Iraq, The Story Unfolds -- "Vacation from Iraq, Swine Flu Came to Visit"

Real Estate Agent with Keller Williams Realty

     First off for those of you who have been following my posts I want to apologize for such a long wait time from the last one.  Things have been very hectic in the past two months.  Anyway I had left the last post talking about my up-coming leave.  As you can guess from the title of this blog, it was not quite what I expected. 

     So the days from my last post until I left got really crazy.  I was placed in the administration office to help out the personnel section to cover down on other Soldiers that were on leave.  This is all and good except I was still required to work my other full time job as well.  This is why I say things got really hectic.  Most days started around 6:30 AM and lasted up into the late evening.  The only good that came of any of this was that it helped my days pass by just a bit quicker.  However with my eye on the clock it still seemed to be barely moving.  Finally after about three weeks of pure (well crap) my day to leave finally came.  I will walk you all through the experience.

     You would think that after six years of being in this country they would have the system to get Soldiers home down to an art.  Well it is far from that.  My unit was able to schedule my flight from my current location down to Kuwait.  This is where all the leave processing is done.  I arrived around 2PM and told to "transient housing" until 7:30PM.  Transient housing is a fancy name for a tent.  However in this case it is about 96 tents.  Each tent has the capacity of about 12 Soldiers, and everytime I have been through there they are darn near full.  These are reserved specifically for the Soldiers going to and from leave.  Your space consists of either a top or bottom bink, no more no less.  Ill let you do the math on how many are coming and going everyday.   

     So 7:30 rolls around and its roll call for those going on leave.  We show up and they told us, thanks for coming, come back tomorrow morning.  That was it, there was no information, nothing else but a time and place.  The next morning we show up, sit through a binch of mandatory classes on how to act around civilians, then its off to customs.  A very (and I mean VERY) thorough search through our bags and off we go to the flight line.  We sit there until about 10 PM waiting on our aircraft.

     One look at this aircraft and you can tell that it is defanalty contracted through the military system, (lowest bidder).  The airline is called "Omni-Air International,"  I have never heard of it.  In fact after seeing the inside and out of the plane, I believe it is only still in business from the military contract.   As all 360+ of us cram inside, we realize that this aircraft must have been built for the smaller framed Arabs.  Us overweight, larger framed, American's can barely fit side by side in here.  Add that up to the fact that my seats recliner was broken, headset didnt work, and the TV (8) rows in front of me looked like a 1980's 15" computer monitor that barely supported color.  Lastly, and what I blame the most for my failed vacation, was the fact that it did not even have ventilation.  Okay maybe a few vents were hidden up in the top ceiling above the rows, but nothing you could feel at the passenger level.  Keep in mind that most Soldiers at this point have been in the desert, at 120+ temperature, going on 24-48 hours without a shower or change of uniform.  You could practically see the bacteria flying around in the cabin.  My best definition of this place was a cess pool.

     So 18 hours in the air in these conditions, I never thought Atlanta airport looked so good.  It was a quick transition from Omni-Air to Delta and now on my way to Knoxville.  As I arrive in the terminal of Atlanta, I am quickly on the phone making sure my wife is at the other end.  A quick Im here and you would have thought someone was chasing me through the breezeway's.  I exit out the security gate and finally get to see my wife for the first time in eight months.  If anyone is interested my wife actually had a photographer there waiting on me.  He took some great pictures and put them to music and a slide show.  He did a really good job, all of my wife's friends really loved them.  You can check them out at my Facebook account.  I will admit that while I am over here, I do not have access to my FaceBook so my wife maintains it.  You will have to request to add me as a friend, make sure to put a commment that you are from Active Rain.  Search for Nicholas Bush and filter by school.  Look for Southwestern Pulaski County High School.  (For some reason Facebook does not want to aknowlege that I live in Knoxville Tennessee).  Anyway after the photographer got plenty of pictures, I threw my wife in the car.  Since I had been gone for eight months . . . . . well . . .I wont talk about the rest of that day.

     Day one:  The real fun begins.  I woke up this morning, less than 24 hours after arriving, not feeling so good.  My wife took my temperature and found it at 101.7.  Not wanting anything to ruin this two weeks of bliss I actually for once agreed to go straight to the family doctor.  There he ran a few tests, to include a flu swab, and everything came back negative.  However he thought it was still probably the flu and due to my quick response it hasnt had enough time to come positive yet.  He started me on Tami-flu, which was a good decision.  To be honest I was actually feeling alot better that afternoon and still managed to steal my wife away for dinner and a movie.  It was a fairly good day.

