This was a fun project we did for a special granddad-grandson team. When Joshua approached us about making this special case, and told us the unique story behind it, we had to do it! Joshua Rackham, Class of 2019, sent us this testimonial:
“Coming Home” Blog
“The Saber was There…” So, now you need a handcrafted, heirloom display case to house it!
By now you have probably heard about the Legacy Sabers, one in each squadron. They are displayed in R & R Legacy Saber Cases. Now is your chance to help your cadet create their own legacy. Buy them a saber (available through AOG) and then purchase a custom saber case from R & R Woodcrafts and Graphics.
Come visit us at Parents’ Weekend! We will have a table at the Info Fair. Visit us in person and receive a special coupon for 15% off! Coupon is good from 2 SEP – 9 SEP 2022 (this gives you time to talk with your cadet at Parents’ Weekend, see the sample case at the Info Fair, go home and look at our website, www.randrwoodcrafts.com, and then choose your favorite wood, velvet color, etc.).
If you cannot make it to USAFA during this time, don’t despair. We will have a coupon for 10% off for you on our website, from 2 SEP – 9 SEP 2022.
This is our best sale of the year! All year we give you a really good price for our product, but we lower that good price even more for a very short time for all our amazing customers. We can only offer it for a week, however, as supply prices are very high. If you don’t use your coupon during this week, we are not able to honor it, as we just can’t afford to keep our pricing that low. Thanks for your understanding.
So, everyone, put 2 SEP – 9 SEP 2022 on your calendar, and get an amazing product at an amazing price! Because…the saber is there…and it shouldn’t sit in the closet!
See our Facebook post (R & R Woodcrafts and Graphics | Facebook).
Sequels…we love ‘em. We can’t wait for the next Marvel movie to come out (or DC Comics movie, depending on your loyalty). Whether it’s The Matrix, Spider-Man or Sing, we flock to the theatres to watch them.
Here at R & R Woodcrafts, we have our own sequel story. After the successful delivery of over 1000 personalized Cherry hardwood coin racks to the USAFA Class of 2019, we wrote a blog about it. (“We’ve Got Spirit…Do You?”).
Matt, a Spirit Mission 2022 committee member read it and was so impressed, he wanted to do the same thing for his daughter’s class. He contacted us in May of 2019 to get the ball rolling early.
Matt also oversaw special donors to the Class of 2022 Spirit Mission called the “Co-Pilots.” He had us make coin racks for these special people. The coin racks were smaller than our regular ones, but only had one slot for coins. We also laser-engraved a donor’s name on each piece, and a graphic of the chapel. We had taken a photo of the historic architecture when we had delivered the 2019 coin racks and turned it into a high-resolution graphic, thanks to Rich’s expertise.
The group loved the gifts, and Matt worked to get a contract for 100’s Night 2022. In Fall of 2019, they offered us a contract for 1050 coin racks. We accepted the mission!
Covid was an interesting plot change from Spirit Mission 1, offering us varied challenges.
Supply issues slowed us down. The price of wood skyrocketed. Our family got Covid. We rested a few days and then got back to work! Having a home business meant we could quarantine and keep working! Thank goodness we all are in good health, so our symptoms were very mild. Rich’s 84-year-old mom also had COVID, and Rich caught her outside. “Mimi, what are you doing outside?! You should be in bed.” She replied, “I have to put the chickens away!”
Another change from last time was our work force. All of our children flew the nest! Thankfully, they come back to visit and were still able to assist us.
Heather helped again with sanding and packing. Kaity was an amazing jack-of-all trades, sanding, staining, stamping the backs, packing and teaching a new group of part-time help to sand. She also took care of farm chores at times so I could devote all my time to lasering. Since our kids have flown the coop, I have taken over the care and feeding of our farm animals. Chris worked the joiner machine and did some cutting and sanding. Mimi again made amazing meals for us.
New this time was that I learned some new skills in the woodshop. Last time I helped a little with finish sanding and I did most of the staining. I didn’t sand this time but did stain.
I was excited to learn how to use some of the shop equipment!
