2013 General Robin Rand 4 Star Ceremony
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8TH – NASHVILLE TO SAN ANTONIO:
Happy Birthday to my wonderful son – Chris!
I left Nashville late this afternoon on SWA to San Antonio. My least favorite airline but it’s the only one with a direct flight. SWA doesn’t participate in the TSA Pre-Screen, so I had to go through regular security. Then, this very large girl with really long hair, decided to sit in the middle seat by me. There were lots of empty seats all over the aircraft, but she felt the need to be squished into a middle seat. Her hair kept falling only my arm until I “accidentally” manage to pull it when it got between me and the armrest. I had to work so had my tray table down entire flight and it was really crowded. Ah well…at least they had internet AND there was no turbulence.
I’m attending a Promotion and Change of Command Ceremony for LT. General Robin Rand. He gets his FOURTH STAR on Thursday. No one deserves it more than him. I am so proud of him and extremely humbled that he would invite me to attend. Okay, I bugged him until he HAD to invite me. J
It took longer for the bags to arrive than the flight from Nashville but at least my bag came in.
Got my Hertz Gold rental car and it was a “stripped down” Nissan Sentra — nothing on the car is “electric”. I did get my GPS which I have learned does not work until you are about 5 miles into your trip. That’s really helpful. Thankfully I had printed out directions and made it all the way from the airport to the Grand Hyatt on the Riverwalk without one wrong turn. I used to come to San Antonio about every month in the mid-90’s but things have “changed” . I did start recognizing everything and will be much better tomorrow when I “jog” and get my bearings.
I was stressed because I was supposed to meet Scott Lilley and his family for dinner at Mi Tierra at 7:30 pm. It was 7:20 pm before I got checked into my room. I again got directions from to the restaurant and the GPS kicked in about half way there. I should have followed the directions the hotel gave me because the GPS told me to turn on a one-way street. I didn’t but then ended up miles from the restaurant before I could turn around. Scott was standing in the street calling me but it still took about 20 minutes for me to FINALLY get there. He said if I turned on my headlights, I could see better! My lights in my Nissan are automatic but I had turned them on when I left the hotel. Only I turned on the parking lights. L
Scott is the wounded hero airman that I took back to Iraq in 2009. He had a severe head injury and was not supposed to survive. I met him at Walter Reed with Chely Wright and stayed in touch with his family. He made an amazing recovery and is now married with a wonderful wife and beautiful 22 month old daughter. I felt horrible because they had been waiting for me for over a half hour! Mikaylie (his daughter) was so good! She did feel the need to get up and run around the restaurant several times but for a 2 year old, she did really well. You can tell she has Scott wrapped around her little finger and he spoils her constantly…as he should.
Mi Tierra is my favorite restaurant in San Antonio. When I worked at Refugee Management, we would land here at 11 pm and go straight to Mi Tierra for Mexican food. It was torture watching everyone eat tonight while I had chicken fajitas WITHOUT the tortillas, rice and beans….just chicken, guacamole, lettuce and tomato. That’s all I can have on the Atkins diet. But, I was just as full as everyone else when we finished…just definitely not as happy.
Got back to the hotel relatively early and have been working for hours. Working on a Thanksgiving tour to Afghanistan for Darryl Worley. It usually takes 3 months to put this together and I have to do it in less than 2.
Tomorrow I have lunch with Rick Orozco and dinner with Colonel Tim Sughre and his family. So many wonderful friends here in San Antonio!
I’m putting some photos of Scott and his family up on my Facebook page. He told me that his mom and dad – Frank and Jolene – are driving in from New Mexico. It will take them 2 days. I asked him if they had heard about those things that fly in the air and only take a couple of hours? J
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9TH – SAN ANTONIO FRIENDS:
Mikaylie definitely warmed up to me before we left the restaurant last night. She decided she would come back to the hotel and stay with me. She blew kisses and waved goodbye to her family. She really would have gotten in my car. So very, very sweet. Just wanted to “eat her up”. She knows a “grandma” when she sees one. J
I got up at 6 am so I could do one of my favorite things in San Antonio – jog along the River Walk. Big problem…it was still very dark outside. I waited until 6:30 am. Still dark. 7:00 am. Still dark. At 7:15 am I gave up and went to the hotel fitness center which was excellent. Got in a good hour workout then went to the Club Level Lounge to see if they had anything I could eat for breakfast. Scored there as they had boiled eggs, cheese, and ham.
I was inundated with hundreds of emails that required responses so my shower was quick and I worked until noon. Then I met Rick Orozco for lunch. I managed Rick when he was only 19 years old. We traveled around the world numerous times – on tours for the military and international festivals. He has grown into such a fine young man. I’ve never seen him so happy and content. And, what an amazing businessman he has become. I’m hoping to work much more closely with him in the future.
