional, but I can assure you this will be an emotional time for me. And, I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to Brad Fox than to be with the people who loved him as much as I do.”

 

 

As you can see from what he wrote, this will be a bittersweet time.   Feel free to comment to this post, or call or email me if you want to either meet us at the airport, or at the gravesite.  And, please continue to keep him and the Marines he is with in your prayers while they are finishing up their deployment, traveling home, and reunifying with loved ones. 

Another Loss in the Marine Corps Family

Our friend and Marine Tony James recently lost his 13 month old daughter Lyla.  Although she suffered from a heart condition and underwent several surgeries in her short lifetime, she recently celebrated her 1st birthday.  Lyla passed away in her sleep on December 29th.

 

The viewing was on Thursday, January 3 and the funeral on Friday, January 4.  Once again, the Marine Corps family rallied around one of their own who was struggling through a terrible time.  Several Marines from across the state came to pay their respects, some driving 6 hours roundtrip.  Time and distance may separate these Marines, but in the hour of need, they are there for one another.  This bond is something that although I see demonstrated over and over, I cannot fully understand.  I can only respect these Marines immensely for it, and be proud to be a part of the Marine Corps family.

 

Please keep James and Jen in your prayers as they go through this difficult time.

The Trip that Almost Didn’t Happen

I have written recently of our trip to Athens, Greece, where Tony and I were able to spend a week together for Christmas.  We had finalized our trip in October, but a few weeks before the trip, Tony emailed me saying that he just got notice that there were a few countries they were NOT allowed to go to during their leave, or they had to get prior authorization from his command.  Lucky for us, Greece was on that very short list.  It was a Saturday when he found this out, and we had to wait until Monday for him to talk to his 1st Sgt to get more details.  In the end, he needed to have a security briefing, and then he was cleared to travel.  It was definitely a few days of uncertainty.

 

My experience with the military kept me from truly getting too excited about the trip.  Throughout the years, I have learned to never count on anything I am told (when Tony may be where, or what is really going on) because it ALWAYS changes.  I don’t think they purposefully lie, but I can’t help feeling let down time and time again.  As a result, as the trip was approaching, I couldn’t help feeling like it just was not going to happen….that his leave would be revoked, or that there would be bad weather.  I was not really surprised when word came down about Greece being on the list of places he could not go without prior authorization.  Honestly, deep down, I was excited to see him and experience Greece.  But, I contained my excitement, and did not really even think about it too much.  My excitement was reserved.  I said that I would not get too excited until I was on the plane, and until I saw him in Istanbul, because then I would know it was actually happening.  In hindsight, it was definitely my past experiences with the military that dampened my anticipation of the trip.  My normally optimistic nature has been skewed my the military, and I am a bit resentful of that!  It may be adaptive now, but I promise you I will fight to regain my hope and excitement without reserve!

Grecian Rendezvous

Earlier this fall, Tony learned he would be able to take a week of leave from his deployment.  While he was not allowed to come to the States, he basically was able to go anywhere else.  After much consideration, we settled on Athens, Greece.  My class was not over until mid-December, and so we planned to spend Christmas together.

 

A few random tidbits from our travels

-JFK airport SUCKS

-I am grateful to be short, and able to stretch my legs out on the plane (It was a 10 hour flight!)

-I stayed up all night long sitting in airports (JFK and Istanbul).  After so much time awake (about 26 hours both times), I think I reached delirium.

-We met up in the airport at Istanbul.  I arrived about 30 minutes before he did, and I sat at our gate anxiously looking for him.  It was quite romantic to see him coming through the sea of strangers’ faces.  We then flew into Athens together.

-After we landed in Athens, we were supposed to take the metro to the apartment we rented for the week.  The metro was closed, as the workers were on strike.  The Greek woman we asked about where the metro was said, “They are on strike. Welcome to Athens”.  This apparently is a common occurrence.

-We found the apartment through airbnb.com, and it is something we would definitely do again.  We experienced Athens more from a local’s perspective, instead of staying in a hotel room.