     Day Two:  This morning is when everything hit the fan.  I woke up feeling absolutly horrible and extremely weak.  I managed to drag myself to the couch and passed out shortly after.  I was woke up by my wife an hour or so later, I was sweating perfusely, and my temp came up to 105.7.  My wife (a nurse) said she was surprised that I did not start having febrile seizures.  The funny part to this is that I had been watching Smallville on TV the night before and when I woke I was having hallucinations.  I actually believed that I was Clark Kent, however thankfully I did not have enough energy to get up, or I may have tried to see if I could fly off the porch.  Anyway I was talking all kinds of non-sence.  My wife finally managed to get me off the couch and in the car and she took me to the ER that she works at.  Several hours there and a few bags of IV fluids I was feeling a little better but it would be a few days before I was able to recover.

     The next few days I was pretty much bed-ridden.  My temperature was staying between 101-104.  The worst part was that it was time for us to finally take that Hawaii vacation.  Unfortunatly I was un-able to fly, and we had to cancel.  Thankfully I had the fore-sight of getting vacation insurance and managed to only loose a few hundred, as opposed to a few thousand that I put down.  The Hawaii trip was a bust, but I was still able to salve part of my vacation.  

     After I got better, (on or around day eight), I was finally able to go visit some friends and family.  I managed to squeeze in a game of golf with my dad, and a day to "try" to teach my wife to play as well.  We took our anniversary a month early and went down to Sweetwater Tennessee to a place called The Lost Sea.  It was actually a nice little place to visit.  I wouldnt recommend travel to the area for the attraction, but if your in the area it would be worth spending half a day to visit.  You go down in a cave about two miles underground to a hidden underground lake.  The tour guide takes you out on a little boat in the dark over the water.  It was kinda romantic, (it would have been better without the other ten people that was with us). 

     Not much else happened on the trip until it was time to return to Iraq.  I flew back into Atlanta where the military screened everyone to make sure that no-one was going to take any sicknesses back to Iraq.  When I was screened (even to my surprise) my temp was back up to 99.6.  This normally would not have stopped them from sending me but when they found out that I had just been diagnosed with the Swine Flu they sent me to some little clinic in the airport.  The doctor there thought that I had developed some type of bacterial bronchitis and put me on a 48 hour hold.  Thankfully I only live about five hours from the Atlanta airport so I quickly had my wife packing her things and driving down.  I wasnt able to leave Atlanta, but that didnt mean it would stop her from coming down.  I was able to get an extra two days to spend with her.  I actually just found out that several of the wives and Soldiers in the unit are not just jealous but downright upset that I got an extra two days.  This message is for them only:  I would happily trade that extra 48 hours for the 7 days I spent staring at the ceiling, cross-eyed and dreuling.  While I did get two extra days I still came up about 5 short.) Sorry everyone else, I had to do that.

     I really dont want to get into the goodbyes as it was hard enough the first time around.  Actually the funny story is that on this one depolyment this was actually our Sixth time saying goodbye to one-another.  First I was told that i would be going to train in my new job at Fort Huachuca Arizona and would be going straight from there, then I was sent home after that training.  Second was when I left for Fort Bennign for the Mobilization Center.  Had some administrative issues there and was placed on a four day pass.  This lead to the third when my wife came down and stayed with me for those days.  Fourth was at the Atlanta airport when I was leaving the first time to come over.  We were told we had to wait from 8am to about 2AM on our flight and she had time to come down.  Fifth was on leave when I left for Atlanta as mentioned above.  Then Sixth when my flight took off after the 48 hour hold in Atlanta. 

    Now back to that great Airline "Omni-Air".  Our aircraft to get us back to Iraq was in as good of condition as the one that brought us over.  As we start down the runway seomthing happend and our aircraft lost all power.  We taxi'd back in and after some time they finally had us un-board.  My wife was still there so we managed to grab something to eat and steal about two more hours until they were able to get another Omni-Aircraft ready for flight.  This lead to our SEVENTH good-bye.  You would think that by now it would be easier but I think it got harder everytime.  Anyway on the second attempt the aircraft managed to get us back.

     Wait, thats not the end.  The process for leave still continues.  We finally reach Kuwait and now it is time to get back to our duty location.  THis is much harder than it seems.  There were some people there that waited one-two weeks for that flight back to their location.  Again this falls under my comment "You would think after six years of this they would have this down to an art."  It was far from that, in fact the process of tracking the Soldiers seemed to fall through somehow as names were "magically" dropped off the rosters, and Soldiers were overlooked.  In one case they even FORGOT to tell the group that a flight for a certain location was leaving and let it fly back almost empty. I will not bash on the military anymore but I will leave it with one last well-known to military.  The system was as screwed up as a football bat. 

