She has spent all night getting her outfit together. She wants everything to be prefect for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is the day. The day she makes everyone see that she is her father’s daughter. Everyone will be there. Her grandparents, her mother, her brother and little sister. Even that slug step-father of hers.
No she is not mad, or upset that her mother remarried, but she didn’t have to like it or her new husband. It didn’t matter anymore she had proven him wrong. Tomorrow will show him and his redneck buddies as well. Tomorrow she gets her Airborne wings. Silver wings, just like her daddy, and granddaddies. That she is a real soldier.
None of that matters to her now. She had done what they said couldn’t be done. For her the only person that matters is her daddy. He would be so proud of her. At no time during the past three weeks did she ever think of quitting. No matter how hard they pushed her she just kept going. Yes her daddy would be proud of her.
But he won’t be there tomorrow. Just like he wasn’t there for her first kiss. Just like he wasn’t there for her first crush. Like all the other teenage first he missed because of his job. He daddy was a soldier and she was proud of him. Her mother could understand why he had to always rush in where everyone else was running away. Her mother didn’t understand why he has to always lead the way or run to the sound of the guns. She did though. She understood what it means to place one’s life on the line for an ideal, now.
Like her father, grandfathers, and great grandfathers before her she understood. After going through the fourteen weeks of Basic training, the twenty weeks to become a Military Police officer, and finally the three weeks of Airborne training. She may never wear the crossed sabers of the Cavalry, the M48 of the Armor, the crossed rifles of the Infantry, or any of the other combat arms insignia, but she was still a soldier. One her daddy would be proud of, that was all she ever wanted.
She knew he won’t be there tomorrow, but it did not matter. She knew that he was out there somewhere doing his job. She knew that he wanted to be there, but his men needed men to be there with them. It was an uncomfortable truth that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. So tomorrow she will march across the field and receive her wings from her granddad instead of her daddy. She would not show any disappointment because she was proud knowing that her daddy was taking care of his men, and protecting everyone else. This she knew was the life of a military family and she was proud of it.
She rolls over and at the sound of her Drill Sergeant voice. When did she fall asleep? She can’t remember. What she does know is that today in four hours she will receive her wings from her granddad, and that is all that matters. Like all the others she falls out for morning P.T. and a three mile run. She loves the way the excursive wakes her up in the morning. Back to the barracks for a quick shower and change into her uniform. Then it’s off to the chow hall for breakfast.
After breakfast it’s back to the barracks for final inspections and packing to leave. After those are taken care of a quick trip over to the training company headquarters to pick up their travel pay and posting orders. From there it’s back to the barracks to wait for graduation. Only one more hour and she’ll have her wings. The only thing that has mattered for her for the past three weeks. To most people they are a simple piece of medal. They have no real meaning to most people. Not for her though, to her they are everything in the world.
They are a sign that she succeeded. They are the prize at the end of the trail. They show the world who she is. They are a family tradition and she will be the fourth generation to win those wings. That was one of the reasons she pushed her self so hard, to make them proud. Just like her great grandfather in the field of Normandy, her grandfather in the jungles of Vietnam, and her daddy in the deserts of the Middle East. She wanted to show them that she too was one of the best. That she was an Airborne Trooper. That was all that mattered.
Finally they fall in to march over to the parade field where they will graduate and receive their wings. She falls in with feelings of happiness and disappointment. Happy that she has achieved her goal and that her great grandfather is going to be the one to pin on her wings. However her disappointment at her daddy not being there will color her day with sadness, but she understands. More than her family ever will. She knows he has a job to do and he couldn’t be here.
They reach the parade grounds and march into position. She stands there at attention, stone faced and quite like all the others. Like the others she is excited as within the hour she’ll have her wings, and be recognized as an Airborne Trooper. The wait as the Commandant and the other dignitaries give their speeches is enough to try everyone’s patience. Then she hears them start calling out names for them to come up and receive their wings.
Hers is one of the last to be called. With her head held high she marches up to the stage to receive her wings. She only half way there when she gets the surprise of her young life. Up there on the stage with her great grandfather who is uniform, are her grandfather, and to her the most important person of all, her daddy! She abandons all sense of military professionalism and runs to hug him with all her might.
He only says one thing to her. “You didn’t think I would miss pining on my own daughter’s wings did you?” the smile on his face says it all. “Attention” she snaps to attention with a smile a mile wide. She stands ramrod straight as her daddy pins her wings to her chest. Never before has she been prouder and from the looks on her family’s faces neither have they. That day four generations of Airborne Troopers stood on that stage. And none could ever take that away from them.
This is for my two daughters who followed in the footsteps of me and my husband.
Airborne All The Way!
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