Last weekend we traveled to Jacksonville, NC, to welcome LCPL Albrecht from Iraq. The hotel was really nice, we got to sleep till noon Saturday and Sunday, and we had plenty of time to explore the town.
We knew Billy's battalion would be arriving on September 7, but that's about all we knew. Where would they land, what time would they land, how many stops would they have to make before they get to the reception site? Nobody knew the answers to these questions, and tension among the group rose and rose until we were all about to explode. I think we were all so excited to see Billy and were frustrated because the chances of seeing him before we had to come home grew more and more slim.
Saturday night, after a road trip to Emerald Isle and some shopping, Ashley, whose Indian name would be "resourceful one," got on the internets and "the Google" and found a message board for families of CLB6, which Billy is a part of. It seemed like the other families had the same concerns we had, and were just as frustrated at the lack of information available. But she found a hot line number, called it, and got an ETA for the plane landing of 1920 Sunday! Still no detail about what time we would actually see him...we all wanted to scream and some of us did :)
Sunday afternoon we headed over to the base (in our matching t-shirts) to get our visitor passes and found the building where the reception would be. I feel like we were there for 5 hours waiting patiently...oh wait, we WERE there for 5 hours! Every time we saw headlights off in the distance, people stood up just to find out it wasn't what we were waiting for. 4 huge troop transport trucks came down the road but they were empty. An 18-wheeler arrived with a load of packs, and you could tell the veteran families, because as the packs were being unloaded, they dug through the pile to get the one belonging to their son/brother/husband rather than waiting to dig through the huge pile when the troops finally showed up.
FINALLY, at 130am Monday morning, 4 charter buses pulled around the corner in the distance and someone started the slow clap...Bonnie, Ashley, and I held up our signs and waited for the buses to pull up. As soon as we saw the first 4 or 5 guys exit the bus, I thought we would never find Billy because with matching uniforms, hats, and haircuts, all those Marines looked alike! I guess he saw our sign because he walked up to us right away and we pretty much attacked him with hugs! The smile on his face when he saw his family made the whole weekend, fighting, frustrations, and all, worth it!
We got to spend a couple of hours with him before we had to get a few hours sleep before driving home Monday morning. He'll be home on the 18th for a few weeks, so everyone will get to spend much more time with him then...