My adventure isn’t over, so I am hesitant to even write about my travel situation this week but I want to share a little more details about the long week I have had and the support I have gotten from the most unexpected places.
For those of you who are not military affiliated or like me, had never heard of space-a, let me give you a little more information. The Space-Available travel program is a travel benefit to military members that allows authorized passengers to occupy aircraft seats that are surplus after all space-required passengers like active duty members coming home from deployments and cargo have been accommodated. Space-available travel is a privilege (not an entitlement) available to Uniformed Services members and their dependents. The majority of Space-A flights are offered by the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command (AMC) or the Navy and Space-A seats are normally free and they fly out regularly from Ramstein AFB because it is a huge european hub for planes going to and coming from the sandbox as a refueling/resting station. It is also a maintenance hub for planes. This means that a lot of the scheduled flights that are coming in are put on the departure board and then end up being cancelled last minute because of some problem they only find out about when they get the plane on the ground.
So the way it works is that you have to first make sure you are eligible and sign up for space-a at the terminal you wish to fly out of. You have to sign up, and this date comes in handy, but it is not the only thing that decides when and if you fly out. You are also placed in a category depending on your status. For example, I would normally fall into category 5 if I was flying without James, category 3 if I was flying with my active duty member, but because he is deployed for 179 days, I fall into category 4. If he was deployed for over 365 days, I would be in category 3 again.
I just checked into a flight to charleston! Tx bound tomorrow!! — atRamstein Passenger Terminal.
Welllll I got to sit on a c17 for a while. It’s not In flying shape though so we’ve been moved back to the terminal….to be continued.
Ugh. Plane needs at least 14 hours of work so I’m delayed til 3pm tomorrow. At least. I’m stuck in the terminal with no car and no house key. 🙁
The USO (United Services Organization) has a great set up in the Ramstein Pax terminal. They have a bunch of leather couches, a movie theater set up, and a bunch of computers available for use. I sat in the stadium seating for a while and then when a couch opened up around 4 or so I moved over there and fell asleep to my ipod even though it wasn’t allowed. I woke up about 2 hours later and found out that my flight was delayed again. A little later, Shareen called me back freaking out because she felt so bad and had her husband Ash meet me at the terminal to pick me up. I didn’t really want to be picked up but I was really curious about what to do. The plane continued to be delayed…up to 11:40 that night. I asked around and even though most of the people decided that since they were already manifested on, they were going to wait it out. Then I talked to another guy who said that he heard they were going to push it to the next morning. I took the advice of the Ancogs as well as the guy in front of me and I took myself off of the flight and went to the back to get my bag. It was really funny because Ash and about 5 guys had to destroy the entire pile to find my hot pink baggage tag only to find that it had turned itself around and was now showing all of my info on its white backside. It took them a while! So then I marked myself present for Monday’s flights. In my mind, even if I didn’t make one of the Monday flights, this plane wasn’t going to take off until Tuesday and there was a flight to Texas on Tuesday so I would rather take that one anyways. (I was being really positive at this point.)
The terminal is crazy today and I decided earlier to forfeit my flight. Now I’m hanging out with lotsa babies and barking dogs. Fun times.
A couple of my photography friends were getting together for coffee and one in particular, Leah, was up at the terminal dropping some stuff off for Project Rudolf which is an organization that puts together bags with candy and letters from kids for deploying soldiers. Another photographer was setting up lots of pink cupcakes for her daughter’s birthday to give away to people in the terminal so Leah came by to drop off a batch! She scooped me up and I met with them for coffee. It was a nice break from the terminal!
I made some friends and kept checking the roll call every time they announced a flight. Shareen even came by and sat with me for a while and acted like any mom would and wanted to go make something happen. The hardest part is that yelling or getting mad will get you no where in this situation. You just have to wait until your name gets called. You don’t have the luxury of being a valued customer so it really doesn’t matter if you have been there forever, if you are not on the roll call list, you’re not getting on the flight!
So the last option this afternoon is now no longer an option because it’s all cargo. The last flight tonight is the one I gave up. The chances of me getting back on are slim. 6 seats. Fml.
So the guy was right. The Charleston flight got pushed to the next morning and the people from my original flight were all pissed. I, however, was a little happy because it meant that I still had a chance to not only get on that flight, but that the decision I had made to get off of it still hadn’t come back to bite me in the butt even though I didn’t make another flight.
Pushed back again. Headed back to the terminal at 4am. 5 flights tomorrow morning. 5 chances to get home!
Shareen picked me up after she finished her volunteering and took me to her house. She fed me, gave me movies, and even let me nap for a couple of hours!! I hung out with the Ancogs and then at about 3am I packed up again and headed to the base. What I didn’t realize is that I hadn’t driven without a gps to her house and I kind of freaked out and got lost for a minute on the wait to the terminal…scary at 3am…but I found my way and got there right in time for the first roll call.
