Published: August 20th 2009August 19th 2009
In Cherry Point waiting to go...
The day has finally arrived. I am most of the way through my 24hrs of travel, with still more waiting and travelling ahead of me. The last month has been so filled with family, friends, and work, that I can’t think of the last time I was bored. I now look forward to months of boredom - the kind of boredom that leads to professional growth, personal improvement, and a whole lot of movies.
My last day home, yesterday, began like any other - piecing together all the little odds and ends still needing attention before I leave. There was a small hiccup (and a big moment of panic at the time - sorry dad!) when someone called me from base saying I was supposed to be there an hour ago and that I missed some big administrative check in. Not the end of the world except that the base is 2hrs away. I explained that it’s hard to show up for something that you’re never informed about. Things were smoothed over and I was back on track to show up at the pre-determined time. Minor hitches, but annoyances nonetheless. We hopped in the car and headed up a little
He was traveling through Ireland at the same time we were!
early, which left us time to stop in McDonald’s for one of my favorite not-so-guilty pleasures - an ice cream cone. Seriously, if you haven’t been having McDonald’s ice cream, you’re missing out. Whatever’s in the mix, it’s some fairly healthy version of ice cream - like yogurt or something. Now if only I could find those elusive licorice sprinkles they had in Sweden…
I met up with a few other people in the parking lot where the parents dropped me. After hearing how they had similar uncoordinated workups for deployment, I didn’t feel so neglected. There were about 6 of us in the same boat - all going over on our own to head to units that are already there. Some of them don’t even know what job they’re going to be doing! Most of the other guys were Majors, but there were a few Captains (the equivalent of my rank but in the Marine Corps) and there was one Lt Col. It was our little officer contingent. We were all taken in a little white van (with all our stuff) to the staging area - a giant room with lots of chairs. We stopped first at the
The Lone Rangers
3 of the 6 of us who were in the same boat -- enjoying one last frosty beverage
armory to pick up our 9mm weapons (unloaded, of course). I guess I have to get used to carrying it… Then we were off to the terminal.
A little while after we arrived, the unit we were flying with descended on us - all 200+ of them. They’re mostly reservists from all over the country. Most of them aren’t going to the same base that we were going to, but we all go to Kuwait to wait for further transportation. The nice thing about having so few officers, is that when it came time to board the plane, they had us line up in ascending rank order, so we were the last to board - which meant we got first class. Of course, I just glossed over about 5hrs of sitting around in the terminal waiting, but it was mostly reading and passing the time. There was a moment at the end where the plane captain (the CO of the marines going with us) approached me as the only medical officer there and had me check the unit for H1N1 (swine flu) prior to boarding. My first taste of really having to work as a doctor outside of the
clinic - it reminded me why I was going, something easily forgotten when everyone tells you how boring and slow it is out there.
The plane we took is actually commercially operated (Omni Air) but we were joking because there are enough little things wrong with the plane (the lights above the seats don’t work, the speakers in the seats don’t work well, and it’s loud) that we figured it was probably retired from the commercial fleet because paying customers would complain too much. However, I can’t really complain. It was a very nice flight! For some reason they only let 24 people in first class, even though it would hold 3times that. So most of us got our own 3-seat row. If it had one more seat in the row, I could even have stretched out! As it was, I got to lie down and sleep as much as I wanted.
Our first flight was to Maine. We never really figured out why you would need to fly just under 2hrs to Maine to refuel before crossing the Atlantic, but we attributed it to a political desire to support the economy in Maine. In any case, the
USO in Maine is quite impressive. Apparently, Bangor gets A LOT of planes like ours going through, so they have a pretty good USO network. We ended up going through around 5am and there were 3 people standing at the gate greeting us and shaking our hands. So there ya go mom - if you don’t mind getting up ridiculously early, there’s a job for you. Haha We pretty much just sat around in the terminal for 2hrs until we got back on the plane. They had a shop that offered live lobsters boxed up for you. I asked if they could ship but they wouldn’t. A shame haha Unfortunately the free wifi wasn’t working, so I passed most of the time with more broken sleep. When we had gotten into the terminal at first and I looked around to see all our marines just lying on the floor and sleeping, I laughed. Ironic that I joined them about an hour later.
Soon enough, we boarded the plane and were on our way to Ireland. 4 and change hours later, we were landing in Eire. Looking out the window over the wet, overcast, but extremely green country, I nostalgically
He was traveling with McCain!
remember my trip with Lisa such a short time ago. My 10days in Ireland in March were one of my all-time favorite trips so far. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I really think Ireland should be high on everyone’s list of places to visit. As we were coming in to land, I looked down at the uneven geometric shapes of all different shades of velvety green punctuated with a fluffy tree here and there and dotted with flea-like sheep. Green fields and sheep - that pretty much sums up Ireland. Oh, and Guinness. :) Thank goodness we’re flying with some very well-behaved marines and a cool plane captain, or it could’ve been a dry stop in Ireland, and what a waste that would have been! I slept most of the way to Ireland, so when we arrived, I felt refreshed and awake. We deplaned and circulated into the section of the terminal that we were taking over for our 2-hr layover. It included a bar and… well that’s all I really needed. Haha We had free wi-fi, all the Guinness we could drink (which is usually just 1 for me - after that it just gets overpowering), and
Someone who got pinned on LtCol by Lieberman and McCain. What an honor!
great food - which is not to say that the airline food sucked, but….well it sucked. I had 2 of my favorite things from Ireland - Guinness and a scone. It was a happy stop. Just after we had gotten our Guinness, we were intercepted by Sen John McCain who was on his way through. He was with Lieberman and another senator (not really sure who…) It was a cool stop! He stayed with us for a little while and indulged the 200+ marines in individual photos (whoever wanted one). There was a Major traveling with us who had been selected for LtCol recently, but hadn’t pinned the rank on yet (a big ceremony). With a little scrambling, they came up with some rank for him to be pinned with and had an impromptu pinning ceremony by McCain and Lieberman! That’s a good story… Lieberman’s staff says it’ll end up in the local papers in Conn, so if you’re curious, do a google search. His name was Visconti (Italian from the Bronx - and boy does he sound like it!)
Pretty soon it was time to get back on the plane and settle in for the 6hr trip to
One for the road
Our last beer...
Kuwait. That’s where I now sit, writing, passing the time. I’ve slept on and off all day, but don’t feel bad. My arm itches like a bastard where my small pox vaccination site is festering, but I’m managing. The tender swollen lymph nodes in my armpit that popped up earlier today, along with an annoying ache in my left arm, have subsided, and now it’s just a general itch. I can’t wait to get somewhere stable and just let it air out for a while. Better yet, I can’t wait until the stupid thing is healed. If I had it to do again, I think I’d just tell them I had a history of eczema so I couldn’t get it.