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Flying Space Available

by Toiny Westberry on 19 May 2012
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While we love being stationed in beautiful Germany, one of the major downsides is how far we are from family.  Our parents, my sister, our big boys. This is especially difficult when it comes to big events.  Events we really, really want to be at, like Soren’s graduation two weeks ago.  It is not cheap to fly a family of five from Germany to California.

Luckily the military has a special program for soldiers trying to get from Point A to Point B.  It’s called Space Available, and in a nutshell, it means taking a ride on a military plane going in your general direction.  It’s not for everyone, it takes patience, perseverance and knowledge.  These planes have a mission, and the mission is not you.

We knew this would be hard, and we planned extra leave time for Dave before & after the graduation.  Getting out of Ramstein was tough.   On our first day there was one flight going to the states, ending up in Washington, pretty close to California.  Unfortunately it had four seats, and we were five.  On day two the kids got whiny, waiting in the terminal is not fun.  We took them to the Ramstein mall for lunch, and the big playplace.  And we missed “our” flight.  Our flight got moved up by two hours, unheard of on commercial planes, but not uncommon for military flights.

Day three all flights were delayed or canceled, and we spent the day at the Ramstein pool swimming, relaxing and having a much needed break from the terminal.  Day four was going great, until a group of beautiful doggies took our seats.  I am very grateful for the work our K-9 unites do, but I admit, on day four, I cried a little. Day five was very promising, there were four flights going stateside, and we were on the first one.  Of course, we had to be there at 4 am, but we did it.  That plane finally left at 5:30 pm… and we missed all flights from Baltimore to San Francisco and had to find a hotel for 6 short hours.

But we made it to California!  In time for Sorens graduation,and with extra time to play.  Our trip home went much better, not perfect mind you, but much better.  We all agree it was worth the extra “hurry up & wait”.  We all agree we love flying on military aircraft.  Take-off & landing is a little weird when you are sitting sideways, with no windows to see what is happening, but in-flight is marvelous.  We spread our sleeping bags on the floor and just slept.

One more thing, the best thing, when we landed at Baltimore it was a regular airport, not a military airfield, we went through customs, then out into the main terminal.  Much like a regular trans-atlantic flight.  The difference?  We were greeted by not 1, not 2 but approximately 12 USO volunteers.  All of them with bells, some with little care packages (water, fruit, snacks) and all welcoming us back to US soil.  All thanking us for our service, soldiers .

It made me cry.

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