I had the unusual pleasure of seeing the Good Chaplain in the middle of his deployment to Africa. He attended a conference in Italy so he tacked on his 96 hour pass and invited me to join him. Seeing your spouse during a six month deployment is not common, but I’ve gotten the opportunity twice — coincidentally both times were in Italy.
The first time we were still stationed at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia and actually it was only a three-month deployment. The Good Chaplain was in Pisa, Italy back in the day when the troops received a fairly sizeable daily allowance, or per diem, to stay in a local hotel not on a military installation.
The group from Robins soon learned they were not spending even close to the per diem so the call went out. “We can afford for you to fly over. How soon can you get tickets and a passport?” We decided I would fly over for Valentine’s Day with another spouse, a dad who was bringing his two-year-old son and might need help.
I booked my tickets and applied for my passport. Now here’s the thing about getting a passport. At the time, it didn’t take long but for some reason there was a backlog. But, for only $60 extra dollars you could get it expedited. Yeah, right.
I applied for my passport and had about 6 weeks for it to arrive. To be sure, I paid the fee to get it faster. As the day of my departure loomed closer, I still did not have my passport. The week of my leaving I called the passport people in Miami every day. The conversation went something like: “I am leaving for Italy next Monday morning and I still don’t have my passport. Can you check on it for me?”
“We’re processing it right now. You will have it in plenty of time.”
Tuesday: “I’m leaving for Italy on Monday morning and still do not have my passport. Can you check on it for me?”
“Your passport is still being processed but will be mailed to you today.”
Wednesday: “Yesterday I called and you said I would get my passport today. It still isn’t here. Can you check on it for me?”
“It is still being processed but will go out today.”
“That’s what you said yesterday. I paid to expedite it six weeks ago so I wouldn’t be cutting it this close.”
“We’ve been busy, but it should go out today.”
Thursday, same story. Friday, I’m calling the Good Chaplain crying because I am leaving in 72 hours and my passport STILL hasn’t arrived.
On Friday’s call to Miami they said I should have it already because it went out on Thursday. The local post office did not recall receiving it and traced it to Atlanta. But I would definitely have it Saturday.
Saturday the mail came and no passport. Call to the post office: “I am leaving for Italy on Monday morning and I still don’t have my passport. WHERE IS IT?”
“It’s here, but it came too late to go out with your postal delivery person. We will hold it and you can come and pick it up.”
I promptly drove to the post office. “My passport is here and I need to pick it up.”
“Oh, your mailman came back and he is taking it to you now.”
I knew it would miss the mailman as I sped home. Thankfully my next door neighbor knew I was waiting for the package, intercepted the mailman and signed for it.
I made my flight Monday morning with no problems. But after that, I made sure to always update my passport whether I had travel plans or not!