Growing up a part of a military family ” my dad was a Navy jet mechanic stationed at Point Mugu ” holidays such as ,Memorial Day, were about more than mattress sales. It’s our turn to teach the next generation about what it means to remember those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country, and how important the day is to those lucky enough to come home.
This video is part of my Let’s Ride project, which brings friends, families and loved ones together in a shared road trip experience. The destination was one I knew well from my childhood ” Missile Park just outside the Point Mugu Naval Base. Whenever we drove to the Commissary (grocery store) or Exchange (military department store), I would stare out the window at the Cold War-era jet planes, rockets, and of course missiles.
The family I cast spans three generations: son, father, and grandfather. I was so lucky to find the exact family I’d visualized for this road trip! Rider, the 4-year-old boy, leapt out at me from a stack of headshots. I was immediately struck by his maturity and playful curiosity. I FaceTimed with his parents, who were so warm and enthusiastic about the project that we set up the shoot right then!
Later, I realized how perfect their story aligned with my vision. Barry, the dad, was in the Marines and Army, and Grandpa Gary had been a Navy jet mechanic, just like my dad! I also learned that Barry’s wife Michelle shared my Filipino heritage, and everyone in the family except Rider had traveled to the Philippines. During the drive to Missile Park, we shared stories about the beauty of the island, the famous Filipino hospitality, and how thankful we are for the opportunities we’ve had as Americans.
We had so much fun on this road trip! Rider had way more fun than even I had expected. His favorite ,war bird, wasn’t the F-14 Tomcat or the F-4 Phantom (my favorites!), but the Petrel, a target-practice drone.
Listening to Grandpa Gary talk about the articulating air intakes on the F-4, I felt a wave of nostalgia. I remembered building model airplanes with my dad, airplanes he was actually working on at the time, like the A-4, or the F/A-18 Hornet. I started remembering all the vocabulary my dad had taught me, and knew he’d be proud that some of it stuck!
Military families are special ” even something as commonplace as a dad tossing his son in the air turns into a flight lesson, or a lesson on how to properly parachute out of a C-120 and land in a way to minimize injury and avoid enemy detection.
At the end of our day, I shook Barry’s hand to thank him for his hospitality on our shoot. He smiled, gave me a firm handshake, and said, œThank you. Spending a day with the family ” I couldn’t have asked for a better day than this. I was honored to have shared this experience with one of our country’s heroes, someone who risked his life for ours, and who now enjoys the privilege of spending a beautiful day with his loved ones.