The Highlight Reel

Is this a post about how social media ruins lives & I’m going to be candid about how Legally Blonde AF only shows the best parts of my life???

er…no. Maybe another time.

Today marks the second-to-last-day of the year, so this post is truly a highlight reel of 2019. It’s been one for the BOOKS! I haven’t really cared much about a New Year for a few years (that’s what happens when you work it), but I want to properly honor this 365 by running through its top 10 events. With pictures, of course.

1. March 1 – The Call about FLEP

About half of my highlights are from March – just a great month for Riley Vann Persian. Until March 1, I knew I was admitted to Harvard, but didn’t know if the Air Force would actually let me attend. I received the “okay” while on alert with my longtime crew partner and friend, Zack Denson. He was also preparing to transition from missiles into personnel, and this was his last alert. Now, final alerts (as you’ll see with #6) are already a special event – it’s the last time that a missile operator goes underground, and those 24 hours are traditionally maxed out on fun with minimal sleep. (Zack’s was Air Force Academy-themed because he went to Texas A&M, but secretly wanted to be a USAFA grad. It was VERY fun.)

Getting the FLEP call during that alert was extra special because Zack was my crew partner all through my LSAT studying. He routinely woke up early from his sleep shifts to time me and answer phones while I did practice sections. He asked about school applications, gave me a big ole bag of pencils for the LSAT, and celebrated my scores when they came back. Being chosen for FLEP was validation of our hard work, and meant my days as a missile operator were just as numbered as his. It made March 1 very, very meaningful (AND inspired my first blog post – check it out! Gosh I was such a baby: https://rileyv.com/index.php/2019/08/03/funded-legal-education-program/)

2. March 18 – Tucker Graduates Marine Officer Candidate School

My brother Tucker and his badass girlfriend Shelby completed the first part of Marine Officer School halfway through March! My mom, dad and I flew to Quantico, Virginia to see Tucker get his Lieutenant bars and officially become a Marine officer. It was one of the coolest ceremonies I’ve ever seen – the Marines are as crisp and professional as you’d imagine, and the commencement speaker was very blunt about what service means and the realities of the ultimate sacrifice. I DEFINITELY teared up at a few points, and I’ve never been more proud of Tuck!!

He is now down in Pensacola, Florida, waiting to start pilot training (Shelby is training in California and will then move to North Carolina) and looking after my nephew, a German Shepherd puppy named Copper.

3. March 25 to 30 – “Fun Wedding” Week

Yes, I DO mean the entire week! Our “fun” wedding* was on a Friday, but my bridesmaids, parents, and family friends flew to Napa on Tuesday. Together, we had a whole week of wine, pampering, and fooooooood before the ceremony. This was maybe THE best week of my life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the amazing people who surround me.

*Fun wedding = an actual ceremony w/white dress, reception, friends and family…Ben and I have been court married for about 2 1/2 years)

My bridesmaids and I (pictured above!) stayed in the same air b n’b, and we had an absolute blast. Two were from high school, two from the Academy, and two from Active Duty, but they had all met previously and everyone got along SO well. We went on a wine train through Napa Valley, sweated through a yoga class, hit up the entirety of downtown Sonoma (we are ALWAYS down for coffee), and had the most casual rehearsal & dinner ever. I promise to do a full post on this in 2020!

3.5 March 29 – The “Fun Wedding” itself

No one ever tells you how truly special a wedding is (or maybe they did and I just didn’t understand). I thought it would be fun, nice to see everyone, and we’d get some good pics – but honestly, we were already married so the “magical” part of getting married was already over. Boy, that was not correct.

Weddings are so, so special because of the people who come – the people who have seen you grow up, have seen you grow together, who are there to love and support and celebrate you as a couple. Our wedding was relatively short; the ceremony lasted about 20 minutes and the overall event was only five hours, but the magic began the second I picked up my first bridesmaid on Tuesday, and lasted until I went back to Minot on Sunday. I constantly go back and look at the photos, reliving the hours with the people we love more than anything, who came together just for us.

I’ll do full posts about the real wedding come March 2020 (basically, I’ll find ANY excuse to post more wedding photos). I truly hope my obsession with myself those photos never dies.

4. April 4 – Getting a ‘promotion’ at work

This was totally unexpected and something I’m still very proud of. I took over as an Assistant Flight Commander for the Fifth Flight of the 741 Missile Squadron. I know that means nothing to most of you – basically, an office job along with my regular missile alerts. It was a position I didn’t anticipate because I knew I’d be leaving in August. Also, I was pretty young to be selected – but when I found out the position was mine, I was BEYOND excited. It didn’t come with a pay raise, but AFC was a huge challenge and made my last few months as an operator extremely meaningful and memorable. I miss you, Gravelhaulers!