First, I got to stamp our logo on the back of each coin rack. I had used the branding iron before, but it had been a while. I centered the wooden piece upside down under the heated iron. Next I pulled the iron firmly onto the wood, holding it there for a few seconds. Then I pulled it down even harder and left it another few seconds. I could see and smell the cherry wood burning, then lifted the iron.
I stacked the coin racks in domino fashion, being careful to let the branded spot cool down.
Once they were cool, I stacked them so that they slanted upwards, three rows on top of each other. I felt like I was playing Jenga!
Secondly, I used the joiner. Rich showed me what to do. I turned the dust collection unit on with a remote, and then pushed the button for the joiner, and it loudly growled to life. I took a coin rack that Rich had glued (he glued a small rectangular strip onto a larger flat piece), setting it flat on the long metal table. I could see a circular blade spinning in the center of the table. Using a handle-shaped piece of wood, I pushed the coin rack over the spinning blade. I did this a second time. It is this process that levels the base of each coin rack.
Then I stood the coin rack on its side and ran the back of it along the spinning blade. This smoothed the spots where it had been glued together, removing excess glue to allow future sanding to be more efficient.
It made me feel good to help Rich out in this way, as he always works so hard. And I gained new confidence in working with electric machinery.
Despite mine, Rich’s and the kids’ work, we knew we were going to need more help. We sent out a request for part-time help with final sanding. Covid was making it hard to find jobs, so some local teenagers eagerly accepted the challenge. We could not have done it without your hard work, Kenny, Alexander, Landon and Ian! They even got a little farm work in, helping us catch sheep and a pig!
A note on sanding: It is this process that makes or breaks a woodworking project. Quality products should NEVER have visible planing or cross-grain sanding marks. All of the coin racks were hand-sanded at the end with 120, then 220 grit sandpaper at about 10 minutes per coin rack. Most manufacturers do not do this. This is standard practice on ALL our products.
Rich and I picked up the rental van. This time we decided we could get a little smaller vehicle, as prices were higher. This van was shorter than the first one.
As we loaded the small white boxes into the white van, it was getting fuller and fuller. It almost looked as though they were not all going to fit. Would we have to rent a trailer to pull behind?
As the girls and I kept bringing boxes for Rich to pack, and he miraculously kept finding nooks and crannies to place them in, I told them, “If anyone can figure out how to pack them all in there, it will be Dad!” And he did! There’s a reason I call him Superman (besides the fact that when he was younger and we lived in Okinawa, Kadena AB, women would stop us and want their picture taken with him, as he looked remarkably like Christopher Reeves!).
Kaity stayed and house-sat, literally keeping the home fires burning, as we heat with wood, and Rich and I were on the road again.
Some things haven’t changed…gas is 20 cents cheaper in Kansas than Colorado, and the Kansas highways are smoother! Can anyone solve this mystery?
The last time we took this trip to Colorado Springs, we thought we were in the movie “Frozen” as we encountered a snowstorm.
This time felt more like “Smoky and the Bandit” when we found ourselves in the middle of a car chase!
We were outside of Limon, Colorado on Hwy 24when Rich noticed a police car about 2 miles behind him with his lights on. He wondered what was going on, and I asked him if he was speeding. I had been working on my computer so wasn’t really paying attention.
It seemed like they were following another car that was behind us. It started weaving in and out and then when the driver turned a corner, his door opened, and a bunch of small packages were shoved out onto the road.
The police car kept following this guy. The driver passed us, and the police car kept following him!
Six more police cars passed us and other drivers. We thought,” There’s going to be a blockade up ahead.”
As we neared the small town of Matherson, we watched as the eight police cars converged on this car as it drove onto a side road and into a parking lot. Policemen were drawing guns as we decided that would be a good time to leave!
Scary! We still have not seen anything in the news. We did get some video, but it wasn’t very good, so we won’t be sending it to any news stations.
We arrived safely in the Springs and met with AOG as we are working on the next phase of the “Legacy Saber Project” (this will be in my next blog post!). Then we headed for Embassy Suites, where we were staying.
Last time we stayed in a cute Air BNB but the scene for Spirit Mission 2 was actually an historic location. When R & R first got started in the eighties, Rich’s brother Rob had taken over the business while Rich pursued his military career. Rob and his family would stay at the Embassy Suites when they delivered saber cases, and cadets would meet him there to pick up their orders.
