Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Ranzenhaus at Easter

It was a rare occasion - all four of the Ranzenberger kids were in one place at one time. It was Easter at the Ranzenhaus.
With friends and significant others, there were nine people around the table. That was magic.
The meal was a mix of tradition and new stuff - spiral-sliced ham, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, peas and tomatoes in herb butter, salad, and strawberry shortcake for dessert.
But with four kids all in their 20s, all with their own lives, it's challenging to get them into the same place. It happened for Easter.

The family. Front row: Deb Hoseit, Ashley Bailey, Kissy Missy and The Old Man. Second row: Andrew and Robert. Back row, Katherine, Matthew, and Amanda Cooper.

Amanda, Katherine and Matthew share a laugh.

The meal was a mix of tradition and new recipes - including asparagus, peas and tomatoes sauteed in herb butter, prepared masterfully by Robert.
It's spring. It's Easter. It's family.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Playing tourist in southern California

Pfc. Ranzenberger had spent three months in southern California.
But those three months weren't exactly a vacation. It was Marine boot camp, after all.
"I saw a lot of dirt," he said. "I did see the ocean once."
We decided to fix that. Kissy Missy and I took an extra day, and decided to explore just a taste of the place that really is the center of everything. We took the rental car, locked the radio on Classic Rock KGB-FM, and we unashamedly played tourist.
First stop: Coronado beach, on beautiful Coronado Island in San Diego Bay. It's one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast.
Up I-5, we stopped at Oceanside, a beautiful resort community.
Robert and Kissy Missy posed in front of the Wyndham Oceanside Pier Resort.
A young boy plays in the Pacific surf at Oceanside.
We headed out on the 1,954-foot-long Oceanside Pier, the longest wooden pier in the world.
On the pier, we met this pelican. He had an attitude.

And the pelican wasn't the only bird with an attitude out there. We enjoyed lunch at Ruby's Diner on the end of the pier, and kept exploring.
We met a young girl celebrating her QuinceaƱera. The pier is a beautiful place for photos.
On the way back, we took the Pacific Highway - Historic Route 101 - and stopped at The Flower Fields in Carlsbad. It's 50 acres of beautiful color up on a hill. We declined to pay the $12 admission fee - but treated ourselves to strawberry lavender sundaes.  They are to die for.
Back in San Diego, we made our way to Old Town San Diego. Things were hopping after dark.
The Cafe Coyote's mariachi singers serenaded the guests, and we enjoyed some really excellent Mexican food.

Soon enough, Robert will be back in Southern California. That's Camp Pendleton in the background - the hill called "The Reaper." But he knows now there's more to that place than just M-16s and drill instructors

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Flight simulator

Immediately after graduation, we headed from MCRD San Diego to the USS Midway naval aviation museum.
The aircraft carrier served the fleet for 47 years, and now is the most-visited naval ship museum in the world. It's remarkable, indescribable, powerful.
On the hangar deck are flight simulators that allow visitors to see what it's like to fly a high-powered jet fighter. The young Marine took his mom for a ride.

The canopy is lowered, and the flight is about to begin.

Robert takes the stick. This is responsive!

Want to fly another mission, Mom?

Perhaps we see why he didn't choose aviation.

Boot camp graduation

Platoon honormen prepare to retire their platoons' guidons, or flags, as part of the graduation ceremony.

The day marked the conclusion of 12 of the toughest weeks of any Marine's life: It was boot camp graduation. For Pfc. Robert Ranzenberger and the other members of the 2nd Marine Recruit Battalion, Hotel Co., Platoon 2173, it was the day to tell their families, friends and the world that they were Marines. They would always be Marines.

Members of Hotel Co. Platoon 2173 stand at attention at the start of the ceremony.
 Pfc. Robert Ranzenberger is at the back of the row on the right.
He was all smiles the day before graduation from boot camp, the toughest 12 weeks of his life.
Members of Marine Corps Band San Diego were a major part of the event. The band is under the leadership of Band Officer Chief Warrant Officer Stephanie Wire and Bandmaster Master Sgt. Raoul Caldera, led on the march by Staff Sgt. Jared Riggs, the drum major, and was under the direction of Gunnery Sgt. Gary Robinson.

Cpl. Bella, the unit mascot, was in attendance, along with her handler, Lance Cpl. Tyler M. Viglione.
Platoon 2173 Honorman Pfc. G.T. Mugica of Anaheim, Calif., carried the guidon.

The Marines pass in review, displaying discipline, self-reliance, military bearing, espirit de corps, devotion, enthusiasm,  pride, initiative, teamwork, aggressiveness, determination, moral courage, integrity, camaraderie, and the burning desire to work with and for others towards excellence in common goals.

The Southern California sun warmed the celebrations at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.

Newly minted Marines stand at parade rest.

Six platoons of Marines - a total of 321 graduates - produced serious pride among the family and friends watching in the bleachers overlooking the parade deck.

The Marines were resplendent in white dress barracks covers with gold Eagle, Globe and Anchor devices affixed.
And as the band played, the celebrations began.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Marine Corps Family Day

Kissy Missy gives Pfc. Robert Ranzenberger a major hug on Family Day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego.
Thursday was Family Day at Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, the day before graduation. Members of newly-minted Marines' families get the chance to see their sons for the first time in three months. The new Marines also get their first liberty in three months, and they get to spend it with their families.

Kissy Missy, left, and Robert's mother react when they get their first view of their son after three months of Marine boot camp.

The newly minted Marines of Hotel Co., Platoon 2173, practice their graduation drill the day before graduation.

Drill instructor Sgt. Jorge Castelanos, left, stands next to Pfc. Ranzenberger and other members of Platoon 2173 during the graduation drill.
The drill instructors of Hotel Co. are introduced during a family day presentation.
A commercial jet takes off from San Diego International Airport, which is adjacent to Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, as Hotel Co. recruits practice on the parade deck for their graduation.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

They say 'The change is forever'

Robert's original Michigan ID picture, left, and a shot from video taken just before the end of Marine boot camp.

I kind of have an idea of why Robert decided he wanted to become a Marine.
I'm not entirely sure, but I think it probably has to do with the fact that in that particular branch of the service, there's a culture devoted to being the best. Everybody gives a damn. Everybody aims to be the best. It's just part of the culture.
He wanted that.
Robert's always been driven to be the best he can be, and while he can tolerate what he considers mediocrity, he doesn't like it in himself. He also doesn't like to fail.
Wednesday, Kissy Missy and I fly out to San Diego for his boot camp graduation. I'm not exactly sure what to expect, but I know the change in him will be remarkable.
It's been three months of forced-draft growing up, physically and emotionally. I don't expect to understand it fully, because only people who have gone through it can fully appreciate it.
I do know that day after day, when I dropped the kids off at school, I told them, "I love you. Now make me proud."
I think that when we arrive aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego (Note to wannabe editors: the proper term is "aboard."), we will learn that Pfc. Ranzenberger will have accomplished that mission. And more.