This week has been one of the most mind blowing adventures of my life. I have stepped out of my comfort zone so many times, and every time I have been pleasantly surprised. Three days ago, I woke up with someone I had only just met, sleeping on my couch, and plans to go to breakfast with a group of girls I had only known for a couple weeks. But every single one of us had something in common that day.
We were waiting.
Waiting to hear the already decided fate of our soldiers. Waiting to find out if our men had passed through the first phase of Ranger School, or if they had recycled. Waiting to find out if we would see them the next day.
Zac had told me in his last letter that he would know Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, which meant while we were all waiting on the edge of our seats, they already knew. That was the hardest part for me. Knowing that Zac was either extremely happy, or extremely upset and there was nothing I could do, was really hard.
Throughout that day, we all kept extremely busy. Making posters, preparing food, eating snow cones, some of us even went to put together goodie bags for the Ranger students. But for pretty much the entire day, we were all refreshing our phones waiting to see our man’s roster number on the Go list.
I will never forget the moment that list was posted. I was driving myself and a friend, Jaiden, home from packing up goodie bags. The two of us were extremely nervous. Our stomachs were betraying us and honestly, they had been all day. There was a rumor going around that the guys in a certain company weren’t doing well at all, and both of our guys were in that company. So waiting for the list was one of the most nerve wrecking things I have ever experienced. We were on the highway when she saw it go up and she screamed for 30 seconds before she even thought to look for their numbers. When she finally saw them both we were both so hyped up and excited, we couldn’t stop screaming. Zac’s cousin was following in the car behind us, and my phone was dead, so we were throwing our arms and thumbs up out of my sunroof to signal to her that he made it.
After a small victory dance in the parking lot of my apartment complex, the three of us went out for dinner and celebratory drinks and picked up more food to take to our men the next day. We had a couple of girls over to finish up posters for the next day and packed up our cars. When it was all said and done, we got to bed around 1:45 AM. Which wouldn’t be a big deal, if we didn’t have to wake up at 5:30 AM. But we were so excited, it didn’t take us long to get going that morning.
In my panicked, nervous state, I managed to jump the gun and take a wrong left turn driving to a place I had been several times before. But we still got there on time. At 7:15 in the morning there was already a decent amount of people there waiting. Since the guys wouldn’t be released until 9:30 at the earliest, people continued to show up as time went on. The energy in that parking lot was amazing. Everyone was so excited. Every time we saw movement on the other side of the gate, we all watched intently, just in case. A lot of the girls in our little group made signs. We proudly showed them off to the world and took lots of pictures with them.
I had been hanging out with a lot of the girls I was waiting with, for the better part of the last three weeks, but it wasn’t until we all went through that experience together that we all clicked as a “family”. I got to watch almost everyone in our group reunite with their man before Zac came out. I saw so many beautiful moments that morning, I can’t even begin to express how amazing that felt. Every time one of my friends hugged her man, I felt it. I felt the weight we had all been carrying lifting, just one reunion at a time, and it was one of the most inspiring ten minutes of my life.
And then Zac came out. Time stood still for a minute. We hugged and kissed and I jumped like a school girl. It felt so amazing. Almost like falling in love with him all over again. And the rest of the day flew by in a blur. He told me stories and he ate. We watched Boondock Saints and Wayne’s World. He snuggled Koda and Smittens. He fell asleep while Katie and I did his laundry. He played a little Clash of Clans. We packed up his stuff. And as quickly as he came out of that gate, he went right back in.
I didn’t expect to cry. But I did. We talked about how the next time we saw each other I would be putting his tab on his arm and he would be coming home. He gave me about six billion hugs, and every time he started to walk towards the gate he would turn back around and say, “Just one more.” I made sure he had his Open When letters and he assured me he’d never lose them. Watching him walk back through that gate was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in a while. Such a bitter sweet feeling that you just have to experience to understand.
After he was out of sight, I searched the parking lot for my friends. It didn’t take long before we all found each other. We shared stories, moments, some laughs and a few tears. None of us wanted to be alone so we all stayed together for dinner. We bonded so much through that shared experience. I am so excited to have such a solid support group through this whole adventure. We have grown closer to each other so much in such a short time. And I am so thankful for that.
Darby Pass lived up to the hype. It truly was worth all of the work that I put into it. It is crazy to think that I walked into this journey with free time and an open mind and walked out with a hilarious group of friends. These next five weeks will seem a little less lonely now, and my Ranger will be home before you know it.