-Do not flush toilet paper!  There are signs most places, with a little trashcan next to the toilet to discard trash in.  How odd (and gross)!

-Everyone spoke English, and they were very friendly and helpful.  All of the signs were in Greek and English too.

-Mopeds were everywhere, and streets are filled with little cars, mopeds, and pedestrians.

 

From a tourist standpoint

We had an idea of things to see and places to go.  We were very relaxed about the trip though, not making any certain plans, and taking things as they came.  We walked around the city every day, stopping for an espresso or pastry, or to shop wherever.  I am normally a planner, but this spontaneous perspective made the trip much more enjoyable.  It was amazing to see the architectural marvels, some that were over 2300 years old, and to experience the Greek culture.  The city was a mixture of old and new.  We would be walking, and come across ruins or an old church in the middle of a normal city street or square (have I mentioned I LOVE old churches?!).  It was a memorable, fabulous trip.  All of the major Athens sites were within about a 15 minute walk from our apartment, including:

The Acropolis: (containing the Propylaia, the Erechtheion, the Parthenon, the Temple of Athena Nike, Aeropagus Hill, Odeon of Herodes Atticus) From almost anywhere in Athens, you could see the Acropolis on the hill.  It was a breathtaking view.  I loved the Erechtheion, with the “Porch of the Maidens”, 6 female figures acting as the columns. Aeropagus Hill was where the Apostle Paul preached to the Athenians.  We spent one entire day exploring all of these sites.

Keramikos

Temple of Olympian Zeus: This was built to honor Zeus.  The size of these enormous, marble columns (actually, all of the structures everywhere for that matter) was staggering.

Hadrian’s Arch and Hadrian’s Library

Theatre of Dionysus: This was an outdoor amphitheatre on the hill beside the Acropolis.

Zapion Congress Hall

Ancient Agora, and the Museum of the Athenian Agora: The Ancient Agora was the social, political, and cultural center of Athens.  It is said that Socrates, Plato, and the Apostle Paul spent time there.

Temple of Hephaestus: This was a mostly intact temple in the Ancient Agora.  Again, the massive size of the structure and that it had survived for so many years was amazing!

Roman Agora

The National Historical Museum

The National Archeological Museum:  This museum was incredible.  It is listed as one of the top 10 museums in the world!  We spent 2 hours there, but I could have easily spent twice as much time there.  All tourist sites close at 3pm for some reason.  But, when they say 3pm, they mean everyone out, lights out, locked up by before that time.  They started clearing out the museum at 2:30, so we were even more rushed.

 

Photos for you to enjoy (click on the photo to see it enlarged)

One of many squares throughout Athens

An old church

The Acropolis….I never tired of this view

Odeon of Herodes Atticus as viewed from standing on the Acropolis

Back of the Parthenon

Tony captured me admiring the view of Athens from the front of Propylaia

At the Acropolis

Look at the detail in the marble

Apostolou Pavlou (St. Paul’s Avenue) runs beside the Acropolis

At a small cafe, eating vine leaves and drinking a latte.  The food was amazing!

Tony at the cafe.  We enjoyed that there weren’t many chain restaurants.  Instead, they were small, family run businesses.

Gate of Athena Archegetis, constructed by donations from Julius Caeser and Augustus, located in the Roman Agora

Ruins of the Roman Agora

Us in the Roman Agora

What a stud

To put in perspective how massive these structures were, here I am sitting in the Theatre of Dionysus.  I look like a little ant!

Us

Temple of Olympian Zeus, with the Acropolis in the background

The National Archeological Museum

We took the Metro west to the city of Piraeus in an attempt to see a beautiful beach.  Our idea was a little naive as it was the largest port in Europe.

Us in Piraeus

I am so grateful that we were able to make this trip.  Spending a week with Tony definitely broke up the deployment, and was something to count down to.  We are more than halfway through the deployment, maybe even 2/3 through now!  It was great to spend a week with my husband, in a foreign city, with no cell phone to distract us from each other’s company.  I hope you all had a memorable Christmas as well!

