Army Reservist Returns Home
#1

This narrative is by American Airlines 777 F/O Carrie Muehlbauer.

 

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I was feeling pretty darn good. Sitting in the right seat of my B-777 at London's Heathrow Airport, I just brought up the fuel levers to start her powerful Rolls Royce engines. I have been out of flying for nearly 8 months and was thrilled to be back. My pelvis was healed-my bike accident just another memory in my crazy life. I had a fun lay-over and we were all excited to get home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Flight Attendants were sweet and there was a "buzz" of anticipation as we taxied out of the ramp area. Only about 9 hours and we'll be back at O'Hare. Oh-oh. What's that amber light? A fuel control problem? But we're going home. Back to the gate. I asked the ground controller for permission to return to the gate-to work out our problem. I think he heard the dread in my voice and said "yes, luv, you may taxi as you wish to your gate" I felt better since he called me "Luv". Three hours later we were on our way West. It was dark now and we were pretty tired, but were happy to be going to the good ol' US. TaTa now London control!

 

We were a little crabby but had a great, smooth flight home over the North Atlantic. Over Greenland the stars above us have never been brighter. As we rumbled along, we grew weary. We'd miss our commuter flight home. Have to pay $50 bucks for a hotel. Now one of the flight attendants could not fly her trip the next day because of duty day. We only picked up about 30 minutes of pay for all our efforts. I couldn't sleep on my break. Someone's feet hurt. Always some complaint.

 

I spent the night at my friend Megan's in Chicago. It was nice. I wanted to get home-I'd been gone three nights now. Couldn't seem to get going. No energy. Headed back to O'Hare. Slightly groggy and borderline crabby. Then it happened. My fog cleared and I had a bit of an epiphany. Right there at gate H-4.

 

As I slogged toward my gate to return to Minneapolis, I saw a crowd gathered at H-4. Pilots, flight attendants, ramp workers, mechanics, passengers. All shapes and sizes, all ages and colors. Balloons and Hawaiian leis, music and banners. But mostly I saw the American flags. Hundreds of them. Then I remembered. Today was the day he was coming home. His face haunted me. The posters in our operations with his picture. His beautiful face and handsome, youthful smile. I saw him everywhere. I knew his story. I prayed for him. Bryan Anderson was coming home. Bryan is an American Airlines crew chief. He works on our planes and takes special care of them to get them ready to fly. A very important job. Bryan is also a member of the Army Reserves and had been serving in Iraq. Serving until he was nearly killed. Bryan lost three limbs one day. Three limbs. He left two legs and an arm, somewhere a long way from here. His family is here. I see them. His Mom and Dad and Brother and a lot of other young family members. Bryan has been in Washington DC for a long time in rehab. He is finally, finally coming home. I get to see him. I will wait. I will miss my plane home. I don't care. I feel I need to see him. A big burly American Airlines mechanic standing next to me, tells me his wish is to walk of the plane today. I will wait. The crowd is huge. It swells. Now passengers have heard what is happening and they join us. Here comes the plane. The fire trucks greet it and spray their water cannons in a salute to him as they inch toward the chocks. All of a sudden, a blue sea of comrades in uniform rush toward them. They are waving flags and clapping and yelling and screaming. Bryan is Home!!!!!! I look at the big hairy guys near me and they are crying. My pilot friends are crying. Strangers are crying. I am crying.

 

When Bryan walked off the jetbridge and into our arms we nearly collapsed. I don't know him personally, but he is my family. He works for my airline. He served my country. He walked back to us so we are free. He melted my crabbiness and made me ashamed that I complained that I was three hours late. That I missed one night in my bed. That I got the chicken not the steak on the way home from London. I have no room to complain. None of us do. Bryan does. But, he doesn't. His Mama embraced him and everything is so good. Right now. Right here at gate H-4.

 

Now it is Thanksgiving eve and I know what I am thankful for. I am thankful for my health and my family and my friends. I am thankful for the opportunity to have all of this put in perspective for me when I least expected it. So when you sit down with those you love, please think of Bryan and all of our armed forces who have given so much. Some won't come home and some will leave pieces behind. We have so much to be thankful for. That's why I'm sending this-so you know that I'm glad you're in my life. Let's hope that Thanksgiving 2007 will find us free of war and everyone back home. Happy Thanksgiving. Carrie (Mary)

Marion J Chard
Proud Daughter of Walter (Monday) Poniedzialek
540th Engineer Combat Regiment, 2833rd Bn, H&S Co, 4th Platoon
There's "No Bridge Too Far"
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