Today was the closing scene for our sequel as we met with Gina, the P.O.C. for the Spirit Mission at Arnold Hall.
She laughed as she saw all the boxes jammed into the van. Rich unloaded the boxes onto carts as Gina pushed them into the Hall and to the meeting room. I helped her unload them and stack them onto the large conference table.
I tried to sort them into stacks by squadron around the room.
The stacks grew taller as we filled up the tabletop. Finally, we were done, and several cadets came to the rescue to help Gina sort them. Many more were coming after lunch to help.
Last time, the gifts were taken to the dorm rooms, where Firsties found them after their special 100s Night dinner.
This time, they were given to them at the dinner.
What stayed the same between Spirit Mission 1 and 2 was that we felt extremely honored to be a part of this special gift to the Firsties. Well done, Class of 2022! We are proud of you.
Other Class Spirit Missions…”Support the Arts.” We’d love to do a special project for you too.
I wanted to give a “Shout Out” to my (Mary) mom, Jean! Today is her birthday, and she is 85 years old today! HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!
She is an amazing woman. We all love her so much. My kids talk about how much they love to call her because she is so fun, and funny! She has great stories.
Jean grew up as the youngest of 3, with two big brothers to watch over her, Joe and Robert. She tells of a time that she retaliated against their teasing by running after them with scissors. And then she sternly tells us not to do that!
She had fun with them too. As a teenager, she often went with one of her brothers to a dance hall near Seguin, TX, where she is from. My eyes pop wide open when she casually tells me that Willie Nelson played there regularly before he was famous.
She also rode on the back of a motorcycle and wore a leather jacket during one period of her life.
While working as a waitress at Butcher Boys, a group of brothers would regularly come in and eat. They would tease her and ask her what a nice girl like her was doing in a place like this. She’d quip, “Looking for a husband. But none of you fit the bill.”
One day one of the brothers was missing. Jean jokingly asked, “Where’s your compadre?”
They answered, “Oh, he got married.”
Later that evening, as Jean was closing, the missing brother, Myron, walked in. He ordered, and sat at the table a long time. Finally he got the nerve up to ask her out.
Her jaw dropped and she blurted out, “I don’t think that would be a good idea. What would your wife say?” He was flabbergasted until he realized his brothers had set him up. They later married on April 1! No foolin’.
When I became a teenager, my friends all loved my mom. She was the one they all went to for advice and help. She knew EVERYTHING! They knew she wouldn’t tell their parents.
She helped me overcome my shyness. She encouraged me to practice talking to boys by starting with the neighbor. “Just say hi and practice talking to him so that when the boy comes along that you like, you’ll feel more comfortable.”
Her encouragement led to me going to events and groups by myself and talking to strangers. I’m still shy, but love talking to people. I owe that to her.
Our kids remember one time that she visited us. She kept telling us that we wouldn’t recognize her at the airport. We were thinking…she got a haircut, lost weight? She showed up with glasses and a red nose! Her grandkids have lots of great memories of time spent with her.
I hope you have a great birthday, Mom, even through all this Coronavirus stuff. You are a special lady and your family loves you!
Year after year we have come to the Air Force Academy to deliver saber cases to graduates, and we’ve even attended some of the graduations. The majestic music, crisp uniforms, a president or other official guest speaker, and the smoke and roar of the Thunderbirds…I love it! This year, we had even more reason to love it…our daughter Nicholle graduated in the Class of 2019!
We had just finished the huge coin rack project (see previous post), in February, and had to start preparing for graduation…and not just for our oldest daughter…our two youngest children Kaity and Jarod were graduating from homeschool high school! Our whirlwind of activity left a hurricane of mess and chaos in our home and lives. Never mind. Just keep calm and keep busy, right? We’ll sort everything out later.
We decided, rather than renting a home for graduation, we would bring our RV and park it in the on-base Family Camp area. We also chose to tow our SUV instead of renting a car.
Everything was packed and ready to go. Some family members were flying out later, and our two youngest were traveling with us in the RV. Of course, as one of our children pointed out, “It’s not a road trip if there’s no breakdown!” One hundred miles down the road, our RV started acting up. And then one of the tires on the dolly popped!