Christmas in Athens

Tony and I were able to spend the past week and Christmas together in Athens, Greece.  I just arrived home late last night, and am working on unpacking and getting settled back home. Stay tuned for an upcoming blog post about our adventures in Greece!  In the meantime, here are a few pictures from our trip.

 

The Acropolis

Self portrait at the entrance of the Acropolis

View of Athens from the Acropolis

Us at the Acropolis

Christmas in Athens at Sygmata Square

I am thankful

This time of year always makes me reflect on the blessings that I have in my life.  I love the holiday season…the family time, the sense of community and good will.  Today, I am thankful for:

 

-Tony: I am thankful to have a husband who chooses hard work even if there is an easier path to take because he knows that some of the more important things in life are things you have to work for.  He is willing to be uncomfortable in the short term to provide a better life for us.  I am thankful that this is not a combat deployment, and that he is safer than previous deployments.

 

-Family: I am grateful for the opportunity to spend 10 days with my sister and her family in October.  I am thankful for my parents, at the ready to help me out in whatever way I ask.  I believe they are the two best people I know, and I am so blessed to have them in my life!  I also am thankful for Tony’s family, who I feel like aren’t my in-laws, but my own family too.

 

-Friends: I am grateful to be surrounded by friends who make me smile and that I can have fun with. I can’t imagine not having a few close friends who I spend time with regularly.

 

-My health, and the health of my family: This year in particular, I am even more aware how precious life is.  God has blessed me with good health, and it is something I typically take for granted.

 

-Tank: The best dog in the world!  Tank never, ever wakes me up in the morning!  He always sleeps until I wake up, and doesn’t rush me out of bed, regardless of how late I sleep in.  He faithfully follows me around the house, and assures that I am never alone.

 

The Marine Corps Ball

The Marine Corps was created on November 10, 1775, in Tun Tavern, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by a resolution of the Continental Congress. Each November, various units across the world host a Birthday Ball to commemorate the founding of the Corps. I have gone with Tony to Allentown’s balls throughout the years…I’ve even lost count of how many I’ve been to. My best guess is that we’ve gone to at least 7 over the past 14 years that Tony has been a Marine.  The Birthday Ball is a time for the Marines to wear their dress blues, honor the legacy of the Marines, and remember those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom.
This year was unique in several ways. This is the first year I’ve gone alone. Last year, with Tony deployed, I chose not to go. Due to many factors, I decided to go stag this year. (Tony had the opportunity to attend a Birthday Ball overseas this year!)

With the passing of our friend Brad in September, I knew this Ball would be different. He and Lyns wouldn’t be there. At our table, there was a place set for both him and Lyns. I was seated next to him, and I cried as soon as I saw it. One of the Marines bought a beer and sat it at his place for him. Later, we toasted to (if I remember Wee’s words) ” one of the greatest men we’ve ever known”. Many tears were shed because of the loss of Brad.

Another milestone for this year’s Ball was more of a celebration. The birthday cake is cut during the ceremony, with the first piece going to the guest of honor. The next piece goes to the oldest Marine serving at that unit, who takes a bite and passes it to the youngest serving Marine at that unit. This symbolizes the passing of knowledge from one generation to another. Our friend Adam was the oldest this year, and ate the cake in front of 325 people!

 

Here are a few pictures from the night.

 

Our place settings

Adam eating the cake

Me, Tracie, and Liv

Kim and me

Liv, Wee, me, Adam, and Tracie

Corey, me, and James

The guys at the end of the night

Remembrance

As I sat in my office today at work, I could see the makeshift memorial flying the American and POW flags at the square in Lancaster.  As the sun set, I heard Taps.  I came home from work, and watched one of my favorite shows “Bones”, and sat and cried.  Well, perhaps sobbed is a better word.  The episode tonight was a victim of 9/11, and it brought back memories from that day….memories of what has happened since that day.  That day changed all of us, and I am now living the life I am because of that day.  The episode made me think of the Marines I spent the weekend with…it brought up the sadness I feel losing Brad almost 2 months ago…and the pride of Tony being a Marine.

