So, we were back at Ramstein, hoping to go back to the States on Monday. Well, that didn't happen. As Tim said in one of his comments, flying on a C-5, we were lucky to make it to Germany only a few hours later than the original time. On Monday, there was one flight that only had 2 available seats on it. They got taken up right away. Then, some of the other flights just completely disappeared out of the system. They just didn't happen. We would have to try again on Tuesday. We spent the bulk of the day hanging out at the BX, going to the Commissary, and repeatedly going to the terminal to check on flights. We actually had fun, though. It was interesting seeing how people lived on a base overseas.
So we figured we could stay at the terminal. The USO had this really nice family lounge set up with a nice big couch, cribs for babies, a TV with all sorts of movies to watch. There were showers in the terminal. Everything we needed for just a few hours stay (the first fly we were going to try for in the morning was at 4:30). Here's Grant and Kendall chillin on the couch in the family lounge. And then there's Kendall trying to stand on her own! Okay, maybe we were trying to get her to stand...but it's such a cute picture, isn't it?
Well, after making ourselves at home, and hanging out at the terminal for a few hours, we were told that the entire terminal closed at 11:30 pm. So we had to get another night's stay at lodging.
Learning our lesson from the day before, we thought it would be best to call the terminal before we physically went there. So around 3 that morning, Grant called. Found out that the 4:30 flight got moved back to 6:30. Then around 5 he called, they said it got moved back to 8:30. Around 7 he called, and they said it was still on for 8:30. This was good news! So, we got packed up and made our way to the terminal.
Everything was going smoothly - we got checked into the flight, even got through security, and we were waiting at the gate. While we were waiting, we were told that it would be delayed for about another hour and a half. That time came and went, and we were still sitting there. They kept telling us, "Oh, just a few more minutes." I was starting to become very skeptical. Sure enough, they said the flight wasn't going to leave until 5:30 the next morning! At this point, I thought I was never going to leave Germany!!
The good news was that there was a commercial flight (a flight on a regular plane, instead of a military plane) scheduled to leave later that afternoon. We were able to get confirmed on that flight, and we felt much better knowing it was a commercial flight. Well, that ended up getting delayed a bit, too, but we did finally board the plane and leave. We boarded that plane along with a couple hundred troops coming back from deployment (I'm not sure where from).
Now comes the part that was what we call, a very low point in our lives...
So, we arrive in the Baltimore airport late on Tuesday night. We go through the passport check, then get our baggage, which we got very quickly, and then made our way through customs. Since we got our baggage so quickly, there had only been a few people to go through customs ahead of us. As we were walking past customs, about to go through the door to the main terminal, there was a girl in front of us who was coming off of deployment. She was maybe a couple hundred feet in front of us.
As she went through the doors, we heard a lot of clapping and cheering. I thought, "How sweet, she had family here waiting for her." Then I started thinking that it sounded like an awful lot of people for just one person. What if it was a welcoming committee? That's going to be a little awkward if they clap for us, since we're just coming back from vacation - not deployment.
Sure enough, we walk through the doors, just the 3 of us, the clapping paused for a second, like the crowd was a little unsure, then started up again. Let me just describe the scene - Grant has a scruffy beard. We've both been wearing the same clothes for a couple of days, so we're looking a little run down. I'm pushing a baby stroller. We're NOT wearing BDU's like the ones who were coming back from deployment were.
People were yelling, "Welcome home! Thanks for your service! God bless the USA!" etc. They were handing us goodie bags and girl scout cookies, shaking our hands. One guy, which I avoided, was giving out hugs. Grant swears that some of the old men that shook his hand had tears in their eyes as they thanked him from the bottom of their heart for his service. I heard one lady say as she saw me pushing the stroller, "Oh, bless her heart."
This whole thing seriously felt like it came straight out of a Seinfeld episode! What were we supposed to do? We couldn't silence the crowd and explain to them that we were just coming off of a lovely vacation in France and Germany. We also couldn't avoid getting all the handouts. They were literally shoving them in our hands. I did manage to say "No thank you" to a goodie bag, because Grant already got one. They kept trying to get me to take it, and I just kept saying No over and over again. They thought I was just being humble, while I was really just trying to make sure a more deserving person got that goodie bag.
Anyways, we got through this whole mess, and about 50 feet away, we just started cracking up. I mean, what else could we do? So here's a picture of us, holding all of the goods that we just received, feeling like the lowest people on earth.
To make matters worse, when we opened up the goodie bag, there were hand written notes from people going into great detail about how proud they are to be an American, thanks to our service.
All of this was put together by the USO. So to ease our guilty consciences, and after being so impressed with their family lounge at Ramstein, we've decided to donate to them. The only way they operate is through donations, and I think they do a great job at keeping up the morale of the soldiers. They also have some really good specific things you can donate to. Like this one, where they tape a soldier reading a children's book out loud. Then they send the tape of the reading and the book to the soldier's child, so the child can see and hear their mommy or daddy reading a book to them. If you're looking for an organization to donate to, I greatly urge you to looking into donating to the USO. So that's my little plug for them.
Anyways, we got a hotel room near the Baltimore airport, and found some cheap airplane tickets to Dayton that was leaving the next morning.
While we were in the airport waiting for our flight to leave, guess who we saw?! Jon and Kate Plus 8!! If you don't know, this is a show on TLC, about this couple who were having a hard time conceiving. So they used fertility drugs and got twin girls. Then they decided they wanted more kids, so they used fertility drugs and got sextuplets (3 girls and 3 boys)!
So, I was feeding Kendall, and I was sitting in a chair, facing away from the main corridor. All of the sudden, Grant walks up and says, "I just saw the Professor." To explain, one of the sextuplet boys, Jon and Kate call him the Professor because he wears glasses. He's my favorite one. (Photo taken from TLC's website - http://tlc.discovery.com/tv/jon-and-kate/meet.html)
So when Grant said he saw the Professor, I was just thinking he meant he saw another cute kid wearing glasses. So I was like, "That's cool." Then he told me to turn around, because I was about to miss him, so I turned around and see Jon and Kate, 8 little kids, a nanny, and a camera woman! I have to say, for a group of 12 people - 8 of whom were little kids - walking through an airport, they were so quiet! At one point, I heard Kate say, "Aaden!" That's the professor. Other than that, they didn't make a sound. I was very impressed. But because I waited so long to turn around, I only saw the back of the Professor's head. So anyways, that was just something cool that happened.
A couple hours later, we were back at home. We did it - we took a relatively stress-free European vacation with a 2 month old. It can be done!