After lunch, I stole one hour to “shop” for gifts to take to Japan next week. Found a few cute items and then rushed back to the hotel to finish answering emails. I hate that I come to San Antonio and spend all my time in the hotel room on the computer. Something is not right with that picture!
I had dinner tonight with Colonel Tim Sughre, his daughter Mary Catherine, and son time. His wife wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t join us which was such a disappointment and his other daughter was too busy to join us. I haven’t seen them in years and can’t believe how grown up his children are! And they are such amazing young people with wonderful careers. He has to be so very proud of them. We walked down the River Walk to County Line Barbeque. It was great. I had the Caesar salad and an order of chicken and brisket. Great for my Atkins diet and delicious as well. We talked until 10 pm! It was so great to see them again. Tim “saved” my life many, many times in Afghanistan…or should I say “saved my butt”. J He also lives near Randolph and was able to give me great advice on how to get there tomorrow. There is construction on the street in front of the Hyatt which means I can’t hop on the Interstate as I had planned. Will have to circle the hotel and get on at a different access point. You KNOW I will get lost several times, so I’m planning to leave much earlier than suggested.
Really excited about the ceremonies tomorrow. Should be a wonderful, memorable affair. So many of my Air Force buddies that I haven’t seen for a while will be there.
GENERAL ROBIN RAND PROMOTION AND CHANGE OF COMMAND CEREMONY – RANDOLPH AFB – SAN ANTONIO, TX:
There’s no way I can put in writing how special today was! I have decided that I believe in reincarnation and when I come back, I’m going to be in the U.S. Air Force! J
Got up at 5:30 am so I would be ready to leave by 7:30 am. I had an email from Gary Sinise saying he’s here for the event, too. That was an unexpected treat. I had hoped he would be here because I know how special General Rand is to him, too. But he’s been so busy lately, wasn’t sure he could take the time.
Somehow I spent too long answering emails and it was 7:30 am before I could even get anything to eat. Decided to blow off breakfast and get on the road since I was POSITIVE I would get lost several times and be late. Tim and Mary Catherine gave me the best advice and directions EVER. I missed all the traffic and didn’t make one wrong turn. Unheard of for me.
I arrived at the base by 8:30 am and didn’t need to be there until 9:30 am. I called Frank and went to lodging to see him and Jolene and wait for Scott to arrive. There was a bus out front of lodging and lots of people walking down the sidewalk. I saw Bill Couts who I met in Kunsan when Robin was the Wolf. I remembered him immediately but he had no idea who I was. J The last person I saw walking down the sidewalk was Gary Sinise. He said he had been told to get on the bus to go to the Ceremony. I had just told Frank I would wait and ride with him and his family. Well…”tour management 101” kicked in because Gary wasn’t being escorted and I rode the bus with him. Frank will never, ever let me forget that, I’m sure!!!!
We arrived at the building where the promotion ceremony was taking place and there was a short reception prior to the beginning of the ceremony. Burt Field was there as well as most of the guys that I met at the Wolf Pack in Kunsan, Korea so many years ago when I met Robin there.
His promotion ceremony was amazing and so touching. I can’t tell you what a wonderful “hero” Robin is and how deserving he is of this promotion. He also has a wonderful family and I was so very honored to be invited to be a part of his special day. Just google “General Robin Rand” and read some of his accomplishments. And then keep in mind that some of his biggest achievements can’t even be listed on the internet.
After the Promotion Ceremony, we took another bus trip to the Change of Command ceremony which was taking place outside. Gary, of course, was constantly being stopped for photos and autographs. He is so gracious with everyone he meets. And, let’s stop right there and talk about my other hero – Gary Sinise. No one does more for our military or first responders than this man. He works tirelessly raising funds for them but also gives so much of his personal time to these causes. He truly cares with all his heart and it’s evident to everyone who meets him. Take time now to check out his nonprofit organization – www.garysinisefoundation.org – and while you’re there, make a donation. I can promise you every penny goes to assist those who need it in the military and first responders.
By the way, I got busted by Frank about saying I met Scott at Walter Reed. It was Bethesda. I’m pleading short term memory loss. J
The change of command ceremony was just as awe inspiring as I imagined. I realized that this is the first promotion ceremony and first change of command ceremony I have ever attended on U.S. soil! All the other events have been overseas — mostly in a combat zone! By the time the event ended it was well after 12 noon. I hadn’t eaten or drank anything all day and was really feeling light-headed. Gary admitted he was starving, too, so we made our way to the reception. Saw a lot more people there that I have met on my many tours overseas. I forgot to mention that General Mark Welsh, the Air Force Chief of Staff, presided over all the ceremonies. What an articulate, interesting speaker and all around nice man he is. Just let me say that all the “wives” of the men I’m mentioning were also there and deserve a medal for supporting their men!
