A piece of our hearts

Published 3:25 am Wednesday, September 25, 2019

I was so happy that Mike and I had made plans to stay in Great Lakes until Sunday after Aidan’s graduation, especially after finding out that our new sailor had liberty until Sunday afternoon, and all his other family would be leaving Saturday morning. I relished the thought of another chance to make memories with my grandson.

After a good nights rest, some strong coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Starbucks we made our way to the train station and purchased weekend passes. The owner of our hotel had given us several tips on the best travel options and places of interest in the area. The station was filled with lots of families smiling broadly at their loved one in uniform.

The train soon arrived, and the throng moved through the open doors. We went upstairs in order to get a better view and took our seats. Soon the businesses and homes whizzed by and lush green areas filled my view. I was delighted at the cleanliness and beauty of the area.

A young man seated nearby had also recently graduated from boot camp, and he and Aidan were soon chatting like old friends. The camaraderie they felt was immediate, and I saw and felt it all day as we encountered many others whom had left the base for their first liberty. Not only was there an immediate connection between many of these young sailors, but I felt also as if I had somehow forged a deep bond with the other mothers and grandmothers that I met along the way.

I introduced myself to a nice lady from Nebraska who was riding downtown for a day of sightseeing with her new sailor. We felt an immediate kinship and spoke uninhibitedly about our personal lives, and our dreams as well as challenges we had encountered along the way. We took a photo together, traded information, and hugged goodbye when we reached our destination. Although I usually meet people well, at least one on one, this seemed somehow different.

We chose to go to the Navy Pier and catch an architectural river tour of Chicago. The sun shone down warmly on our shoulders while the crisp air energized us. Chicago dogs were in order, and we weren’t disappointed in them or anything else about our wonderful, relaxing day. We felt at home in the Windy City and met sailor after sailor strolling the busy streets with their proud families.

I felt as if all of us were part of something much larger than ourselves, and in the days and months ahead this feeling of community would only grow. Our sons, daughters, grandsons, and brothers were now part of the greatest naval force in the world. Some had answered the call for adventure, while others saw opportunities to travel and learn new skills, but all of these wonderful young men and women felt the tug of duty to their country, and they carried a piece of our hearts with them.

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at lilsisjan@yahoo.com.