With more than twenty-one years of working in education, and twenty-one homecoming weeks under my belt, I consider myself something of a homecoming week expert. Homecoming weeks always consist of crazy, creative outfits, students stressed out about parade floats and dance dates (not always in that order), and teachers trying to maintain order and keep the academic progress moving forward amidst the chaos. Homecoming weeks are fun and exhausting, as they offer a welcome break from the routine while simultaneously reminding us of the benefits of the routine.
Today, I experienced my second favorite homecoming memory, as our lower campus neighbor, Hope Community Church, hosted a special service to honor and pray over members of the 449th Theater Aviation Brigade and the 2-130th Aviation Operations Battalion who are deploying to Kuwait and Iraq in support of Operation Spartan Shield and Operation Inherent Resolve. As the soldiers and their families arrived, they were greeted by over 400 flag-waving, cheering GRACE students and staff members decked out in as much red, white, and blue as possible. In a week filled with debates over the meaning of patriotism and symbolic speech, it was incredibly powerful to see the staff and students demonstrate their support of our servicemen and servicewomen. The soldiers shared hugs and high-fives, took selfies, and thanked our students for their support. Soldiers and staff members alike shed tears as we thanked them for serving our nation. The soldiers concluded their time with the students by marching in formation between the rows of GRACE students before entering the church for the formal service.
There is a certain irony in that these servicemen and servicewomen came onto our campus in preparation for their deployment as we celebrate our school’s homecoming week. As they prepare to leave their homes and families, we are eagerly anticipating the return of GRACE alumni for our parade, football game and other weekend activities. Please join me in praying for not only these, but all of our servicemen and servicewomen throughout the world (including class of 2010 GRACE alumni Kenny Yacynych, currently serving in Afghanistan, pictured) who place themselves in harm’s way so that we may enjoy the freedoms for which so many have fought and died before them. Please pray that God would watch over and protect them so that in the not too distant future, they can enjoy a blessed homecoming of their own with their loved ones.
In case you were wondering, my all-time favorite homecoming week memory is easy to pick and will never be topped. In 2009, the date of the homecoming dance fell on the same day as my wife’s due date with our youngest child. Amy, always a trooper, chaperoned the dance with me, staying at the venue until the last student left. About eight hours later, she gave birth to Audrey. I had not thought about it until now, but maybe that is why Audrey always wants to go all out when it comes to dressing up for homecoming.
Blessings, Eric Bradley