While Robin was serving in Iraq, one of the men he lost was an airman named Todd whose F-16 went down. I had heard the story about him many times. He left behind a wife and children and today I got to meet them.
After the reception where we only ate a few slices of turkey (Darn Atkins diet), I drove back to the hotel to try and answer some of the hundreds of emails I had received while having the blackberry turned off. Again, time got away from me and I was late leaving for the party tonight at the Officer’s Club. Everyone I knew was already there when I finally arrived. Finally had some time to sit and talk to Frank and Jolene. Such wonderful people. Frank asked me if I agreed that Scott was doing so much better. I honestly had to think for a few minutes because I realized that to me Scott is just Scott and I forget that he almost lost his life not so long ago in Iraq. He is truly a miracle.
I knew that General North was at the events today and I finally got a chance to talk to him. I started reminding him of the day his C130 broke down in Afghanistan and Aaron Tippin got on top of it and repaired it and away we flew. Before I got halfway through the story, he was finishing it for me. He said he recognized me earlier today but couldn’t remember where he had met me. Another great leader in my opinion!
I also saw “Bongoo” at the party tonight. Met him at Luke AFB several years ago. He’s retired now and looks nothing like he did back then. I would not have recognized him without his name tag. He has hair! J
I got back to the hotel at around 9:30 pm and have been answering my emails. It’s almost 1 am and I need to shut it down and get a few hours sleep. Breakfast tomorrow with Colonel Pat Dunn and then flying home! Leaving for Japan and Korea on Wednesday.
If you get a chance, photos will be up on Facebook tonight and next week on the JSI website.
I am so blessed to be able to thank all the wonderful men and women that I met today for their service to America!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11TH – LEAVING SAN ANTONIO L:
Up at 6 am to work out and shower before having to check out. I’m meeting Colonel Pat Dunn for breakfast at a famous pancake house – Magnolia Pancake Haus. I have my directions printed out and am hoping I don’t get lost – but leaving early just in case. I thought it was going to be simple but because of construction around the hotel, I had to circle and go down a lot of side streets. But, I made it on time.
The place was packed at 10 am on a Friday morning. I can’t believe so many people don’t have “jobs” to go to at that time of the day. The pancakes and waffles looked so good, but I had an omelet and bacon. I sure wish I could lose my last 9 pounds so I can at least have some “good” food once in a while.
It was so great to see Pat again. Can’t even remember how long it has been. He worked at AFE years ago and was awesome. He has not been in the Air Force for 30 years. I think he joined when he was 2 years old. J
I made it to the car rental agency with no problems and Hertz even removed the charges for the GPS after I told them how it was reacting. Pays to be Hertz Gold! Got checked in at the airport and went to the gate. Unfortunately, the gate area is under construction, so not much to do but sit there. They have free wireless and there are electrical plugs right below the seat cushions in the middle of the rows of seats. I had just gotten all set up when a group of about 12 Special Needs young adults arrived at the gate area. Since I was sitting in the middle of the row to access the outlet, they couldn’t all sit together. I moved to give them space and they were so thankful. They all had to tell me their names and one particularly vocal young lady – Jennifer – gave me a brochure showing where they had been. Evidently there is an amusement park in San Antonio that caters to the handicapped. She told me that only two of the rides were wheelchair accessible though. And she insisted that I keep the brochure. She said they live in Frankfurt, KY.
Just as I got all plugged in again, another group arrived and it looked like there were about 70 people in all. I moved again to the end of the row so they could sit together. There appeared to be only 4 chaperones for a group that size. As I said, there was plenty of time before our flight left and they told the group that they were bringing them lunch. I think in hindsight, it would have been much better to have taken everyone to the food court and sat them at tables. Over half the group was sitting on the floor in front of where everyone has to line up to board the flight. By the time they finished eating, they were covered in food from head to toe. One young man had a huge white streak down the back of his jacket. I’m not sure how that happened but Jennifer decided to clean him up and managed to smear it all over the back of his jacket. The urge to step in and help was pretty strong but having worked with Special Olympics in the past, I knew to let their chaperones handle the situation.
Southwest boarded all the Special Needs group first and sat them together in the last rows of the plane. Then everyone else boarded. They must have been really good flyers but I sat in the front of the plane and never heard a peep from anyone….except when one young girl came flying down the aisle past my seat saying “Gotta go…gotta go..gotta go”. Fortunately no one was in the toilet in the front of the plane. J
Landed on time and my buddy Frank picked me up. I get to stay home until Wednesday when I leave for Japan and Korea. That’s going to be a fun trip!!!