Thursday, February 21, 2008
This posting has been a long time coming…about 15 months in the works! Chris has now been home for five days and things are going extremely well. On Friday, I received a call from his Commander’s wife to say that he was due to come home on an earlier flight than expected (Yay!) He was scheduled to arrive in New Jersey on Tuesday and have to be bused to Ft. Bragg but luckily flew directly into Pope Air Force Base (attached to Ft. Bragg) at 4am on Sunday. On Friday I met my Mom for lunch at her school, had the Jeep checked out by my Dad, picked up the U-Haul trailer and watched my brother Ryan’s last regular season basketball game as a senior and then we hit the road! We had originally planned on leaving on Saturday but due to the change in Chris’s arrival time, my Mom and I drove the Jeep and U-Haul to Columbus (Ohio) where all of my things were and we met Steve and Sharon (Chris’s parents) and his cousin Aaron to load up the U-Haul. We got to bed around 1am and were up by 5:30am to meet Grandma and Grandpa Kimmet who were driving my car to NC for us. By 6:10am our caravan hit the road for an uneventful but long trip. We arrived at the apartment around 5pm and two aunts (Sandy and Pat); one uncle (Larry) and a family of cousins (Tanna, Allan, Will, Emma and Jack) met us to help unload the trailer and got all of Chris’s things out of storage. I cannot express how blessed we were to have so many willing hands to help unpack and offer their support! Within hours we had everything in the apartment and somewhat set up. I think it will take a couple of weeks to get everything in place but right now we are able to function effectively every day. After unpacking and eating dinner (thanks to the family for stocking our fridge and cabinets full) we all took naps before leaving for Pope AFB at 2am to see the plane land and finally see Chris. We arrived at “Green Ramp” a warehouse off the landing strip where the plane would land around 2:30am and everyone chatted, took pictures and filled up on snacks provided to stay awake for the next couple hours until we saw our favorite soldier. Announcements were made every half hour followed by cheers from the 500+ family members awaiting the planes arrival. Time moved both fast and slow as we got closer to the arrival of the troops. When we heard the plane land, people surged toward the door of the building to see it. After what seemed like forever, the soldiers in neat rows marched in the building! There was a short prayer by the Chaplin, a speech by a General, the Star Spangled Banner, a couple of Army songs and then the soldiers were released for 15 minutes to say hello to family members. It was a flood of hugs and kisses as everyone welcomed Chris home! One moment that stands out in my mind is the awe that Will (Chris’s 7 year old cousin) had at the pistol Chris was carrying. After the 15 minutes, the soldiers loaded up on busses to head back to their offices to get everything accounted for and pick up their bags. We went back to the apartment to catch up on sleep until Chris arrived at 8:30am and we all caught up on the last 15 months over breakfast. Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better homecoming experience!