We finally did it! We hosted our preview of the Raymond Family episode, "Departure," in Prospect Harbor, Maine on July 27, 2008 and in San Diego, CA (where my sister lives) on July 31, 2008. I was only present at the preview in Maine and it was completely moving and emotional to see the events of Gary's departure all over again.
A small group of Maine Troop Greeters attended the preview as a representative of the larger group and I was totally touched by their presence and we were mutually grateful for each other's service; Gary and I for what they provide for the troops (and for their service as veterans) and they for the service to our country that Gary (and all service members) provide. Many of the Troop Greeters are veterans from past wars and conflicts and it is as if the service members today are carrying on their legacy. And in their own small way (that really does have a huge impact), the Troop Greeters help today's military by supporting the troops as they make their way to and from Iraq and Afghanistan. Since the beginning, the Troop Greeters have been at the Bangor International Airport providing so much in a hug or a handshake and they not only touch the lives of troops from the state of Maine, but from all over the country. Not a flight comes through that they aren't there to greet. But I don't think it was until Gary left and they directly impacted my life, did I truly appreciate their existence. I wish I had realized it sooner.
Anyway, Tom Kohl is a veteran and troop greeter (the tallest gentleman standing next to me in one of the photos) and he spoke of the highs and lows of supporting the troops, from helping fathers coach their wives in labor over the cell phones to lending an ear or a shoulder to those expereincing anxiety both coming home from and going to their overseas destination. I am totally amazed by him and the others and it is obvious that they love what they do. He said that they give as much to the troops as the troops give to them. Also, on a similiar note, I had spoken with another gentleman the day I was at the airport and he told me that this purpose gives some a reason to keep living. How inspiring! So, we took the opportunity at the preview to recognize them. They were given a heartfelt round of applause and I, myself, couldn't control the emotion as tears of gratitude tried to escape my eyes.
But my eyes weren't the only ones with imposing tears, as I don't think there was a dry eye in the house after watching Gary leave the kids and I behind that fateful day. The In Their Boots team did an excellent job of capturing and expressing the emotions surrounding a departure of this magnitude and seeing it again was like reliving it. It was definitely a difficult day for us. It's times like these where although I am surrounded by people who love and support me, the hole in my heart left by Gary's absence is that much more consuming. And although I understand and support him as he plays his part in protecting our freedom, I miss him terribly; as does Olivia and Cole. It was especially hard for Olivia because seeing him again brings his absence to the front of her mind. We will get through this however, one day at a time, and I hope that in some way others who are expereincing the same hardship can somehow relate to our story and know they aren't alone. Or on another note, those who have never expereinced it can learn from it and understand the sacrifice that not only the service members make, but their families as well.
Overall, what a great event! We really appreciate all those who came to support us from both previews! Collectively we raised over $450 for the Maine Troop Greeters and I am so pleased that we could help them! God has a reason for everything and everyday He gives me strength to keep going. I pray that He keeps Gary and our troops safe and healthy so they can do their jobs and come home soon!