"Hey! Are you awake?" asked Neal.
The correct answer would be "oh yes. I've been up for hours, just waiting on your call!" But the yawns and inability to make my nouns and verbs match gave me away.
"Mmm-now. How was...flight?"
"Long," he answered. He had been on a plane for most of a day and had been waiting on a plane + on a plane for over a day. And he didn't even have Australia or Hawaii to make it all worth it. "But we're in Ireland now. Just here for a little while, but I found a hot spot and wanted to call."
I was unable to express my happiness. Through the morning haze and pre-coffee lips it came out sounding like, "Oh yeaahhh...dat's goood." But I was thrilled that he had managed a phone call. The trip across the Atlantic always makes me anxious and with the plane they were on ("They have ashtrays in the armrests" was one of his first statements when they stopped at Ft. Hood to pick up another unit), I was relieved to hear his voice.
Everyone had scattered to grab a bite or a decent cup of coffee (in Ireland? Good luck. You're better off with the tea. It's part of Britain, y'know...home of the instant coffee) or try to place a call home.
The conversation was short. There is always something else that he must hurry up and get to, just to wait for an hour or two. But we've come to accept and even expect that. I call it the Army's Patience Program.
So, the 352 should be landing soon in Kuwait, where they will train just a little longer before flying into Iraq. That means limited Internet access, long days, and sleeping in open bay tents (with all of the music playing, alarms going off at all hours, conversations conducted at outside voice levels that comes with living in a 70-person tent). And I am assembling Neal's first care package...complete with Fiber One bars (going to war is no reason to not stay regular), calling cards (if AT&T really wanted to support the military, they would waive all fees for calls made from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. I hope the CEO sleeps soundly while he's snuggled under that blanket of freedom that our troops are providing), and his birthday gifts (TOMORROW is Neal's birthday! Please stop back over to send him a birthday greeting in the comments section!).
He did text me a few photos from their last hours at McGregor and their layover at Ft. Hood. I am posting the picture of them loading the plane, although every time I look at it, I have to choke back the tears. Leaving on a jet plane...don't know when you'll be back again...*sigh*
Neal has my niece, Flat Repunzerella, with him so I'm sure more pictures will follow. Thank you for all of your kind words, thoughts, and of course prayers on the blog, Facebook, and email. I finally feel like we are on a countdown. 356 wake-ups to go!