 

I am overwhelmed with the respect I feel for knowing all of you who serve our country.  I am overwhelmed as I think of the husbands/wives and children who are alone today because a member of their family is deployed or has so valiantly given of themselves.  Yes, veterans sacrifice, but their families do as well.  My heart breaks for veterans struggling with homelessness, or poverty, or mental illness.  Even though there are programs for them, I know that there are individuals who fall through the cracks.  Or, individuals who don’t trust anyone or who have lost faith in humanity, and don’t reach out for help.  My plea to you is to do whatever you can for veterans.  Donate your time, or financial resources.  Listen to them, to their story.  Respect them, and thank them for their service, not just today, but every day.  It is the military tradition to never leave a man behind on the battlefield…it should be our cause to make sure that those who have selflessly given and have served are never left behind once they come home.

Book Study Across the World

During one of my therapy appointments in preparation for his deployment, I was complaining that with Tony leaving again, we weren’t going to be able to work on our marriage at all.  I stated I hated feeling “in limbo”…just waiting around…not moving forward until he returned, and I wasn’t looking forward to doing it again.  My therapist asked if we like to read, to which I answered yes.  She suggested that we could perhaps do a book study together while we were apart.  It could connect us across the miles, and help me to feel like we were making progress at the same time.

 

I brought up the topic to Tony, and he agreed to do it.  He let me choose the book, and I settled on “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs.  It is a book that we have had for a while, and haven’t read yet.  We put together a reading schedule of what chapters we would read when, and came up with a few questions that we would answer for each reading selection.  “Love and Respect” is a thicker book, and we spaced out the reading selections so it would take us through the entire deployment.  We were not sure of what his conditions would be like, so we waited until he was settled in over there to determine how exactly this would work.  We decided to email each other our answers to the questions instead of trying to have a conversation over the phone, just because of the expense of the phone calls.  We have completed 4 of the reading selections, and are about ¼ of the way through the book.

 

This is another way for me to be able to see the progress of time….the more chapters we read, the closer it is until he is home.  I think this is an absolutely fabulous idea, and I am so appreciative that my therapist suggested it.  Tony and I have read other books together, and so this is a natural extension of that.

 

What are some other ideas of ways that you have stayed connected while apart?

Visit from Family

The reason I have been so quiet on here lately is because my sister and her family were in town for 10 days visiting from Florida!  They had not been home to PA in almost 2 years.  I have gone down to FL to visit them several times (3 I think?), but it had been a long time since they were home.

 

I took off of work so that I could enjoy the time that they were here.  The excitement of their trip to PA was going up to my dad’s hunting cabin for a few days.  Alicia and I grew up going to the cabin in Clearfield County.  There is no running water, no electricity, no indoor plumbing.  The cabin in off of a few gravel roads….in the middle of nowhere.  Mike is in the Air Force, so he was able to go hunting for “Military Day”, and he and dad had already planned to go up hunting.  Us girls decided to join them.

 

We had campfires, took walks, and played games.  We didn’t have our computers or cell phones to distract us, and so we basically spent 3 days of quality time with each other.  It was simple, relaxing fun.  It was quiet up there, with no sounds but nature and the rain dripping off of the leaves the one morning.

 

Mike killed a deer near the cabin, and came back to tell dad before he went to get it.  We all followed him to see the deer.  Growing up, dad would come home from the mountains with a dead deer on the back of his car.  We would run out of the house excited to see the deer, or it’s horns.  I was never around the deer before it was gutted and still bleeding.  Mike wanted to show Alicia and the kids where he was sitting when he shot the deer, so they went down a hill while I helped dad drag the deer out of the woods.  Now that’s a first!

 

Here are a few pictures from our trip to the cabin.