Wow. The trip that I waited more than a year for has now come and gone. We came from across the nation, spent less than 36 hours in the state of TX and had a phenomenal time. Some of the best 36 hours of my life and hands down one of the best "weekend" trips I've ever taken.
Some top line highlights . . . for photos visit our group page on Facebook . . .
- The gang hit the Riverwalk up on the first nite for the official welcome mixer. Heather, Ruth Ann and I rolled up around 12:30pm and took the party to Pat O'Briens. We continued the party back at our hotel pool where we talked about old times and met some military fly boys - one of which rolled with the Thunderbirds for the past four years. Not surprising, San Antonio is crawling with boys in blue. But we were happy to meet these two and swap our military stories.
- Despite the fact that we had about three hours of sleep, the ladies and I somehow made it out of bed on Sat morning and cruised to the Riverwalk for a Mexican lunch and some sunshine. Full of queso goodness, we took to the streets and headed to the Alamo! The last time I visited the Alamo I was about seven or eight. Um, it's much smaller than I remember.
- Later that evening, the gang headed to the official reunion dinner where we met Panthers that had come before us. When we entered the room, one of the coordinators called the room to attention and all eyes fell on us. "The babies have arrived everyone. Let's show them how we party," he echoed throughout the hall. Mind you, we graduated in 1999 and 2000 - we are by no means babies but the term of endearment continued throughout the weekend and we grew to appreciate it!
- The evening was wonderful and the official DVD that they presented, which showed the past, present and future of Yokota HS, was very moving. It was fascinating to come together, swap stories and share yearbooks. The attendees hailed from the classes of the 70s and 80s. Some from the very first few classes to ever graduate from the school. (Did you know it wasn't established until the 70s?) We all had so many questions for each other. What did you do in Japan back then? What was the school like? What trouble did military kids get into then? Where did you have prom? What do you miss the most?
- While the years span between us, the stories are almost the same. Okay, so replace our grunge wear for bell bottoms. But, I always believed and do especially after this reunion, that once a Panther always a Panther. The same can be said for any military high school. It really showed me that we are truly one in the same and each hold a very special place and time in our hearts that is connected to Japan. I felt so lucky and privileged to be included in the event and to have met these fantastic and fascinating military brats.
- After the official dinner, the girls and I headed back to the Riverwalk and made sure we had a chance to dance to music from our era! Mad Dogs was the official choice and it didn't let us down. Complete with rock bottom priced drink specials and a Micheal Jackson dance off, it proved to be an outstanding location to shake our money makers.
- Sunday morning I woke up and realized that our trip was ending. And yes, hadn't it just started? Bridget headed out early and the rest of the girls headed to el Mercado for lunch and shopping. We met up with another pal from back in the day and had another round of reminiscing. One by one the girls departed and at the end of the afternoon Mikki and I found ourselves in a cab headed to the airport. We were the last to leave the great state of Texas and I certainly was sad about it.
The great thing about this weekend was, that despite the fact that some of us had been apart for more than 11 years, it seemingly didn't matter. It was like we didn't skip a beat. Sure we hadn't spoken in years. Sure we had all gone to college separately. And sure we had all grown up. But in less than 5 minutes we all fell back into a rhythm. And even as we met the brats that came before us, we all felt like old friends. That's the true beauty of being a military brat. No matter how far apart we are, no matter how many years that pass, we will always have a connection to a place in time and a place so very far away. For me and the brats I was with that weekend, that place will always be Tokyo, Japan. It will always be Yokota AFB and Yokota HS. And we will always bleed blue and gold as Panthers.
As my plane took off over San Antonio, I paused and looked out the window. Remember the Alamo? Oh I'll remember much more than that. And even though part of me was sad, so much of me was happy. This marks a new beginning. A future that holds many reunions in other random states. A future that will include these wonderful people. A future of continued friendships and a love of the land of the rising sun.