A Remarkable Ceremony

Monday Debbi and I took the day off so we could attend a unique (at least in our experience) award ceremony: Our neighbor Juan was being awarded an Air Force Commendation Medal for his actions saving several people during a hurricane when he was in the Air Force back in the 50s.

The Mountain View Voice has a couple of articles with background on the award (with photos): one announcing the ceremony, and one reporting the events.

Juan has been active in the community for a long time, and he invited many of his friends and neighbors. Although the ceremony was not until late afternoon, Debbi and I decided to take the day off. Debbi asked me what I’d be wearing, and I said “probably a suit”. She said she didn’t think I had to wear a suit, and I said, “true, but I think our congressional representative is going to be there, and I don’t think she’ll be wearing a Hawaiian shirt.” It’s not that I enjoy wearing a suit, but I don’t do it very often, and this seemed like a good opportunity. It turns out I haven’t yet forgotten how to tie a tie, and it wasn’t an uncomfortable as I remembered (probably because when I bought my current suits and shirts I actually got them sized correctly). You can bet if it had been 90 degrees out I would have worn shirt sleeves, but in fact it was our usual cool low-70s temperatures for this time of year.

The ceremony was held at Moffett Field, at the hangar of the 129th Rescue Wing of the California National Guard – I expect because the medal was for a rescue act (Juan was a radio operator in the service, not part of a rescue team). While we were waiting for things to start, regular business was clearly still being conducted in the hangar as every so often someone would poke his head out of a door to see if things had started, and then dash out to head somewhere. A number of service people in fatigues attended the ceremony, and my guess is that anyone who was there and not busy was allowed to sit in. There were camera crews from a couple of local news stations, and they set up a Skype link so Juan’s daughters could watch the ceremony remotely.

Once everyone was settled things got underway. There was a formal presentation of the U.S. and California flags, and the playing of the national anthem. The master of ceremonies was a Lieutenant Colonel from the Rescue Wing, and then our congresswoman, Anna Eshoo, introduced Juan and spoke about him. And then Juan was presented with his medal by a Brigadier General. And then Juan gave a nice speech to wind things up. Afterwards there were refreshments and photo opportunities with Juan. We talked briefly with Ms. Eshoo, where I felt like my usual tongue-tied self. 🙂

Anna Eshoo & Juan Anna Eshoo & Juan again
I did not have a good angle for these pictures
(click for larger images)

I noticed a couple of interesting things along the way: Ms. Eshoo sang along with the national anthem, which made me wonder how many times per week she hears it. (I like our anthem, but I imagine I could get a little tired of hearing it if I served in congress for 25 years!) Also, the Lt. Colonel said that he’d been in the National Guard for (I think) 41 years and had never been part of a ceremony like this. That indicated to me that this really isn’t something that happens every day, even for long-serving military folk.

Attendees got to look around the main area of the hangar, where they had a large plane and a helicopter in view. The amount of stuff they had stashed on the walls of that plane was impressive! We also noticed a wad of cloth inside one of the things hanging from the wings, and Debbi and I agreed it looked like old socks, even when we got close to it. Debbi asked one of the people on-duty what it was and he said it was a parachute used to slow the plane down for in-air fueling.

Airplane Helicopter

I’m honored that Juan invited us to attend, as for a civilian like me this might be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I know that Juan was having the time of his life, and it’s great that the powers that be were able to put together such a nice event honoring him for his actions all those years ago.

The three of us