5. June 6 – “Honeymoon”

Ben and I spent two weeks in Europe, with Prague as our home base and a rental car to take us everywhere else. We spent a few days in the city, then drove to Nuremberg, Germany; Salzburg, Austria; the Eagle’s Nest; Munich and the Dachau concentration camp; Vienna, and finally a ghetto outside of Prague. This particular day, June 6, was the day we were in Salzburg and did the Sound of Music Bike tour. I had done it before with girlfriends, and was determined to make Ben go! It’s a three-hour, 10 mile adventure to all the major sites in the Sound of Music movie, and THE most fun time! Ben loved it, despite being ‘eh’ about the movie itself. Salzburg is one of, if not my absolute favorite, city I’ve seen to date. June 6, 2019 was enormously satisfying.

6. July 19 – Last Alert EVER!

On July 19, around 6 pm, I came up from alert for the last time ever – decked out in a pink tiara, pink Harvard shirt, and BIG pink bow. My alert was Legally Blonde-themed (of course!!) and my AMAZING crew partner Tarina made sure we were dressed to the nines. We watched so many rom coms, ate a million snacks, and annoyed both cops and crewmembers alike with our good humor.

I signed the wall, per tradition, and told everyone my lock combination as we left the capsule – signifying I could no longer pull alert. Coming upstairs, knowing I’d never again miss a holiday or Sunday, get stuck underground from weather, or carry the weight of nuclear weapons on my shoulders, was a huge relief. I survived 171 days underground without any major incidents, and I salute every single person who takes this responsibility daily.

7. August 10/17/24 – Back-to-back trips to KC, NYC & DC

These were my last three weeks before Hurricane Harvard hit, and I’ve never been more willing or excited to travel. I got to see two of my Minot friends in Kansas City, where we had some EXCELLENT BBQ, did our third escape room together, and drank altogether too much wine; my mom in NYC, for three different plays and a boat trip around Ellis Island; and my best friend Betsy in her current hometown, for my first look at the Supreme Court and the Hall of Presidents. I am eternally grateful I could relax and spend time with some of my favorite people before starting school!

8. October 31 – HALLOWEEN BABAYYYYYYYY

It’s the moooooost scariest niiiiiiiight of the yeaaaaaar! Especially for Elle Woods in her bunny suit (but luckily, I WAS invited to a costume party). I had SO much fun making this costume, and an even better time at the house party & school party with my sectionmates. It was the first time we let loose as a group (and on a Thursday, no less) and we had a LOT to laugh about on Friday. Not that Friday was a super fun day, but….we laughed anyway. 0% chance I forget Halloween 2k19!

9. December 18 – Last Final

This day was less than two weeks ago but I feel like it happened in a completely separate life. One of my friends just texted me about having a nightmare and realizing he didn’t address a major issue on one of the exams…I was like, you remember the exams????? I don’t and I hope it stays that way. Harvard Law is just the Academy all over again – once the “it’s over” feeling of total relief sets in, everything else gets blacked out!

And no, there’s no picture to commemorate this moment. You don’t need to see that.

10. December 25 – Combined Vann-Persian Christmas in Minnesota

This Christmas was the first time my immediate family got together since last summer! It was also the first time since our real wedding that my family and Ben’s family were all in the same place. We had SO much fun at Ben’s parent’s place – watching Christmas movies, doing a White Elephant, playing Harry Potter trivia (the BEST version there is), and making every holiday drink under the sun.

In the first and second pictures, we’re all wearing shirts that depict either a character from the Office or F.R.I.E.N.D.S. My mom and dad bought the shirts and chose which character represented each person ahead of time, and then the rest of us had to guess!! The winner, Ben’s dad, guessed 6 people correctly; the biggest loser only got one right, and it was herself. No need to get more specific.

In a nutshell…

2019 was truly amazing. It’s reminded me that everything happens for a reason, and that, at any given point in my life, that’s the place I’m supposed to be. This year I got ‘married,’ got to live with Ben for the first time, traveled internationally, traveled domestically, moved to an exciting new place, and completed my first semester at a top-tier law school. More importantly, I’ve met SO many new people from Minot, through the blog, and through Harvard itself, and gotten to see another year with friends and family, all of whom are healthy and thriving. I mean…is this even real life?!

2019 wasn’t perfect, but it was dang near close. 2020, you have a LOT to live up to! Cheers, and Happy New Year!!