As grandparents of five children who are very close in age, we created an exciting tradition to take each grandchild on a special trip the summer that they are 10 years old. We named the trip AGAPE which stands for Annual Grandkid Adventure Packed Expedition.
We try very hard to make each trip tailored to the interests of each grandchild which means that no trip is exactly the same. Our plans would have allowed us to do a trip each year from 2017-2021 due to their stairstep birthdays, but this summer we have the joy of taking two trips in one summer. COVID threw a wrench in the plans of the 2020 summer trip, so it was postponed. Fortunately, we were able to reschedule it for May 2021 before our grandson turned 11.
Our fourth grandchild, Gunnar Wilson, who turned 10 in July of 2020, had a very unique trip this year. Gunnar hopes to one day join the U.S. Army with a goal to become a Special Forces Green Beret. In fact, just last year, he wrote a story for his class that was published in a book titled “When I Grow Up”.
He drew a picture of himself as a Green Beret and wrote about the training that he planned to receive at Fort Bragg. This was not a fleeting thought that he scribbled down on paper. He has researched it thoroughly, prepared training activities for himself and secured a wardrobe of army style clothing.
Once we decided to take him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, we began researching the area to see what type of activities we could include in this trip. We made plans for Gunnar to earn his “wings” by doing an indoor skydiving training activity, rock climbing, tour the museums at Fort Bragg, hike in the mountains, walk across a mile-high swinging bridge, swim in the Atlantic Ocean, tour a Cherokee Indian village and visit an old western town called Love Valley.
One of the truly exceptional experiences of this trip developed through contacts here in Tate County. Gunnar is a student at East Tate Elementary and his high-school (Independence High School) made a congratulatory post on Facebook to one of their 1995 graduate who had been promoted to Lieutenant Colonel at Fort Bragg. Gunnar was excited and awestruck to see someone who graduated from his school with this distinguished title.
After reaching out to Shelia Ramsey, she helped us to plan a personal meeting with her brother, Lieutenant Colonel William R. Ramsey, Jr. We were personally welcomed to Fort Bragg by LTC Ramsey, who has served in the military for 24 years. He spoke to Gunnar about his future plans.
One piece of advice that LTC Ramsey gave Gunnar was, “If you set your mind to it and work hard, you can accomplish anything.”
In Gunnar’s words, “It was amazing!!”