Saturday, January 31, 2004

Space-A Warrior Woman reporting here. Greetings from . . . San Antonio!!! I can't believe we made it, but we did.

I really want this to be a long post, filled with every detail of our experience (like the luggage that almost didn't make it on the plane!), but I'm simply too tired. So I'll post just the highlights instead.

Our plane turned out to be a C-17 bound for Pope AFB, North Carolina. We were supposed to have been 3 of only 6 passengers on this particular flight, but just after the door closed in preparation for take-off, it opened up again. A C-5 had broken down and we were going to take on their passenger load as well. Our other passengers turned out to be about 50 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who were on their way home from Iraq. You can't buy that kind of experience, and we got to do it for free!

The flight crew let us and the other 3 space-a passengers hang out in the cockpit to stay warm while they reconfigured the aircraft to accommodate the extra people. Finally, we went back to our seats, the soldiers trooped on, and the door closed once again.

When the plane took off, the soldiers cheered. The one who was sitting across from me held up a finger and mouthed "One year." They were going home, and boy were they ever excited!

After the seatbelt sign went off, people started to make themselves comfortable. Some soldiers pulled their hats over their eyes and curled up on the floor under poncho liners; a few settled down atop the pallets that held their rucksacks; some stretched out across the seats left empty by the floor- and pallet-sleepers.

Mike and Annabelle slept the first couple of hours in their seats. When they stirred, I made a bed for Mike on the floor, and Annabelle stretched out across me and our 2 other seats. With a little help from our good friends Dramamine (Mike) and Benadryl (Annabelle), they were able to sleep for a good part of the trip. The plane was loud, but the kids were real troopers:

When it was time to get ready for landing, the soldiers started primping. One guy whipped off his shirt and smeared on some fresh deodorant, while others slapped on cologne or headed for the bathroom to brush their teeth. I thought it was so sweet that they wanted to smell good for their homecoming!

It seemed strange to be surrounded by so many people with guns, especially on an airplane! Here's a shot of the guys who sat across from us:

By the time we got a cab to the Fayetteville Airport to pick up our rental car, it was almost 11 p.m. My original plan had been to drive a few hours Wednesday night, a super-long day on Thursday, and then a few final hours Friday morning. I was just too mentally fried though to face a 22-hour drive. So instead we drove up to Raleigh, got a hotel for the night, and caught a Delta plane the next morning.

So we're here, we're fine, and we're having a blast. Those of you who had your fingers crossed for us can uncross them now. Would you mind though re-crossing them sometime next weekend though and thinking happy thoughts about the C-5s heading to Germany the following week?

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