Breezy and I left Butler at about 4:30 pm. We stopped at about midnight at a Days Inn in N. Carolina and got the shock of our lives. She was sleeping in the car, so I locked her in and went inside to register. I had just handed the receptionist my credit card when all of a sudden there were cop cars pulling in all over the place, surrounding my car and the hotel, there were guys with guns running past the car and crawling all over the lawn. Breezy woke up and was looking at me with terror in her eyes and all I could think was what is going on and how do I get my kid into the building! Or me out! I ran to the door, held it open and motioned for her to quickly get out of the car and come in (because I knew nothing was going on in the lobby) and she ran in with no shoes just crying. By this time there were FBI and Customs agents running all over the place with dogs and they went and rammed 3 doors down and broke all the windows in those 3 hotel rooms. We were not allowed to leave the hotel while anything was going on because nobody knew at that point what really was going on. We sat there for about half an hour before an FBI agent came in and told us that everything was safe now. They had arrested 12 illegal aliens that I guess were running drugs. Unfortunately we had to stay at this hotel because it was so late and I didn't know how far it would be to the next town with hotels in it (it had taken an hour to even see an exit with hotels once I decided to stop). I can honestly say that I didn't sleep a wink. And the worst part - they made me pay full price for the room!
So the next day, we keep driving and finally get to Columbus, GA. You would just have to know that the hotel that I chose was in the slums. We went to check in and there were people just screaming at each other in the lobby. I swallowed my reservations and still checked in and we went around to the room. First let me say, there was a trailer court next door and someone was playing their radio so loud the bass was shaking the whole hotel. Then there were people in lawn chairs in groups around the doors of their rooms (at least I assume it was their rooms) exactly like you see in tenements in inner cities. I was still brave and actually went into the room. I about died. It was DISGUSTING! Dirt. Bugs. As big as my bathroom. I was just sick. And we could hear everything that everyone outside was saying and doing. I hurried up and grabbed my phone and called my Trip Rewards plan that I had booked through. My first words to the rep? GET. ME. OUT. OF. HERE!!!! She did manage to get my money back for this room and booked me into a very nice hotel about 12 miles away, but you just had to know that nobody could give me directions. I drove around that flippin town for about 2 hours until my friend Moe could get home from work to help me by using Expedia and walking me through the directions street by street.
I frankly already just wanted to go home.
But I did find the base while driving around so when Kevin called me at about 8pm, I was able to get right to the base and grab him. He told me then that I needed to go to the 'drop zone' and watch him jump in the morning. He, of course, had no idea how to get to it though.
He said he wouldn't be jumping until sometime after 9am, so we got to the base right about 9 and got directions from the officer at the gate. Easy, right? Well, apparently he didn't know where it was either. He sent us to the airfield - not the drop zone. Now at this point, I heard a ding. Yep - you guessed it - 10 miles to empty. I forgot to put freakin gas in the car on the way! I am in the middle of the woods in Fort Benning - haven't seen a soul for at least 10 minutes and I am about out of gas. Oh, and still no sight of the drop zone . I was so excited to come around a bend and see an entry gate. I got out and started talking to the guards and I can assure you, had a blank look on my face while they were explaining how to get to the closest gas station (but I was pretty close to the drop zone - yay! Which by the way is in Alabama, not even Georgia) One of the nice guys escorted me to the gas station because he probably knew I would end up somewhere sitting at the side of the road with an empty tank of gas just crying. But hey - I did manage to fill up and make my way all the way back to the gate and got directions this time to the drop zone and headed out. I made it there at 10am. An hour late. I stood there and watched all these kids/guys jump out of the plane and walk past me. Not one of them was my son. I was so disappointed that I must have missed Kevin jumping. All I could think was how disappointed he must have been that we weren't there.
As the last guy jumped we were finally told when and where graduation would be. (no - we had no idea until that moment if these kids WOULD even graduate - this could have been a wasted trip) Breezy and I made it safely back to our hotel and came back for graduation. Now at this point, I am thinking I am pretty familiar with this damn Army base. NOT! Couldn't find the damn airwalk that the ceremony was at. Had to stop and get directions a couple more times but alas, I did make it on time (just). Then it comes time for me to pin Kevin's Airborne wings onto this uniform. I walked up to him and I said "I am so sorry I didn't get to see you jump" - I was all teary eyed and everything and he looks at me dumbfounded and says "WHAT? MOM - YOU LOOKED RIGHT AT ME! WE MADE EYE CONTACT AND EVERYTHING. YOU MEAN YOU DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT WAS ME?" Goodness! I was mortified that I didn't even recognize my own son.
So now he is supposed to get to come home with us. They decide they are going to keep the kids until 10pm. This made me mad because it was just a control thing. These kids just had to stand in formation for 2 hours while all these parents just stood around waiting for their kids so they could head home. But anyway, at just about 10pm, Kevin comes up to me (and mind you - this is Friday night) and says I have to be in Germany on Tuesday. WHAT?!! We are 16 hours from home and all his belongings are there!
We go back to the hotel and try to get out of our reservation so we could get at least half way home, but they won't let us. We went to bed, and got up early Sat and drove all day. We got home Sun morning at about 3am, rested and Kevin went to say goodbye to his friends and his girlfriend. The next day we had to cancel his cell phone, do his taxes, go to the bank and go to the recruiters office to find out how he is supposed to get a passport in one freakin day (his orders state he needs one, but it turns out that he didn't). We then went to my family's so he can say goodbye to them and then we headed to Baltimore, MD as that is the airport he must depart from.
You just had to know that we got the first 'real' snow storm of the season on the day he needs to head out to Germany. We had to leave him at the airport in Baltimore 3 hours before his flight so that we could try to be home before too late as it's normally a 5 hour drive and there was already 5 inches of snow at home and it was still coming down. We knew it was going to be a very long drive. Now because it was snowing, his flight to Germany via Chicago was delayed by about 6 hours so the poor kid sat in the airport all by himself all day. And you guessed it - by the time he made it to Chicago, he had missed his connect to Frankfurt. I was such a mess wondering if anyone was even going to meet him once he got to Germany. I mean, it's not like he knows how to speak German or anything.
Anyway, no one did meet him. He wandered around the airport until he found a USO. They put him on a bus to the base (which is 3 hours from the airport) and I can honestly say - I just burst into tears when he finally called to tell me that he made it safely.
What a horrible trip. The only bright spot? Being able to pin Kevin's wings on his uniform!