The day after Josie and I firmly planted our feet on Spanish soil, our vibrant group of fellow travelers – whom I’ve affectionately dubbed the ‘Blue Squadron’ – will arrive in Spain. This rather silly nickname was born more out of necessity than creativity, as I grew weary of repeatedly typing their individual names in the detailed plans I had drafted for our journey to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.

This year, we will be joined by my son Blaise, a sophomore at K-State. His developing interests lie in the sphere of Business, and upon our return, he is poised to leap into a summer stint with the sales team at our company. Despite his Spanish linguistic skills not quite rising to the occasion when it came to arranging our transportation to SJPP, I’m certain his abilities will prove invaluable when we converse with the local Spanish folks. This journey presents an invaluable opportunity, a gift of shared time with him after a long school year of separation.

Adding to the dynamic mix of Blue Squadron is Dominic, my nephew and godson. Just this past Friday, he proudly stepped off the graduation stage of Newman University, his mind set on dedicating his life to the priesthood for the Wichita Diocese. As he prepares to embark on his major seminary journey in the fall, our paths intersect again. Dominic and I shared many moments together when my wife and I lived in close proximity to my brother and his family. Even though our shared moments dwindled when my brother relocated to western Kansas, the bond between us remained strong. This shared pilgrimage promises to deepen our connection in ways we’ve yet to explore.

Dominic as the ring bearer about 20 years ago.

Completing the Blue Squadron lineup is Grace, the charming young woman who has captured my son’s heart over the past few years. Unbeknownst to me during our inaugural Camino in 2021, Grace and Blaise were secretly (at least from me) nurturing a blossoming relationship. I’m intrigued and excited to get to know Grace better, this kind of individual who holds such a special place in my son’s life. Although her decision to join our traveling party was a late one, it is a welcome addition to our close-knit group.