To start at the beginning we have to go way back. About 10 years . . . back to somewhere around 2011, when Meredith’s brother and my oldest son became best friends in Elementary School. That’s when I first met this incredible young lady. Over the years, I’ve been blessed to see her through band concerts, drama productions, track & field competiton, soccer games, and so much more. Her family has been a part of our family for so many years, and it has truly been a joy to watch her grow up!
In 2020, Meredith decided to become one of my 2021 Senior SpokesModels. My heart was filled with joy and a momma’s sad tug at the same time. It was truly like one of my own was getting ready to graduate all over again. At the same time, I was thrilled that I would be able to spend her Senior Year with her! We got “together”, via Zoom, for her Senior Consultation where I got to learn more about her. We talked about what she wanted for her Senior Portraits, and about her future plans to join the Navy and become a Nurse.
In the Spring of 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, we started our SpokesModel Sessions. The first of which was at a Sammi’s Greenhouse. At first, we weren’t sure we’d be able to make it work, but as long as we kept our distance from the other customers, we were allowed get pictures without masks. It was a lot of fun being out with the girls . . . especially after being on ‘lock-down’ for so long. They had missed out on their junior year spring sports and activities so this was extra special for everyone!
In late June, we got together again for another SpokesModel Session. This time we went to the Arboretum at Penn State. This was about the time that Meredith told me about her plans to join the United States Marine Corps. I was blown away! I tried hard to listen to everything she was telling me, but in my excitment and surprise I honestly didn’t remember any of the details. All I knew was that this amazing young lady was truly called to serve. There was a passion and excitement in her voice that was contagious and infectious. THIS is where she was supposed to be . . . and she knew it with everything in her.
At the end of July, we finally did Meredith actual Senior Portrait Session! It was an absolutely beautiful day! We were even able to capture a shot with her parent and her dog, Phoebe. We were just missing her big brother, Jacob, who is stationed in Hawaii in the United States Coast Guard.
On October 29, 2020, Meredith was offically sworn in as a U.S. Marine! Due to the pandemic, she was there alone, but we were able to watch it live via Facebook. I was overwhelmed that her mom had thought to share it with me, and I couldn’t hold back the tears of joy and pride that filled my eyes as she took her vow to serve our country. Shortly afterwards, we planned a special photo shoot at the Boalsburg Military Museum to celebrate!
On March 31, 2021, I got a message from Meredith’s mom, Hope, . . . a “TOP SECRET MESSAGE”. Meredith had applied for and received the NROTC Scholarship! If you’re like me, and have no idea what that means, let me tell you! It’s a FULL RIDE Scholarship of $185,000.00 to the college of her choice! It means that her enlistment is diferred for 4 years while she goes to college. After graduation, she will be a Commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps!
So why was this a “top secret message” . . . why were her parents not shouting from the rooftops?? Well . . . the Marines wanted to make it a big surprise for Meredith. Her parents couldn’t share the news with her until they (the Marines) offically presented her the award in person. Plans were made for the Marines to arrive at the end of one of Meredith Track & Field practices. In order to convince Meredith to wear a ‘nice shirt’ and not get overly sweaty at practice, her mom asked me to be there for some Track Portraits. I, of course, gladly agreed!
On April 7, 2021, I arrived at the Bellefonte Area High School, Rogers Stadium at 5:00pm for some ‘portraits’. Keep in mind, this was during practice for the whole team. As a thrower, she and all of her teammates were on the outside of the stadium in the throwers pits. Everyone was super nice about her having her portraits done during practice . . . but the only ones the knew why I was really there were the coaches. We laughed and had fun, and the other athletes put up with me taking some ‘practice shots’ of them too.
By 5:30pm practice was over for the throwers . . . by design! Coach Stacey Shellenburg wanted to make sure that all their gear was cleaned up and put away in plenty of time. As I and the throwers made our way to the field I noticed the Marines and Meredith’s family starting to arrive and gather in the parking lot . . . thankfully, Meredith did not! The whole team gathered on the field for a message from the Head Coach, Coach Seth Miller.
Then . . . suddenly it happened!
Four United States Marines in full dress uniform walked in to the stadium carrying a HUGE check. They were accompanied by all of the Poolees that Meredith had been training with and Meredith’s family! Meredith knew immediately why they were there, but still seemed to be in total disbelief at the same time! Through her mask . . . I could see all the emotions running through her. Once again, the excitment was overwhelming, and I fought to hold back the tears of joy and pride for her!
Even as I write . . . the emotions are still so overwhelming! This girl . . . this INCREDIBLE YOUNG WOMAN, is among the elite!
As if that all wasn’t enough . . . we were blessed by just enough rain to create the most amazing double rainbow . . . that just seemed to keep getting brighter and brighter!
I am so very proud of you, and so proud to call you one of MY SENIORS!! I know your parents are bursting with pride, as well as your brother and the rest of your family!! I know that so many more great things are in store for you, and I cannot wait to see what all you will accomplish!! I wish you all the best in your studies at Penn State University, and of course as a Commissioned Officer in the United States Marine Corps!