It takes a long-ass time to get to Afghanistan from the US.
First, I flew from Boston to Norfolk, where I hung out waiting for a day.
Maybe one of the flight attendants took pity on my teary-snotty self, because I got bumped or something to a first-class seat, which happened to be the nicest plane seat I’ve ever sat in. There was an option to transform the seat into a bed! Hellz yeah!
So of course this totally awesome portion of my trip lasted a little less than 45 minutes (out of approximately 48 hours of travel).
Flew into Norfolk, VA. Stayed in billeting for one night, and took a moment to appreciate the fact that this would likely be the last time I’d sleep in a room alone or be able to poop in peace for the next six months. Had an emotional bowel movement.
The next day, myself and about 300 other G.I.s packed onto a huge plane (no amazing seats; only the terrible regular ones) flew to Portsmouth, New Hampshire…
Why couldn’t I just drive to Portsmouth from Boston, you might ask? …It’s the military. Don’t ask questions you can’t handle the answer to. You can’t handle the truth! (had to go there)
When we rolled into Portsmouth around midnight, strung out from the road Bob Seger-style, instead of a regular airport terminal, we were greeted by this:
Me: “God I’m tired–What in the world is this? …Free food and cute dogs? Okay, I’m down with that.”
What the hell is that, you might be wondering? It’s the Hero’s Walk, put on by the Pease Greeters at the Portsmouth airport! They’re a group of vets and other interested parties who stand in a line and greet every single plane of deployment-bound military folks that fly through there; we were flight #1,069. They had free food, swag, and dogs to pet! Here’s a helpful diorama of the experience:
After shaking about a hundred wizened, old hands, stuffing our faces with donuts, and fondling animals, we were ushered into the terminal area. There, we all lined up for an impromptu ceremony with speechifying about sacrifice and whatnot, then praying (Christian) and singing (God Bless America and the National Anthem). THEN there were hugs and goodie bags filled with Lindor chocolate truffle balls (spoiler – it all melted by the time I got in-country), and we were ushered back on the plane.
And then the seven-hour flight to Germany began…