    Anyway my 15 days back home managed to streatch out to 31 days away from my duty location.  Im back, now and just counting down the days until I get to go home.  Yes I do have a date now however due to "operational security" I cannot disclose that date.  However I will continue to sing the song "I'll be home for Christmas". 

Thank you all for putting up with such a long post.  I guess I should not wait so long between them the next time.






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Comments (10)

Larry Bettag
Cherry Creek Mortgage Illinois Residential Mortgage License LMB #0005759 Cherry Creek Mortgage NMLS #: 3001 - Saint Charles, IL
Vice-President of National Production

Wow...what a story.  I'd go stir crazy being packed like that in your Omni Air flight.  It'd drive me nuts, but the rest of the your just glad to be back and resting.  Thanks for serving our country.

Oct 20, 2009 01:15 AM
William J. Archambault, Jr.
The Real Estate Investment Institute - Houston, TX


I'm gld you got to spend time with your wife, regardless!

Thanks for serving.


Oct 20, 2009 01:41 AM
Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

Nick, wow, that sure was unplanned to say the least. I am glad you got over the flu, that is dangerous in itself. And we will look for you home here as we are basking in the glow of all the holiday activities! Thank you for the update, and it is so understandable that you are busy.

Thank you for all you do!

Oct 20, 2009 02:07 AM
Andrea Swiedler
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties - New Milford, CT
Realtor, Southern Litchfield County CT

And I found you under Nicholas Bush, could not mistake that photo of you and your lovely wife. I have sent a friend request to her/you. And even remembered to tell her I was from Activerain.

Oct 20, 2009 02:11 AM
Claude Cross
Homes By Cross, Inc. - Charlotte, NC
Charlotte NC Homes For Sale

Nicholas - Hawaii isn't going anywhere. Im sure you will get another opportunity. Bummer about the flu. But the Omni Air thing boarders on cruel and unusual punishment. Sounds like you managed to get some quality time in with your wife and family. May you stay out of harms way. Hopefully next time back home you will jingle all the way. Thanks for keeping the bad guys away from here

Oct 20, 2009 02:26 AM
Tammy Lankford,
Lane Realty Eatonton, GA Lake Sinclair, Milledgeville, 706-485-9668 - Eatonton, GA
Broker GA Lake Sinclair/Eatonton/Milledgeville

I imagine my husband can relate to your story.  Glad you had a visit, sorry you had the flu, hopefully your next trip home will be oh so much better... and you will be here to stay.  Thanks for your service.

Oct 20, 2009 04:09 AM
Ed Silva
Mapleridge Realty, CT 203-206-0754 - Waterbury, CT
Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally

Hi Nicholas happy to read that you were unharmed during your absence from the Rain. Also sad to read that in 30 years the Army still hasn't gotten the idea of letting the guys in the ranks know what's happening.  Hope the rest of your tour goes well and that you return home safe and unharmed. Thanks for sharing.

Oct 20, 2009 08:44 AM
Judy Jennings
Top Agent Plus - Middleboro, MA
Tap into Judy's real estate expertise & resources.

Nicholas - I was wondering what happened to you. Glad to hear you are safe and sound, but sorry to hear that a portion of your well earned leave included a bout with the dreaded swine flu. We are praying that the song you are singing "I'll be home for Christmas" comes true! Stay safe and healthy and thanks for the update.

Oct 20, 2009 10:59 AM
Donna J. Stephens
BHHS Ambassador Real Estate - Omaha, NE

Glad you are safe and sound. I've been watching for you. Keep in touch as much as you can, especially when you get back to the states, okay?

Oct 20, 2009 11:07 AM
Marchel Peterson
Results Realty - Spring, TX
Spring TX Real Estate E-Pro

Nicholas, I'm so sorry to hear that you got sick on your leave.  That REALLY sucks!  The process getting in and out sounds similar to what our son went through on both of his tours.  Our daughter is a flight attendant for North American Airlines who also has one of the contracts to move our troops.  They have decent planes.  Most of their R & R flights go out of Dallas though.  I guess this means you only have less than 3 months until you are out!!!  Maybe when you get out you can take that Hawaii trip!!

Our son is going to college now and acclimating to life after the Army. 

Oct 20, 2009 01:15 PM