I was getting so frustrated when I didn’t make it. I knew there was a slim chance that I would but I almost tried to avoid facebook because I was tired of giving bad news. Then my bestie Taryn asked.
Any more updates?!
I’m totally not getting a flight today. I keep thinking I might make the last flight but this last list moved me down about 15 spots. 🙁
Mid morning I was sitting in front of the roll call in my favorite seat (the one right next to the vending machines that are plugged into a power strip with one extra prong so I can charge my phone when it gets low and also next to a wall so I can lean against it and fall asleep.) (Sad that I chose a permanent seat right?) when my little terminal family started talking about our options. There was one older guy, two young active duty members, and two families of 3 flying without their active members. Only one of the families of 3 was behind me on the list. One of the young guys, Tyler, started saying he was going to try and head back to where he lived (Spangdahlem) because there was only one flight scheduled for the next morning at Ramstein and there were 5 scheduled out of Spangdahlem. He offered me a ride and even said I could stay in his dorm because he is a fireman and could stay at the station. We shared sob stories about my sitting on a flight and his getting kicked out for falling asleep the night before and realized we were both headed to Texas. He was going back because his grandpa is really sick and he wanted to see him. I decided against the advice of those who love me to take him up on his offer. I needed to take every opportunity I could. I even tried to find another ride so my car wouldn’t be stuck an hour and a half away from home and promised Jessica I would pay for lodging instead of stay at his dorm room but this just seemed like the only option I had to get out.
Anyone feel like making an early morning trip to spangdahlem? My chances there are 5 tomorrow compared to 1 flight with seats here.
Tyler’s 2 friends and one of their wives came to pick us up and they were all extremely nice to me. I’m talking extreme. We stopped at the BX for bathroom breaks and food for them and I waited for James to wake up and tell me it was okay for me to leave home with strangers. I think the only reason he okayed it was because one of their wives was involved. They actually invited me to stay in their home with them so I wouldn’t have to pay for lodging as well! It was so nice to have a shower and a bed! I even got to go check out the fire station!
I’m @ Spangdahlem yall–pray I get to hop across the pond tomorrow!
· · Tuesday at 7:14pm
I checked my email that night and got really scared because the woman I had sent my cat 4 letter to at Spangdahlem said it was invalid. Whoever wrote my letter wrote the years 2012-2013 instead of 2011-2012. The email said that she wasn’t going to be able to let me fly in category 4 unless the letter was corrected by the time of the flight.
I started freaking out. I called Shareen and had Ash call people. I emailed James’s first shirt and told him to get me a new letter asap. I emailed the woman back and begged and pleaded to let me use it since Ramstein didn’t tell me it was something to worry about. I finally just had a couple of drinks with my new friends and called it a night, hoping that I would either have a new letter in the morning or that James’s deployment orders would be enough. And they were.
We got there at 4am and I had no problems getting into cat 4. All I had to do was flash her the papers. ahh. I felt so good about my chances because there were only a couple of single fliers ahead of me and Tyler got out on the first flight. Things changed quickly though when some of those families started walking through the doors. The number of seats went down. The number of flights changed. I was all in panic again.
There were a ton of soldiers that came through on their way home from Afghanistan. It was so weird to see them walk in with guns over their shoulders and sit down and get their macbooks out. lol. I also loved the irony of their dirty uniforms and their sparkly wedding rings. It reminded me that they weren’t just men in uniform but that they were husbands, and they completely and totally 100% deserved to get home to their families more than I do.
It cleared out because no one thought they would get anymore flights and I called Jessica to come get me and then decided to use the hour and a half drive it would take her to catch up on some sleep. The guy behind the counter came and woke me up and told me that I should stick around because an unexpected flight came in and there were 3 seats on it. He warned me that one of the families of 3 told him they were coming back but if they didn’t, I would be on that flight. I got all excited and then ten minutes later they walked in. A baby not even old enough to walk was their number 3, and the reason I didn’t make that flight. I was so frustrated.
The one flight that was supposed to get out of Ramstein that day had been postponed until 5pm so I figured I would just have Jessica drop me off at the terminal but when we pulled up one of the guys from my original Charleston flight stopped me and said they had delayed it to the next morning and not to waste my time. So I went home and took a long nap.
I just got back to Ramstein to find out that the Dover flight is delayed until tomorrow morning. It’s okay though. I am home and resting up for the 7 chances I have of getting out tomorrow. and there are 73 seats on the first one! Keep praying!!
· · Wednesday at 2:56pm
That night I had a long talk with James and we pretty much came to the conclusion, after some arguing of course, that there was a good chance I would just stay here for Christmas. I decided to take my chances on Thursday’s flights since there were so many but after that my chances would be worse due to the schools letting out for Christmas. It meant that there would be double or triple the amount of families in the terminal.
