Here is our letter that was included in our card:
Dear Family and Friends,
It has been quite a year for us! We have done a lot and enjoyed the year being together.
In January, Elise started her student teaching at Copperview Elementary in a 6th grade classroom. She had so much fun with her class. She learned a lot and had great students to work with. They were a great support for Elise as the deployment wrapped up in Afghanistan for Ryan.
March 20, 2011 marked one year to the day since Ryan left for Afghanistan. It was an exciting day for us…he was finally coming home! The neighbors put up flags on our street—way cool to see! Elise made a banner, got flags for everyone, and a friend came to take pictures so that nothing was missed! Ryan said that the flight was long but Elise thinks that waiting at the airport for 1½ hours or more for the plane to come was longer. When the plane landed and the flag came out of the cockpit, cheers went up like no other! Elise, of course, was crying and couldn’t stand still. This was the moment we had waited for for 9 months! (That’s how long it had been since we’d been together for leave.) When the door opened on the plane, even louder cheers came out of everyone there. The soldiers then filed out of the plane. Ryan finally came out with tears in his eyes. When we finally got to hug, it was the BEST hug ever! We just held each other. Newpapers were taking pictures, family was taking pictures, and tears were flowing all around. It was the best moment of the year!
Shortly after Ryan got home, Elise graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. The very next day we headed off to HAWAII!!! (This was our first vacation that Ryan didn’t have to go anywhere when we got home.) We enjoyed the military discounts there and stayed in a cabin right on a private beach! We took pictures on the beach with a photographer, saw Pearl Harbor, the Laie Temple, went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, enjoyed the local shops, and luaus. We had so much fun but sadly never saw a sunset there. It rained cats and dogs at some point almost every day! The Hawaiians felt bad for us and apologized for the weather but we told them that it was okay because we had left 8” of snow in our yard back home. We enjoyed our time there and hope to be able to go again!
The rest of the year has just flown by! Here are some of our highlights.
We went with Elise’s family to Yellowstone in June. It was Ryan’s first time and he thoroughly enjoyed it! Ryan participated in the Centerville parade, we went to Stadium of Fire, saw the Tabernacle choir, and ran in the Freedom Run in Provo all over the 4th of July weekend. Then, of course, in true Gustafson fashion, we all went to Disney World in August. We had a lot of fun and created many memories along the way! We then went to see Josh Groban in Vegas which was a fun quick overnight getaway. We also went to Disneyland in October for a couple of days. What can we say…we love Disney!
Elise is now the secretary for the Family Readiness Group for Ryan’s unit. She also has set out on a home business selling Paparazzi Jewelry from our home. Ryan has been on the job hunt and works for his unit out at Camp Williams when they need extra help.
We are so grateful for many things this year: great memories, family, friends, the Gospel, our Savior, and those who are serving over seas so that we can be together and celebrate. Please keep those serving in your prayers. We hope that you had a great year and wish you the best for the coming year!
Ryan and Elise Reneer
Photo credits: Top: Rachael Nelson (homecoming), Middle: Conrad Prusse (Hawaii), Bottom: Elyssa Gustafson