The sun had just set, and my husband said, “Mary, you and one of the kids take the SUV and drive all night (it was loaded full of saber cases we were to deliver to cadets the next morning) so you can set up in Arnold Hall tomorrow morning.” Jarod agreed to accompany me, and we set out.
Rich had said, “I’ll meet you in Salina (Kansas). Don’t stop; just keep going.” So, as we’re sailing along, I see out of the corner of my eye what looks like our RV on the side of the highway. It was! I thought, “That’s odd; thought we’d see them in Salina. Maybe he’s taking a nap?” He wasn’t; he was under it, trying to see what was wrong, as they were still having trouble! Oh well, he had told me to keep going. And what good would it have done for us to stop? That’s what I told myself anyway.
Thanks to Jarod navigating us through some stormy weather, we finally got to Colorado Springs. In Arnold Hall, we looked around for a table to set up. We found out that Bernadette, the woman in charge of the hall, had suddenly passed away! We were so saddened by this, as she was a wonderful, friendly person. We had always enjoyed working with her and are very sorry for the loss.
As we chatted with Firsties, learning about their future and congratulating them while handing them their saber cases, I wondered where we would sleep that night if Rich didn’t make it. I had to repeatedly tell the extremely patient and polite cadets the story of the breakdown, and that they would have to come back later to get their case, if it was glass-covered (we had put these delicate items in the RV to protect them).
Rich texted me later that day to say that he had spent hours getting a clamp out of a tight spot inside the workings of the motor home. He had fixed the problem and saved us hundreds of dollars! What a great husband! And they would be there in a few hours. Whew!
The first two days of our Colorado stay were filled with delivering saber cases. After that, we were free to spend time with our Firstie, and relax and have fun. She took us to the Great Sand Dunes. Great fun! Lots of walking up huge piles of sand, but then short bursts of very fast sledding.
Family members and old family friends started showing up. The day before graduation was the Graduation Parade. We got there early and waited awhile, shivering in the cold. We had brought a blanket, so about ten of us had this spread across our legs! Clouds loomed, and we feared rain as well as the air show being cancelled.
Finally, a voice boomed over the loudspeaker, seriously telling everyone to look up and blow. He explained that this might help the clouds blow away! Suddenly, through the clouds, a jet-black B-2 slowly glided over us, and the announcer said that our blowing must have worked! The bomber was a sight to behold!
Next was a falcon demonstration (the falcon is the USAF Academy mascot). It was fun to watch the majestic bird flying around.
Then the parade started. Thousands of crisp white pants with blue jackets marching in unison is very impressive. Each squadron marched by into its designated position. The seniors (Firsties) were called out, and marched away from their squadrons, signifying their leaving the group to graduate. Loved it!
Our daughter came to see us afterward, hanging out with us in the stands, and taking family photos. We took some photos of her with family. Several have special significance, as they were like the ones her father, Rich, took with his family over 30 years ago in the stands when he graduated!
Graduation Day was another early day. We prepared for bad weather by bringing plastic rain ponchos our thoughtful daughter had provided for us.
Regardless of your political persuasion, you must admit that seeing the POTUS (President of the United States) speak in person is impressive and awe-inspiring. Since we have come for many years to deliver the saber cases, we have been to many graduations, and heard several U.S. presidents speak, including President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush Jr. My husband shook President George Bush Sr.’s hand (he was VP at the time) at his graduation. He also shook President Richard Nixon’s hand as a Cub Scout and President Bill Clinton’s hand as part of an official visit once, when he was active duty.
The graduating seniors marched in, another impressive sight. We found our daughter amongst the sea of uniforms! The Honor Guard (Rich’s cousin is a member) was lined up in two lines on the football field to greet the official party. Many important Air Force members arrived and were announced and applauded.
We had been waiting in the stands for several hours, and there was a rumor that Trump might not make it because he was flying back from Japan. Finally, the motorcade arrived. President Donald Trump stepped out of his limo, and the Air Force band began playing “Hail to the Chief”. The sharp shooters at the top of the bleachers opposite us, dressed ominously in black, looked alert.
