Yesterday was a big day that has been long in the making. At 4:30 Wright Patterson AFB opened its gates to the public (under heavy surveillance) for "Tattoo". For a description of what a military Tattoo is and how it has evolved, go to http://www.wpafb.af.mil/tattoo/.
Over 75,000 people showed up. Lucky for us, military people got to park on base on the air field, so the walk wasn't too bad, although the girls got a bumpy ride over the grass in the jogging stroller. There were a bunch of blow up jumping castles and obstacle thingys, lots of over priced food (off-setting the free admission), the cleanest port-o-potty's I've ever seen, and an enormous stage with huge screens on either side of the field so you could see what was going on, on the stage, from anywhere. The Charlie Daniel's Band played for the last hour- VERY entertaining!
I had hoped to meet up with some friends from the ward, but we were lost in the sea of people. It still turned out to be a fun night, though. I stuck Leora in one of our baby frame packs, Charla in the double jogger next to our chairs, blankets and cameras, and Gregory braved the crowd on foot.
They enjoyed the jumping castle twice, ate greasy french fries, and had fun sitting near one of the big screens. Every 10 minutes, or so, there was a fly over. We saw a B-2, B-12, B-52, A-10, F-15, F-16, F-22, some old planes.... just to name a few. I loved it. Gregory didn't like the fighters because they're super loud. He preferred the more quiet ones, like the B-2, which is supposed to be quiet anyways, being a stealth bomber and all.
One of the best parts of the whole evening was when we all stood for the national anthem. That's always cool, but instead of the flag being hoisted on a pole, or raised any other way I've every seen, it was literally flying in the air. Before they called us to stand, people started pointing up. There was a parachuter, just a speck in the vast sky. When the camera broadcasting to the screens zoomed in, we could see the parachuter unfurling an enormous American Flag. The MC asked all to stand. I got my kids to their feet (with the exception of Leora) and their hands over their hearts. I have some video of it I'll post as soon as I can. It was an incredible moment.
The program was actually very engaging, too! The highlight (to me) was the swearing in of 25 brand-spanking new enlistees. They filed onto the stage, stood at attention while the MC explained what was about to happen, and then as they raised their hands and took the oath, an A-10 flew right over the stage. AWESOME.
Several airmen recently returned from Operation Iraqi Freedom were awarded various prestigious awards for their service. There were also a few organizations honored for their support of our troops in action.
At 10:00pm there was a dazzling fireworks display. Unfortunately we had a hard time seeing them. Of course, that's because we were sitting in our van in the parking lot by the tennis courts in our neighborhood, a couple miles from the show. At about 9:30 I asked Gregory whether he wanted to stay for the fireworks or go home. He's been pretty scared of them since his first July 4th, when someone set some off close to him. In the end it was probably a good thing we left early. For one thing, I forgot where I parked, so it was easier to navigate the stroller around the cars without 1,000's of other people looking for theirs. Thank goodness for a keyless entry that has an alarm button (I think I upset the people sitting next to my van). Exiting was also relatively painless, so all in all, it was a good thing.
It was an amazing night. I left more proud to be a part of our great Air Force than ever. I can't wait to go altogether with Fred next year.