Monday, July 30, 2012
We landed on the hot Ohio tarmac and waited for the USAF blue bus to drive out and retrieve us from the C-17, which transported us from RAF Mildenhall to Wright Patterson in Dayton. During the time in the terminal and the nine hours on the plane, we befriended the others and for the kids, they played with friends they knew. But once in the terminal, the connection begins to unravel. Bags are quickly retrieved and plans are made, as Ohio isn't the goal of most.
It is exceptionally hot here. The heartland is recovering from recent storms, so the electricity is out in many places. I watch as our friends disembark and dissipate in the hot Ohio sun. We originate from common grounds, all associated in some way with the Air Force, but we now melt away, literally going in all directions on US soil.
The military isn’t as visible here. We’re just about one percent of the population now. We come from our microcosm overseas, where we are unified by our air force connection, it takes me a moment to adjust back into our mostly invisible existence here. It’s both comforting and not, in equal measures.
Other folks prepare for the next leg of their journey towards their final destination. But ours is nearby. Ohio is home for us, even though we haven’t lived here now for more than 10 years. We could have landed anywhere CONUS, so it feels a bit like kismet that we’re here.
The kids feel it, too, and despite being tired, they are giddy with anticipation to see friends and family, and of course Cedar Point, our favorite roller coaster amusement park on Lake Erie.
Along with the time lapse, the temperature disparity adds to our disconnect. We left in layers. England was cold and rainy, and the climate on our plane is kept intentionally brisk. The C-17 is huge and roomy. We sprawled out in sleeping bags, and played mini-soccer with our hacky-sack. Beyond our safety brief before take-off, we were left to our own devices for the trans-Atlantic journey.
The Air Force spotted us a ride here. It's one of those unique benefits of active duty, dependents and retirees. If we do the paperwork, arrive on time, and have the right number in line, we may catch a ride on military transport planes going in various directions around the world. I felt like I won the lottery when they called my name.
Now we’re on our own in the 100 degree heat. I stow our passports, and look at my military ID still in my hand. At home in England, my military ID is the key to my world. Here, it is not necessary. I stock it away for safekeeping.
I watch the waves of hot roll off the tarmac. We quickly peel off the layers, and I remember how much I like air conditioning in these situations. It takes just a bit of time to gain our bearings, schlep our bags and secure our rental car. Before we know it, we are driving a recognizable path along I-70 East, toward the familiar …