Trump, an energetic force moving across the green turf in his black suit and red tie, waved to the crowd and pumped his fists. The crowd went wild, clapping, cheering and whistling. Interestingly, I didn’t hear any boos or negativity.
Trump started his speech thanking everyone for inviting him. Typically, the president and other White House officials have a rotation for speaking at military school graduations (i.e. West Point, Annapolis, etc.). He wasn’t supposed to speak at USAFA until next year. I think he chose to speak at the Academy this year (2019) to announce the formation of Space Force.
Before giving the cadets their diplomas, he specifically honored two graduates. The first, a young man who had won a national baseball award for hitting the most home runs. After recognizing him, he said, “Come on up here!” And he shook his hand and had a photo with him. The next was a student who had been battling cancer. It was in remission, and he had been allowed to graduate. Again, Trump brought the cadet up to the platform to honor him.
Then the fun began. Trump explained that the Academy had given him a choice. Since there were a THOUSAND graduates, he could shake only the top cadets’ hand, only the top ten grads, or all of them. “I’m going for a thousand,” he said. And again, the crowd roared their approval.
And he did. We watched as he grabbed each person’s hand and said something personal to each one. Here’s the link where you can watch it: https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trump-stays-on-after-commencement-speech-shakes-hands-with-1000-cadets. Our daughter Nikki said that all she remembers is hearing the announcer say, “Ni-…”! That’s okay, we have an amazing photo that our dear friend Greg Hoffeditz took with his high-powered professional camera from the stands.
After a while, the president shook out his hand as if it were getting stiff, then kept on. I think there might have been one cadet who took a selfie with him!
After all the grads had received their diplomas, the president spoke about the graduates and the Air Force and world they would soon be serving in. He announced the formation of Space Force. He got lots of cheers when he said he would allocate more money to supply and equip the greatest military in the world.
I liked the way he was super affirming of the Class of 2019, telling them that “You’re going to win so much that you’re going to get tired of winning!”
At one point he turned to one of the military officials behind him and joked that tomorrow the media would misconstrue what he had said.
Sure enough, the biggest news article I saw focused on him “giving amnesty to bad cadets.” EVERY president or speaker gives amnesty! It’s a tradition. It is not for seriously “bad” cadets, but those with minor infractions like being late to class or curfew. They get demerits for different infractions that affect their overall record. In fact, my dear sweet husband and his freshman squadron ALL got amnesty from Senator Barry Goldwater after they moved the F-16 onto the chapel wall (read about it in my earlier blog about the 1986 Class Reunion)!
The media totally missed the electricity and energy of the crowd and the president, and the amazing accomplishments of the almost 1,000 USAF 2nd Lts! But we didn’t. We are so proud of all the new Air Force officers (especially our daughter Nikki)!
After his speech, Trump dismissed the Class of 2019. They responded, “Strong!” in unison, their class motto. Then a thousand white parade hats flew into the air as the Thunderbirds whooshed by! That is always my favorite part of a USAFA graduation.
President Trump and his entourage left, stopping to shake all the hands of the distinguished grads (one of which was another cousin of Rich’s!). He again walked through the lines of the Honor Guard, then turned back, looked up, waved at the crowd and then pumped both fists.
Rock music blared over the loudspeaker as the Thunderbirds started their show overhead. Awesome! I love how the jets zoom by, lined up in perfect precision! So cool! And loud! Our oldest son and his wife had cute earmuffs for their babies to protect their little ears.
We had the best time walking around talking to all the friends and family that made the trek out to Colorado Springs to see Nikki graduate. They all loved the pomp and pageantry of a military graduation.
I hope that as people reflect on all that’s going on in our country right now, that they will see this bright patriotic memory and be encouraged about all that’s right in our nation, despite all the troubles.
And while I am quite late reporting about this momentous event, I think maybe it will inspire and encourage people at this time. I know Rich and I are encouraged not only about our leader and our nation, but also about our daughter Nikki as she starts her Air Force career. She will be starting pilot training soon! Go Air Force!
*All photos taken by Greg Hoffeditz of Doc Hoffeditz Photography.