Not too long after my disappointment in not being able to join, my little sister broke the news to the family that she would be joining the world's greatest Navy. The United States Navy. It was bitter-sweet, but I let go of my failed attempt to serve and gave way to a rush of confusing emotion. I wanted to cry--my baby sister is going to serve in the military! I was so proud. I did not know how to express it. Not only would she carry on a great family tradition, but she would be the first female (I believe) in our family to do so. I supported her decision whole-heartedly. She's tiny (4'9" and only weighing in in the 80's or 90's at the time) but I knew she would be great.
Candace would have started right away, but she opted for the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) so she could be the maid of honor in my wedding. I didn't ask her to do DEP, but she accepted the call for MoH before her decision to join the Navy and wanted to honor her commitment. She entered basic training in the spring of 2007 at Great Lakes (I think that's the only Navy boot camp location now) and graduated as the guidon (unit/division flag/banner) bearer for her division. [The guidon is a great source of pride for a unit and it is an honor to be the guidon carrier. He or she stands in front of the unit alongside the commander (or commander's representative), and is the rallying point for troops to fall into formation when the order is given. In drill and ceremonies, the guidon and commander are always in front of the formation.] I was able to attend Candace's basic training graduation in Chicago and I was proud to the level that only a mother could be--and she's my sister. I feel like I helped raise the kid, though, so my joy and pride are not without reason. (This is not to say that my mother did not do a superb job raising us) As the new seamen and airmen recruits (my sister is an airman, which means she is involved with the naval air force - she is an Aircrew Survival Equipmentman, also referred to as a PR or Parachute Rigger.) marched into the drill hall, the people around me were all saying "Oh my gosh! Look at the little one! Look!!" They were talking about my sister. I was so proud! A lot of females don't make it through boot camp or they drop out. Not only was Candace a successful graduate, but she was easily the smallest person there!
I fought back happy tears and said "That's my sister! That's my sister!!" We got to spend the day with her in Chicago after the ceremony ended. She had liberty time, but she had to remain in uniform. They hadn't switched over to dress whites yet, so she was in her blues and she looked SHARP!! It was awesome walking through the city--people would stop her and say "Hey, thank you for serving. I appreciate your bravery." Oh my gosh. I almost cried every time. She would just nod and say "Thank you for your support, sir." She grew up. I couldn't believe it!
After boot camp, Candace attended A-School (where you learn how to do your job) in Pensacola, FL. She got pregnant right before she was supposed to be shipped out to California to be attached to a hilo unit. They kept her at NAS Pensacola and she worked in an aircrew office where the Blue Angels are based. A year after Lily was born, she got orders to MCBH Kaneohe Bay where she worked in a hangar performing her MOS duties.
This past September, Candace made the decision to re-enlist. I was so excited when she told me that her ceremony would be held in Hawaii before I left!! She planned it so that it would happen when my dad was there visiting so he could be the one to re-enlist her (he's a former Sailor). She had originally planned on doing her re-enlistment on board the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor, but because it was the weekend of 9/11, security and tourism made that difficult so she ended up holding the ceremony at the Iwo Jima Memorial site on MCBH. (Another excellent choice!)
The Iwo Jima Memorial at MCBH
Candace makin' the oath
Lily got a certificate recognizing her for her efforts in supporting her mother in her military career
Candace and her Chief are close. They are both single mothers and have really bonded in Candace's time at MCBH.
Candace and some of her shopmates
Candace's squadron - Patrol Squadron Four (the Skinny Dragons!)
Candace has achieved the rank of E4 - Third Class Petty Officer (an enlisted, non-comissioned officer) and is now deployed. She is stationed at Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. I am so incredibly proud of her and all that she has accomplished!