What does it take to get me to write a post? How about a trip to the Pentagon, complete with our own guide, an awards ceremony honoring that guy I married, little mini hamburgers on toothpicks, and shooting the breeze with the Secretary of the Air Force?

A couple of months ago, Derek called me from work, which is a pretty rare occurrence. He had just been informed that he had won the Harold Brown award, which is the highest individual award for scientists in the Air Force, for achievements in research and development that have led to, or demonstrated promise of, a substantial improvement in the operational effectiveness of the Air Force.

Yeah. We had no idea how big a deal this would be. Derek’s only been working for the Air Force Research Labs for a little over two years. But boy do they like him.

We took the whole family to Washington DC this past weekend. Derek’s parents, some siblings, an aunt, and Grandma came too. We planned for several days exploring the Mall, the Smithsonian museums, adventures in dining, etc. The reason for the trip, though, was pretty stunning.

We had to be at the Pentagon a couple hours early, to get through a couple of layers of security, get visitor badges, walk several miles into the vast building, shoot the breeze with the Chief Scientist of the Air Force and the Chief Technologist of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We mostly discussed our mutual hatred of squirrels.

While the rest of the family stayed in a waiting room bigger than our house, Derek and I, with the two boys and Derek’s parents, were escorted into the office of the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael B. Donley. We were accompanied by the official photographer, who shot many photos of various configurations of handshakes, including ones with my two little boys. Secretary Donley was gracious, smiled a lot, praised Derek for being so awesome, and was just way more affable than I expected. Though, to be honest, I didn’t really expect to meet him myself.

As we were leaving the office, the Secretary’s secretary had some souvenirs for the boys, and we later learned she had already met Kiki, who was entirely too wild to come with us into the office. It kind of seemed like they don’t see too many kids in there. (Especially fantastically beautiful ones like mine.)

The award ceremony began with everyone standing for Secretary Donley and Derek, then an introduction by the Secretary, wherein I learned the real reason Derek won this award. If you’re curious, it’s because of his work with teams of ultralight air vehicles and detection of roadside bombs. So actual life-saving going on.

Anyway, then Derek got to accept the award, get presented with the trophy, or whatever that giant hunk of glass is called, get more photos, and give flowers to me, his mom, and his grandma. Did you know they have a florist in the Pentagon? I didn’t. I also didn’t know they have a pharmacy/mini-mart where you can get leftover halloween candy for $1 a bag. There’s a jewelery store, dry cleaners, optometrist, and I don’t know what else. It’s pretty self-contained.

After the award was presented, there was a reception. Like a receiving line kind of reception. Derek stood, while all the other guests who weren’t related lined up and shook his hand.

And then there was food. They had told us there would be cake, but instead, there was a full buffet of wonderful things, with caterers and invisible waiters. One of the highlights for me, besides the indescribable unexpectedness of having Secretary Donley approach me to chat, with the official photographer shooting away like a paparazzo, was when the Chief Scientist Dr. Werner J.A. Dahm saw me looking for somewhere to put my plate and came over claiming to be a waiter. I was a little tongue-tied most of the time. And possibly even a tiny bit more dippy than usual. It was all kind of dream-like.

Any questions?