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Yes, the airplane comes – eventually

Submitted by on Monday, 7 February 2011 2 Comments

There’s a reason the acronym AMC – for the military’s Air Mobility Command – is jokingly translated to “Airplane Might Come.”

There’s also a reason that a popular prayer asks, “God give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”

It comes in handy to remember both of those things when it comes time for a soldier to come home, because, while the airplane for-sure will come eventually, it usually don’t come when it’s scheduled to. I’ve known of soldiers who have cooled their jets for weeks waiting on a jet either grounded due to mechanical problems or unavailable because of a paperwork goof.

Sometimes you’ll luck out and things will go like clockwork. That happened when Dad was coming in for R&R in the fall and made it from forward operating base to front door in a jaw-dropping three  days. That tale is so unbelievable that I’m sure folks expect me to claim that he flew home on a unicorn.

But, then, it’s easier to find room on a plane for one soldier than it is to fit in an entire battalion. What’s far more common is his return trip stateside that ended this weekend, more than a week after it started.

The first leg featured mechanical trouble an hour or so into the trip that led to an extended stay in Afghanistan. Hundreds of soldiers tried to pass the days with cards and coffee. The second leg got caught up in a snowstorm – the one that canceled 9,000 flights stateside and at least one in Asia. The same hundred soldiers resorted to cards and coffee for several more days. Dad’s Afghani cell phone no longer worked, so communication was limited.

If the guys and I were living at the base to which Dad was returning the delay would have been impossible to hide from them, what with all the happy chatter at schools (when the snow allowed them to be in session, at least) and all the preparations on post.

If we’d flown back East to meet his plane, the guys would have been bouncing off hotel room walls and my mental cash register would have been adding to the total with every tick-tock of the clock during the four-day delay. Because of the guys’ school schedule, though, we decided not to make the trip.

So thousands of miles away, I had the luxury of patience. Dad had called just prior to the start of the final two legs of the journey, and the guys clamored for the next 24 hours.While they knew they  wouldn’t get to see him for another three weeks or so, it still was important to them to know that all four of us once again were in the same country.

“When do you think the plane will land?” they’d ask.

“When it lands,” I’d respond. “There’s no way to say for sure.”

Mid-afternoon Sunday, when an unfamiliar area code popped up on the Caller ID, I could say for sure: Dad was back in the United States. “It’s crazy here,” Dad reported. “There must be a thousand people. I can barely hear you.”

That was the moment when, expense be damned, I started wishing we’d made the trip. Hundreds of soldiers rushing into the arms of their families, while Dad and a few others stood alone. It just didn’t seem right.

“I’m going to go get him right now,” Boots said.

Not quite yet, babes. But in a few weeks, we will.

Yes, the airplane will come. There still might be delays, and Dad and I being deliberately pessimistic about its possible arrival date. We’re telling each other that it’s so the kids won’t be disappointed, but that’s not entirely true.

To the guys three weeks seems impossibly far away, but it’s as close as we’ve been for quite a while. And at least it will be three weeks spent stateside, where IEDs and insurgents no longer are threats.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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