Recollections of a band mom
Written by Jerri Gregory Rodgers
Tuesday, 17 August 2010 16:00
I am getting comfortable on my Continental Airlines flight from Savannah to Newark where I would be meeting up with a group of people I did not know and was, admittedly, nervous to meet. I did not know what to expect from this group, put together by The Citadel Alumni Association specifically for the trip to Edinburgh. We were all going to Scotland to see the Regimental Band and Pipes perform at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
On the first leg of the flight I was sitting across the aisle from a couple and noticed the man had a book on tartans. I remembered the travel agent said months earlier that another couple would be flying out of Savannah on this trip. I worked up the nerve to ask the man if I could look at his book and that was the beginning of my friendship with Frank Gibson, Citadel Class of 1969. In Newark, I met other alumni also making the trip. I was put at ease at how friendly everyone was. I was traveling alone on this trip and worried I might be an outsider. That was not the case. Everyone was wonderful and I enjoyed meeting and spending time with them all.
My first night at the Tattoo was magical. I was so excited to see Joshua and his classmates, to be in Scotland and to see the band and pipes perform. I could hardly contain myself. There was so much pride...tradition....professionalism among these young men and women in the band. I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the band and pipes to perform. "America's Band" was in the house - Edinburgh Castle. It was thrilling to watch them march out of the castle and onto the esplanade. I was overwhelmed with emotion when the band broke out into a Saturday football rendition of "Hey Baby." The cadets cut loose, dancing, singing and playing while the 8,700 people in the audience cheered and clapped. No one cared that it was raining and we were getting wet. Everyone was smiling and many of us in the alumni group were crying too. Happy tears. Tears of immense pride seeing the cadets' hard work, dedication and devotion there under the bright lights of the castle.
I enjoyed the first show so much I went back a second night to see it again, and the same feelings rushed over me as the band emerged and performed.
After, I spent my days in Scotland touring the city of Edinburgh and other nearby places. Of course, there was a lot of time, and money, spent shopping. Josh had visited me at the hotel. He shared with me his stories of all the fun and experiences the cadets were having. One morning at breakfast Josh walked into the breakfast room with me and the most beautiful thing happened. Every alumnus in the room at the time came up to him, grabbed his hand firmly, looked him square in the eye and spoke words of encouragement, words of pride and joy and words of friendship. It was a lovely act of support.
On our last night in the country we attended a farewell dinner for the alumni tour group. Candle lit and tuck down one of the city's many cobblestone streets, Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa spoke as did Mike Rogers, the CAA director. As I looked across the room and met the eyes of the people I had just spent the last seven days with, my heart was heavy but filled with joy. My time with these people, whom I did not know a week ago but now felt closer to for having shared this amazing trip with them, had accepted me and my son as family. I felt compelled to let them know how thankful I was for their acceptance and for the time we had spent together. I cried as I expressed my gratitude. They cried as they accepted me. I had a wonderful trip. I would do it all over again. I will remember these people always, and I will always remember what Tom Horrigan, Class of 79, told me during a chance meeting one spring in Washington, D.C. - there is nothing like the bond of the ring.