Well...I finally made it home after 31 hours on a plane! The trip was long and exhausting...but I am finally here enjoying the Hawaii that I have been hearing so much about while I have been gone. (Remember...I was only here for 6 weeks before I deployed).
I was scheduled to leave on a Saturday and a large group of us arrived for our briefing/flight information and were informed that our flight had been cancelled. Not delayed. Cancelled. Not a good thing to hear. Actually, the airman who told us asked us if we wanted to good news or the bad news first. We said the bad news and he told us that the flight was cancelled. He then smugly informed us that the good news was that there was always tomorrow. I would have chosen another method of delivery because this poor airman was almost mugged on the spot.
We finally left our base and flew four hours to Kuwait. There we waited a total of 28 hours in a sweltering tent with no phones or Internet until we finally boarded a contracted airline for our flight to the US. There was not an empty seat and the amazing thing about this aircraft was that my eight year old would have been cramped. The seats were minuscule. I barely had room to maneuver my arms in order to eat my in flight food. But, 18 hours later we arrived in the US.
I had been unable to call Amy and let her know we have been delayed and had planned on doing so when we re-fueled (after the first nine hours) in Europe. However, the phones only took international calls and would not take my credit card. No problem. I had already given Amy my flight schedule and we were still expected to arrive on time. Well...nine hours later we arrived in the US and we were over two hours late. Needless to say, I missed my connecting flight (it had left for Hawaii one hour earlier) and I was scrambling to get a connecting flight. Delta was able to hook me up, but I only had 15 minutes to catch my flight. I dashed through the airport like a mad man and got on the aircraft just as they were shutting to doors. Obviously, I was unable to call Amy and let her know of my new arrival time. I was still arriving (believe it or not) at almost the same time as previously planned.
The flight to Hawaii was crowded, but the seats were much roomier and I knew I was about to see my family in a matter of hours. I slept as much as possible and looked forward to the reunion. I arrived at the airport and rushed to the baggage claim. I quickly looked for Amy and the kids but could not find them. In a panic I called her from a pay phone and she told me that Delta had told her I missed my connecting flight. Ouch! Amy and the kids had just left the airport and she whipped the car back around and made it back in less than 15 minutes. She rarely speeds or drives recklessly, and the kids have not told me how the trip back to the airport went....but I imagine it was quite a rapid event. As soon as I saw them I forgot about the frustration of the trip and my heart melted. Here were my anchors, my reason for being, the most important people in my life. I swept them up in my arms and we all cried a little as we embraced. I breathed them in and was swept away with love. Family....you just can't appreciate it until you have been away from them.
We have had an incredible time so far and I am looking forward to many idyllic days before I climb back into the tiny, cramped seats of an overcrowded airplane and head back over. However, it is worth it because my batteries are being re-charged and I will be heading back home for good in a short time. This too shall pass and we will all look back on the deployment and marvel at how fast it passed. Aloha!