Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fourth of July Weekend in the Company of Heroes, Friends & Strangers - Part I

On the Wednesday before 4th of July I got one of my wild ideas and decided to hop a flight to German for the holiday weekend.  I had a buddy pass (thanks to my awesome friends at Delta Air Lines) that was about to expire so I decided to take advantage of it.

My dear friend MaryAnn of Soldiers Angels Germany and I had been tossing the idea around for a couple of weeks but on Wednesday I emailed her that I was coming.  MaryAnn has an excellent group of volunteers who help out at Landstuhl but extra hands are always needed.  Plus, I love spending time with MaryAnn.

With bags packed and hopeful that I would make it, I left work at noon on Friday and headed to the airport.  There are no guarantees with a buddy pass.  One only gets a seat if there is one available after all those who pay a fare for their tickets are accommodated.  Made the first flight to Detroit.  Flight from there to Frankfurt was "iffy".  I strolled the airport for 2 1/2 hours.  At one point I decided to go to the ticket counter to see if they could let me know where I stood on the "stand by" list.  While there I witnessed quite a comical event.  Some lady had been dropped off at the airport with FOURTEEN bags and a tropical bird in a small dog carrier.  I got to witness the "show" as the airline employees attempted to explain to this lady that she could NOT check 14 bags and that birds are never allowed to fly.

I made the flight from Detroit to Frankfurt and in International Business Class!  YAY!  Bonus!  Alas, just as we began to board the gate agent announced that we would be delayed due to mechanical problems.  No worries for me.  I knew I was lucky to have such a great seat and would, eventually, get to Germany.

We finally got underway.  I enjoyed a delicious 5 course meal then laid my seat flat for a 6 hour "nap" while wearing the noise reducing headphones provided.  Not sure if I snored like a bear and kept others awake but I slept well.

Once in Frankfurt I found the shuttle service and was on my way to Landstuhl - excited as heck to see MaryAnn and get to the hospital to do whatever needed to be done.  After the hour's drive we were in the town of Landstuhl and I began to notice landmarks near the hotel where I would be staying.  I started to gather my purse, book, etc then...............whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.................the driver drove right by the hotel.  What?  The driver took a couple to their home first.  As we were leaving their home the driver got a call.  I don't speak German but I understood "five minutes."  I laughed.  Yep, MaryAnn had called the shuttle service wanting to know if I was en route.

We pulled up to the hotel and MaryAnn was sitting on a rock retaining wall waiting.  What a wonderful welcome!  She came walking over and gave me a big hug then asked why I was so late?  I explained.  We got me checked in and made a call to a couple of ROCK Paratroopers who are at the hospital for pain management, etc.  They loaded up and drove over to the hotel so that we could go for a late lunch.  Another wonderful bonus to the trip.  I knew they were at the hospital but I wasn't sure if they would be around for the weekend.  If you've read this blog much at all you know how much I love "my" ROCK Paratroopers!

MaryAnn and a couple of the ROCK Paratroopers

One of the ROCK Paratroopers and me

MaryAnn getting a little help with the ketchup.  LOL!

After a wonderful lunch and many laughs we all headed to the hospital.  The guys went there way and MaryAnn and I began opening boxes of mail, taking inventory then heading to the stock rooms to place the items on the shelves. 

As I entered the stock room that holds mostly blankets, sweat pants and hoodies I gasped as I saw this:

Those shelves need to be stocked with sweat pants and hoodies.  I figured there must be some boxes somewhere that just had not been unpacked yet but when I asked MaryAnn about that she said there were no boxes, that they are out of size XL and critically low on all other sizes.  Donations are down and casualties are up.  So PLEASE, if you can spare a few dollars, go to this link from my prior blog post and help.  ANY help is good.

MaryAnn and I then straightened up one of the rooms in the Wounded Warrior barracks where the out patients and family members of all of the Wounded Warriors can go to take any items they may need.  We restocked with a few t shirts (very low stock on those, too), socks, toiletries, blankets, etc.  MaryAnn went over to the other barracks to take stock of what was needed there while I continued to open boxes of mail.

Since it was Saturday night and the medevac from Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to the USA leaves on Sundays (as well as 2 others days a week), MaryAnn and I loaded up the cart with blankets, travel pillows and duffel bags to head to the wards to pass those out to anyone needing them for the flight the next morning.  I wrote about this involved process in a prior post here.  And in that same post (link to the left) I also wrote about (towards the bottom) and posted a photo of me with SGT Stephanie McCulley.  I had planned to look Stephanie up on this trip.  Little did I know the circumstances under which that would happen on this trip.  Just a day or two before I left I got a message from Stephanie that her husband, John, who is a former Marine and currently working for a contractor in Iraq, had been blown up.  He was in surgery in Baghdad at the time.  I had very few details.  By the time I got to Landstuhl John and the Soldiers who were with him that day and survived had made it to Landstuhl.  So on our rounds I stopped by John's room.  Stephanie wasn't there at the moment but I was able to talk with John for a couple of minutes.  He was alert but a bit "drugged".  It was SO good to see him!

MaryAnn and I finished our rounds of the wards, took the cart back to the stock room and linked back up with the paratroopers.  We went into town for dinner.  Many more laughs and great memories made.  Only day one and so much packed into it.  I wasn't exceptionally tired for some reason and slept like a baby that night.  I was looking forward to the 3 days left and all that we would try to accomplish.

Most of all I fell asleep knowing how incredibly blessed I am for all of the amazing people in my life and for all of the special opportunities I have had.

We caught back up with the paratroopers and went to dinner in town.  Many more laughs and great memories made.


Vance said...

Great job Leta, I'm constantly amazed at the work you do for our troops.

ParachuteCutie said...

Vance, thank you for your comment. I honestly remind myself every day how fortunate and blessed I am.