Shining A Light on the Dark Continent

The Long Trek Home

Navy Chaplain Rabbi Jon Cutler presents Dave with a Joint Service Commendation Medal on one of his last days in Djibouti.

“I couldn’t get to sleep until about 1:30 a.m. I was keyed up and excited the night before a long flight,” Dave wrote in his journal. But this wasn’t just any long flight. After almost seven months, Dave was finally going home to Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and Vicki.

After finishing up last minute business with his replacement Ch Bill O’Sullivan and last-minute packing, Dave said he just couldn’t get to sleep. He tried to call Vicki at home but she was out. “So, I tinkered, fidgeted, watched two movies and finally passed out,” he said.

He was up again at 4:30 for breakfast and then off to the Air Transportation Operations Center where customs did a thorough job of checking every nook and cranny of his bags. The plane was on time and soon he was in the air for about 26 hours flight to finally get to U.S. soil.

First stop was Bahrain, where Dave deployed in 2002 at a classified site used as a jumping off point for Marines on their way to Kabul. “That sure did bring back memories,” he wrote. The next stop was Sigonella, Italy. “It was great to breath fresh, clean air in a cool environment,” he said.

While in Italy, Dave saw this cat watching a man eat his lunch. “It made me think of home,” he said.

The last stop before the U.S. was in Rota, Spain. “It was all I could do to stay awake in the terminal. I wanted to sleep on the plane, so I was fighting to stay awake.”

Finally, on May 27, 2011, he set foot on American soil in Norfolk, Virginia. Dave said he slept six hours on the last leg of the trip, but was hungry and tired when they landed. After going through customs, finding bags and getting a ride to lodging, he was ready for a shower and a nap. “It was nice to have a real shower without time limits. I took advantage of it.” Dave also said it was nice to drink out of a drinking fountain and wash his hands in a sink and not worry if it was safe to do that.

After fiddling around with his computer, talking to Vicki and watching movies while eating Chinese food, it was after midnight again when Dave went to sleep before the final leg of his trip took him to Oklahoma City and Vicki.

“I was very tired, happy, and excited to see Vicki. And a little melancholy. It was a great mission and I couldn’t imagine any other deployment topping this one. I felt that completing this, my eighth deployment, I was content with it being my last deployment.”




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