Nathaniel Levi Cripps – Airman First Class

On 3 June 2015, the family drove to San Antonio, Texas to attend the Air Force graduation week ceremonies for Nathaniel Levi Cripps. Just six months ago, we had made the trip to Parris Island, South Carolina to attend Pätrick Henry Cripps’ graduation from Marine Corp. boot camp. The two ceremonies were strikingly different as the Marines exhibited a near perfect discipline, while the Airmen were much more lax. In fairness, it should be noted that the Marine boot camp was nearly twice as long as the Air Force training.

Nathaniel had called the week before and told us he had been sick but it wouldn’t affect his graduation. When we attended the “coin ceremony” on Thursday, he still looked a bit “under the weather” but was in good spirits. At this point, he was officially an Airman. He gave us a quick tour of his dorm and showed off his “big surprise.” He had told me he had a surprise for me, but Sgt. Powell let the cat out of the bag when we were introduced. Out of his entire flight Nathaniel won the award for “Most Improved.” It is only given to one airman and Sgt. Powell said it was something to be very proud of. Since the troops were given base liberty, we spent the day getting to know Lackland Air Force Base.

Friday was a special ceremony due to a change in base command. Even the governor of Texas attended and made a short speech. I could tell through my telephoto lens my son looked troubled. During the parade I could not see him at all in his flight. Upon dismissal I learned he was very sick and requested to get away from the crowd quickly. He stated he almost vomited during the ceremony. Since he had town liberty, we drove him downtown and got him something to eat and drink. He would feel better for a little while then lapse right back into nausea. I believe he was sicker than he admitted. I felt he didn’t want to ruin everyone’s visit to the Alamo and Riverwalk. Even though he had town liberty until 20:00, he choose to be dropped off at his dorm at 16:00.

Saturday morning at 09:00 they released the new airmen for a full day of town liberty. By 09:15, all the dorms had emptied and a number of airmen were waiting for their parents to pick them up. A few minutes later I recognized one of them from my son’s flight and I inquired about Nathaniel. They said he had been taken to the hospital the night before and was back there again that morning. I went into the CQ to find out more information and his MTI said he was on the way back. When he finally arrived he told us they suspected strep but the swab came back negative. He had been at the hospital until after midnight then back again at first light. At any rate, they gave him some medicine and he said he wanted to take his leave with us.

We decided to visit some of the other missions on the San Antonio Mission Trail and take some photos. We visited Mission Concepción and Mission San José. He started feeling bad again so we abandoned the idea of visiting the remaining two missions. Later he asked to be taken to the USO club downtown so he could have a nice place to relax. We were really impressed with the USO and learned much about them. They are entirely funded by donations and do a great work for the soldiers around the world. While there my old friend, Col. Dean Hoekstra, stopped by for a visit. As town leave was ending, we left the USO and dropped Nathaniel back off at his dorm.

My First Ride in An Ambulance

As Sunday morning arrived, Nathaniel met us at 09:00 and said we had to take him to the hospital immediately. We drove him there and his little brother and I stayed in the room with him while they took blood and ran tests. When an airmen went to put an IV sleeve needle in his arm, he suddenly fainted. Before long half of the hospital staff crowded in the examination room. They believed him to have had a medical seizure not just a vesivegal reaction to the needle. His brother and I were terrified as it seemed forever to revive him.

A half hour later I was accompanying him via ambulance to the Fort Sam Houston Hospital (SAMMC). After a steady stream of doctors, techs and tests…he was diagnosed with a very bad case of pneumonia which showed up clearly on an x-ray. Even though he had shown signs not normally found with a vasovagal reaction, they determined he did not have an actual seizure. We were greatly relieved, though he still has to get over the pneumonia. He was released from SAMMC and we drove him back to Lackland where he was put into medical hold. Four days after heading back home, he was finally allowed to call and give an update. He sounded much better but it appears he will be delayed two weeks from beginning his tech school in Maryland.

The old Air Force expression “coming in on a wing and a prayer” became “coming in on a wing and a scare.” The timing appeared to be really bad but Jen is always quick to remind us these things happen for a reason. We pray for a quick recovery and for some hard work at tech school where Nathaniel Levi Cripps will be trained in broadcast journalism.

Coming up next: photo galleries of The Alamo, Mission Concepción and Mission San José.