Thursday, February 10, 2011

107 Hours

Within 30 minutes of my arrival home Dad poured a
celebratory toast for all in attendance, fortunately for the kids he had
some sparkling cider on hand.
International airline flights and travel in general are often seen in a negative light due to the many delays associated with such a journey. From weather to aircraft maintenance issues, inevitably something is bound to place your journey into a holding pattern. Through the years I've been on multiple flights to Europe, Central America, and even China. I'll never look at an international expedition the same after setting out on this past journey, it was quite an adventure- but it was all worth it...

On January 14th, I departed FOB Salerno on a C-130 bound for New Haven, Indiana. Unfortunately, this journey would take me through four countries, three continents, and over 110 hours to complete. I won’t elaborate on specific locations, mainly due to security concerns (also to spare you the boredom), but trust me- it was a long trip.

Rather than detail in full my entire 15 days on the ground back in the land of Old Glory; I think I’ll cheat a bit and let a few photos I took tell the story for themselves. I will mention that my only regret was not being able to see my dear sister Brigette, her two sons Dakota and Lincoln (Godchild #3), and her fine husband Wade. They are inundated with other issues related to Wade’s own Afghan deployment later this year, so another trip to Indiana only two short weeks after their Christmas visit wasn’t really feasible.

It’s amazing how much you can fit into 15 days, especially when you calculate a “blizzard” into the mix. I can’t thank all of my wonderful friends and family (especially you Mom & Dad) enough for all they did to literally make those two short weeks some of the best in my life.

I guess you could say I was fortunate on the way home, as it only took me 104 hours. This trip provided yet another one of my life’s “firsts”, an engine loss on our C-130, during flight back onto Salerno. After a switch of aircraft back at Bagram, I honestly thought the crew chief was joking when he announced this aircraft too had blown an engine (at least this time we were on the ground) during startup tests. As they say, the third time is the charm and just before midnight on February 7th, I was back on the FOB. If you average my travel times, you’ll arrive at 107 hours- regardless of length,once again it was all worth it…

A late 5th birthday date with my nephew Luke (Godchild #2) involved a trip to the store for a new Nintendo game but most importantly gave him a chance to show off his new pakol.The snowstorms provided bonus time to hang out with all of my nieces and nephews as they were home on snow cancellations.

Another birthday date with my niece Lillie (Godchild #1) to celebrate her 13th birthday landed me in a pedicure chair. Word of caution to my fellow Uncles and Godfathers out there- lay out a few ground rules before allowing your teenage niece a day on the town to do anything she would like...

My first weekend on the ground consisted of great friends, wonderful music, and a bit 'o bourbon down in Music City. Nashville might never be the same after twenty of us joined together to send our great friend Nick off in true fashion for his bachelor party.

If I had to complain about one thing (besides people) I really miss while serving in Afghanistan, it'd undoubtedly have to be a good meal with even better people. Fortunately I was able to get my fill of seafood down in Key West for a few days with the family, not a bad place to spend time in late January.

Crickette Simone (Godchild #4), my sister Anne's daughter, was the only child along on the trip to Key West. As you can see in the picture, she fit right in to the laid-back culture of Keys' living. We even got to have a small 1st birthday party for her during our time together.

In addition to Truman's Little White House, another tourist must-see is Earnest Hemingway home. Breathtaking gardens surround the home where Hemingway wrote many of his most famous novels in the mid-1930's. Might I suggest a pit-stop before touring, only three blocks away- Blue Heaven is an eclectic breakfast joint with outdoor seating and live music all day. I'd recommend the lobster benedict, rest assured I'll be savoring that scrumptious taste for at least the next six months.

I mentioned Nick's bachelor party in Nashville, but I should also mention this wedding was the chief reason for the timing  of my visit home. Both Nick and his new bride Holly are great friends of mine from Purdue. I knew this would be a wedding to remember, but after Nick asked me to be his best man; there wasn't a chance I would miss it.

Many would argue that one of the Best Man's most important roles is that of securing the rings prior to their blessing and installation upon the hand. Fortunately my tuxedo pants had structurally sound pockets and there were no incidents of missing jewelry. Nick and Holly have yet to see this photo, but I thought they'd enjoy my special touch ;-)
No, this isn't a scanned in image from the cover of Vogue. The bride and groom both looked stunning and were blessed with a beautiful day. A January wedding in Indiana can be quite a gamble, but I'd say the big man upstairs gave his approval of this marriage with his granting of a sunny, 50 degree day. 

The 50 degrees and sun in Southwest Indiana quickly turned to snow and ice by the time I cris-crossed the entire state back to the farm in Northeast Indiana for my final few days at home. One of the many benefits of life on the farm is having your own snow removal system.

I hope that most reading this will remember the name Pat Tillman. For those of you who don't, Pat was the NFL player who left professional football to enlist in the Army. Unfortunately Pat was killed in action while in Afghanistan during 2004, but the busiest USO in the country now bears his name. In the final stretch of my trip home, I happened to be stuck at Bagram Air Force Base for several days. I can't think of a more fitting place to have been on Superbowl Sunday...

1 comment:

  1. What a great trip home! What a blessing! Stay safe Bart!

    Love ya,