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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

USAFA Grad Week: A Tour of the Campus

I am a firm believer that home is where the heart is. For me, that meant that for 2.5 years, Utah was just the place where I worked, slept, and got to hang out with my family Monday-Friday. Then from Friday-Sunday, I felt "home" with Matt in Colorado Springs. I even mistakenly responded "Colorado" when asked where I was from a few times and had to correct myself. (Turns out, weekends aren't quite enough to establish residency.) Matt was the lucky one who truly got to call this place home.

Still, I was over-the-top excited to have my family in town for Matt's graduation. Mostly because I loved that my family loved Matt enough to drop everything for a week and drive a thousand miles to support him. But also because I finally got to share with them a place that I had come to love so much over the past few years.
My family arrived late Sunday night, along with Matt's parents and oldest sister, Monica (whom I idolized when I was a little girl). Naturally, a grand tour of the Academy was in order for Monday. We met everyone at the visitor's center, watched the introductory USAFA video, and then walked down to the famous Cadet Chapel. Though Matt attended church off-campus, he had institute class in the chapel every Monday throughout his time at the Academy and also represented our church on the interfaith council that met there once a month.
After admiring the Air Force-inspired architecture and decor inside the chapel, we headed down to the cadet area (which is only accessible when accompanied by a current cadet).
On the other side of the wall pictured above is the Class Wall, which boasts the crest of each graduating class the Academy has ever had. Tradition is that the new class crest for the upcoming seniors is revealed at Ring Dance (which takes place for the soon-to-be seniors at the beginning of Grad Week) and after graduation, is hung on the center of the wall throughout their entire senior year.
Then it was off to Mitchell Hall, where Matt and 4,000 other cadets enjoyed gourmet cuisine in 20-minutes or less for breakfast and lunch each day at the Academy. Dinner is typically more relaxed and they can come and go as they please or grab a to-go dinner box to take to their dorms. Matt explained the whole process to our families, including a demonstration of what it's like to eat at Mitch's as a freshman. (A few highlights: remaining "at attention" throughout the meal, chewing each bite exactly seven times, requesting ketchup by reciting its barcode, etc.)
Fairchild Hall, or the Academic Building, was next. My baby brothers enjoyed free reign in the hallways which are normally full of clean cut, uniform-wearing cadets walking orderly to class.
We stopped in a classroom so Matt could explain how classes are typically run. At a normal university, the teacher quickly welcomes the class and jumps right into the lecture. At BYU, class usually begins with a prayer. And at the Air Force Academy, class begins with a designated class leader calling the room to attention.
Matt also showed our families the mechanical engineering lab and explained a lot of technical mumbo jumbo that went over all of our heads. That boy sure picked a rough degree.
Pictured below is the infamous "Bring Me Men" wall which, well, doesn't quite say that anymore. It stands above the drop-off point for brand-new cadets about to enter basic cadet training (their 6-week-long "boot camp" the summer before their freshman year). The idea was that they were being dropped off as boys and would return from BCT as men. But then women started complaining that it was sexist (meh, I'm okay with thinking of "men" like "mankind"--encompassing everyone), so it was taken down.
Now in its place is the poignant cadet motto:
"Integrity First, Service Before Self, Excellence in All We Do."
We made sure to take a few of the standard Terrazzo pictures as we walked around and enjoyed the grounds. It is such a beautiful campus!
The visit eventually concluded with a tour of the dorms. Somehow the only picture I have of this is of Matt with his diploma from graduating Institute.
We took one last picture at the overlook which had been one of mine and Matt's favorite spots over the years...
... and then headed to Jodie and Steve's house for a little pre-graduation party. The Hendricks family was (is!) such a huge part of our lives and we'll forever be grateful for them taking us in like they did.
Still to come: the Graduation Parade, Commissioning Ceremony, and the big event itself!

2 comments:

  1. Yay! I love Colorado and the Hendricks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So cool! Family makes everything worth it.

    ReplyDelete

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