Disclaimer: Im certain that a more reflective entry will follow in the next week or so but for now it’s to much of a raw thing to put into words just yet so I’m going to bore you with the gritty details of getting a service-member off of the front line and back home to be with his family in a time of need.
Let me begin with some back ground information in the unit that I serve with so that you can understand how far from normal we are in the grand scheme of things. 3/6 is a Victory unit, I.E. they are the trigger pullers, they are front line. So being their chaplain I’m about as far forward as you can get. Granted this is not a conventional war and there are no front lines but we are out there. So getting home involves jumping through some hoops, set on fire, surface of the sun hoops, but meh it all just another day in the life of. So how this works; the Red Cross, yes that Red Cross, confirms the emergency And actually contacts the command. In fact the only official way to contact a service member, even when in the US is to use the Red Cross as they are, for whatever reason the confirming authority on all emergency matters that may pull the service member away from his job to be by families in times of need.
Now in case you think this process is slow. I checked my email right before Worship Service and then right after it, about an hour later. In that time the command had already received my Red Cross and was pushing my request for leave up the chain before I found out via email (the reason I was not contacted in that hour was my choice for various reasons that are to length and moot for this post) The information gets there fast. And by the days end I was packed and staring out of the back of an Osprey, headed off the front line towards Camp Leatherneck, the hub off all things Marine in Afghanistan.
Let me stop for a second and point out that for the battalion going to war, I left on a Friday and arrived at Marjah (the FOB the 3/6 is headquartered at) on Thursday of the next week. As I type this I’m in Atlanta, on Tuesday and should be home tonight, I was notified Saturday. 3 days quicker – because it matters. I may hate the government right along with you but one thing the Department of Defense does very well – in fact better then our allies based on conversations I’ve had in country with other coalition forces is we take very good care of our own.
So Saturday night I arrive at leatherneck and sleep on a mattress for the first time in 6 weeks – divine! The next morning I’m off to board a C130. A fun ride kinda like a roller coaster that can kill you. But it got us to Kandahar, which was my last stop in country before actually getting somewhere to hook up with a civilian airline. The trip from Kandahar was great! Imagine an airplane with an unfinished interior where you can see all the wires, there are no windows and you have a luxurious seat made for a midget to yourself. It’s not really that bad if you think happy thoughts – like why does my seat move every time the plane inches forward. None the less by Sunday night I was at Al Udeid Airforce Base in Qatar.
It was a fuel stop on our way to Kuwait and the personnel who began my booking said it would be quicker to start there rather then go through Kuwait. Sounded good to me, and hey I got to sleep at an USAF forward base to boot. I just have to say, the Marines are pansies, the Air-force has it the worst – I mean being forced to daily pick between taco bell and burger king would drive a sane man crazy! I kid, but it was kinda weird to think I was still considered in a combat zone at this point.
Now comes the fun, in a blurry kind of way, part. Here was my Tuesday:
Shuttle to Qatar airport left at 8pm Monday night. My flight was 12:45am. 7 hours later I was in Frankfurt Germany for a 5 hour layover, noon flight to Atlanta that would arrive at 4pm.. No it was not a four hour flight, I’m a time traveler, it was a 10 hour flight. At around 9 tonight I’ll fly home to arrive around 10:30.
The best part, I rarely sleep on planes, so I can fully understand the term “the red eye, as I’ve been in a half life since leaving Qatar 36 hours ago, and I’m not entirely sure I haven’t said something sacrilegious in this post. I’ve come to some conclusions from this mis-adventure, even when it is absolutely worth it, being a world traveler is the ninth level of hell.
The smile I’ll see in about 2 hours will make it all a bad dream. And Wednesday, Wednesday will make it fade completely as I’m rejoined with sisters and a mother I desperately need to be with right now.
God is good, even when He forces me to fly.