I started crying after this conversation. I know that I am a military wife now and that means that I won’t get to see my family as much as I would like to and that I will probably never live close to them again but I was just broken hearted about the idea of not seeing them for Christmas. Holidays have always been a really big deal for us and I HATED not being there for Thanksgiving. The only thing that got me through was the fact that I knew I would be there for Christmas. I was just so frustrated about my week, and my emotions were running so high I couldn’t handle everything anymore. I left for the terminal super early and forgot to call and check on flight changes. One of my terminal family members stopped me in the parking garage and told me that the 4:10 flight had been pushed to 5:45 so I went back to my car and laid in the back seat and cried for a while. It was so pathetic but I just couldn’t handle the stress anymore. I felt stupid because I know that all I have really been doing is sitting on my butt in the terminal all week but I was just so so so tired of getting my hopes up and crushed every day. I felt like I was in the movie Groundhog Day. Like Bill Murray, it didn’t matter what I did, I could never move on from this hell! I felt like I was stuck in purgatory. I couldn’t go on with my life here, but I wasn’t getting to Texas either. Just STUCK.
I have officially had a meltdown. If I ever get home, I’m not sure I ever want to leave.
It didn’t get any better when I got inside the terminal for first roll call.
Only one seat left on* the first flight
I’m 145 right now.
At this point I just kept randomly crying. I told my sister Debbie that I might not come home and she just messaged me back saying, “I understand. :(” and then my little brother Kevin wrote on my status saying “Christmas is when you get here Jen, LOVE.” I couldn’t keep composed to save my life. Even my brother in law Rudy messaged me telling me he was sorry it was so hard. I was a mess. I had strangers (that I had seen every day for the past 5 days) coming up to me, handing me their information and telling me to join them for Christmas if I didn’t make it out. One of the single soldiers came and tried to make me laugh several times because he felt so bad for me. I had a couple of friends bring me stuff! My friend Paula brought me cookies and my friend Rob from the photography club brought me a coffee!
I am crying. I just had a 20 year old come tell me it’s going to be okay and that he would take me to chilis for a Christmas dinner if I don’t get to go home.
At lunch I made my way upstairs to grab some food from Subway. The whole terminal is made of glass windows so I could see the parking lot. It was full of families all walking in to mark themselves present for the day. I just lost it and started getting really negative. I even used the H word.
I’m number 182. These cat 3 families just keeeeep rollin in. I hate them all.
I keep telling myself that this is a free service and that I have no room to complain but it is so hard to stay positive about this category system after this week. This is in no way fair. I don’t mind that there is a seniority system, but I don’t believe that it was fair at all that I was still there after 5 days of waiting at roll call for EVERY flight and watching these families jump in front of me for every one of them. It was absolutely heart breaking. The music being played upstairs by a horn band didn’t help.
The Christmas songs in the terminal are depressing me. “theres no place like home for the holidays”, “I’ll be home for christmas”, “I’ll have a blue Christmas without you”. Ugh.
Toni came up to me and gave me some more information on the next flight and encouraged me to stay just to see what could happen but of course…
Not getting out today. Only 66 on the next flight and the 2 after have 0 seats.
About the time I was throwing the towel in, John was messaging me on facebook asking for an update. We were discussing the possibility of commercial flights when I told him, “dude, James just bought a ticket home from Memphis and the money in our account has to go to rent,” and then he rocked my world.
After I picked my jaw up off of the terminal floor and quit my crying, I walked across the street and into the RTT travel agency in the BX and booked a ticket home.
I can’t describe the feeling when she handed me my itinerary. Home to Lubbock on Saturday night. I feel unbelievable.
I love unexpected happy endings.
· · 19 hours ago near Landstuhl
I had a full nights sleep last night. I didn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to drive to the terminal and park my car and drag my suitcase inside. I didn’t have to stand in line to mark myself present. I didn’t have to watch a million families leave before me. I didn’t have to live for the next roll call. I didn’t have to sleep in a terminal. I didn’t have to eat airport food. I didn’t have to ask someone to watch my bags every time I needed to pee.
It was a wonderful day!
I am leaving in the morning for Frankfurt. It is supposed to start snowing here at 11 tonight. I am hoping that the weather will turn around so that I can not worry about that keeping me from getting home…but I don’t even care. I have a ticket and I will hopefully be on a plane at noon tomorrow.
So a big THANK YOU to John Darden and his FBC Tahoka family! I owe you guys so big and can’t express my gratitude enough. I love what John said to me.
Thanks for being the answer to mine, and a lot of other peoples prayers John. You are an amazing man of God, and a really wonderful friend. You have truly blessed me this season. I am so overwhelmed with thankfulness! The lord blesses those who bless others and I hope you receive blessings ten fold for doing this for me!
So friends and family, I WILL be home for Christmas. 🙂 It’s a dream come true.