Golden Graduation Experience

Military Graduation
Air Force Military Graduation

The weeks of limited communication and waiting culminates in this beautiful golden graduation experience. You are finally being able to hug your trainee. They have worked so hard to get to this point. The traditions of each military graduation vary yet are wonderful to partake in.

Planning to travel and attend your trainee’s graduation is essential to a successful experience. Gather dates and times of festivities as well as maps of the base. Learning about the city where the base resides is also helpful. If you have any down time, you can visit these interesting places. We arrived the day before and enjoyed the sites and restaurants. One of our best decisions was following the map to the base to get comfortable with the route and parking. This trial run made my ‘mama heart’ a little bit more at ease. I was able to confirm the time the gate would open and any other information available.

And then I waited.

Graduation back-pack essentials:

  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Blanket/towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Binoculars

The evening before, you will experience anxiety and excitement at seeing your loved one after so many weeks apart. I was exquisitely sleepless that night and was up and ready to go at 3 a.m. I knew we could not access the base until the gate opened. OF COURSE we arrived before the gate opened and were forced to wait in a parking lot (do not say I did not warn you). The parking lot was full of anxious family members, like myself, so I regret nothing.

And we waited.

When the gates to the base finally opened, it was a race to the finish line! We all played follow the leader to the parking area for the ceremony. The sun had yet to rise and it was foggy. We were able to hear reveille play as the American Flag was raised on base. All military personnel stopped and saluted, and cars pulled onto the shoulder reveille ended. It was hours until the ceremony was due to begin. Use this time to get to know the families of other trainees. This could lead to lifelong connections.

And then we waited.

There was a break in the fog and we could see our trainees lining up in the distance as the sun began to rise. The emotions were so strong that it was palpable. The stadium was silent as we saw and heard them chanting cadences as they ran in perfect rows holding flags representing their individual groups. When writing to your trainee, ask them about any cadences they sing. It is super fun to sing them as they march in!

When all trainees started coming into view, my binoculars helped me locate my son. Who was this bulked-up boy with a shaved head and huge smile? A new man was born during these last 8 weeks.

Time stopped. I later learned that time stopped for him also when he heard my voice scream his name. Neither of us remember much after that until we reunited. Relief filled us now that the first leg of our journey was complete. No one acknowledges the work it takes to be a parent left behind but I see you.

And we waited.

It was all a blur. I attempted to hold back tears as we celebrated all the soon-to-be Airmen. The look on my son’s face as he heard my cheers was priceless. Since I was the mother that brought binoculars, I was able to watch his every move up close and personal. As he stood at attention throughout the ceremony, his eyes glowed and gave away the humor of the situation between us. His eyes gave away that he knew that I knew that he knew I had my eyes on him through those binoculars.

Their chain of command spoke and shared uplifting words that dazzled the trainees and onlookers. Pride filled the stadium. The kind of pride that comes from challenging work and dedication. Parents, friends, and families were acknowledged. Collectively we all played an important part in the raising and support that got these soldiers here.

And we waited.

The ceremony ended and the new graduates waited to be ‘tapped out’ . This is an emotional tradition celebrated by the Air Force after graduation. Graduates remain at attention until a family member or friend taps on their shoulder. Airmen without family in attendance are ‘tapped out’ by a fellow Airman’s family so no one goes without a ‘tap out.’

Winding my way through the rows of Airmen with my husband following while filming this Air Force tradition, I finally walked up to my son. My only born. How did God see fit to loan him to me during this time on earth? It was an epic moment. This had been the longest we had ever gone without seeing each other and we hugged as if we had never hugged before. I cried and whispered to him that all was ok and he had made it. Most Airman sobbed during the ‘tap out’ because of the emotion that has built up. Allow them the room to decompress.


Air Force Tap Out
Air Force graduate being tapped out.

Our family spent the rest of the day together at our hotel celebrating the holidays that we missed because he was not with us. As a military parent, you quickly learn that a holiday is simply a date on a calendar. The actual holiday happens when we are all together along with our Airman. Time with them is a gift that you will learn they earn – and most earn this time proudly. Remember to celebrate all the events they may miss while on active-duty – while you are together. This gives you all something to look forward to.