Brothers in Arms
By: SPC Matthew Montesa
My name is SPC Matthew Montesa, and I thought I would share a story of a recent roadtrip I had.
Last Oct-Nov, I reclassed my MOS to 19K. Because of the typical Army paperwork snafu, I wound up going to Camp Shelby MS, to the 154th RTI. The class was small, with only 5 soldiers. At the end of the three week course, I was scheduled to fly out of Biloxi, MS on Saturday morning. Well, as luck would have it, we were cut loose Friday night to go our separate ways. All of the other guys had driven POVs, as most were from neighboring states. They were all hot to bug out, and I can't really say I blame them. One guy went from the "graduation" to his POV and left post haste. Of the remaining 4, one went to get an oil change before his trip home, two went off to pack, and I was left to ponder my long trip home.
I was told that the "bus", which was more or less a cattle car, and an open stake bed truck to carry the baggage to Biloxi was to be out in front of the barracks at 5:30am the next morning. I was supposed to ride with about 60 others form the most recent WLC course, down to Biloxi, where I would be forced to wait till 1:30 in the afternoon for the first leg of my flight home. Needless to say, I was not very enthused about an early morning and a very long wait at the airport.
Initially I was pretty down about the whole thing, as my classmates were very upbeat about being able to get an early start on their way home. I had pretty much resigned myself to my fate (I must have done something bad in a previous life), and decided to go change into civies and go get some chow.
About this time, my classmate Sgt. H came around and asked about my plans. I told him of my impending travel arrangements, and he immediately came up with a plan: Call the airline and see if I could get an earlier flight out. I already had and there were no earlier flights. He was sympathetic to my plight, and asked me if I wanted to go get some chow in a few minutes. I agreed to meet him and Spc W. in five minutes in the quad.
Later, while standing in line to eat, Sgt H. made another great suggestion: Why not call the airline and see if I could just change the departure airport. He saw no reason why I souldnt be able to. Better yet, I could ride with him and Spc. W (his truck) to Nashville! I could surely get an earlier flight back to Los Angeles from there.
On speaking with the airline ticket agent, I was told that becuase I was traveling on a government issued ticket I could not change the departure point. Things were looking pretty grim. I went round and round with the ticket agent for a few minutes, and finally spoke to a supervisor who told me the best advice they could give me would be to call the USPFO back in California to see if they would authorize a change of this nature, as they were the only ones authorized to do so. Mulling over this at dinner, Sgt H. and Spc. W., not to mention myself, became quite exasperated at the fact that I couldn't change the departure point and that it was dumb that I had to wait around, delaying my arrival at home by almost 24 hours. I was tired and wanted to go HOME.
Back at the barracks, I made a few calls back to the airline, to get information on flights out of Nashville. I had to find a flight that would coincide with my arrival in Nashville, which was figured to be about 2-3 am, after a 6 or 7 hour drive across country. I was quickly running out of time, and had to figure something out soon. Spc W. and Sgt H. were getting close to the cutoff time that they had to stick to to make it home! After another 30 minutes or so, I was on the phone with the agent at the USFPO, explaining my situation. The agent was unable to make a determination, and deferred to the CWO on duty there for a decision. After waiting with baited breath for 5 minutes the agent came back on the line and said the Chief agreed to the plan (THANK YOU CHIEF!!!).
Final details were worked out between them, myself and the airline, and my seat was booked on the first plane out of Nashville at 6am the next morning. At this point, I had a 6-7 hour ride in the jump seat of a crewcab pickup, a 4 hour wait in the Nashiville airport, and then my flight home. Whatever it was, it was better than a cattlecar ride at 5:30 in the morning and a 6 or 7 hour wait in the Biloxi airport lounge. I was ecstatic that we had worked it out and quickly packed my bags.
Our journey took us up through northern Mississippi through Meridian, then on to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Hunstville Alabama, then Pulaski, and Murfreesboro Tennessee, and on into Nashville.
Later that evening, while riding north, the song American Soldier, by Toby Kieth was playing and Spc W. and Sgt H. were singing along. I was really moved that these two comrades who really didn't know me that well would go out of their way to make sure I was taken care of and not "left behind" while they made their way home. I guess the bond between brothers in arms is stonger that you'd think, even if it is just training. We made a few stops for gas and late night snacks and arrived in Nashvile at about 2:30 am.
These guys were very proud of their home turf, and I quickly got the nickle tour of downtown Nashville. Even if all the bars were closing and the streets were emptying out, I was impressed with the skyline and the fact that I could add to the list of places I've been.
As they took me to the airport and helped me unload my duffel bags, we said our good-byes and shook hands. As I settled into the empty airport lounge for my 4 hour wait, I couldn't help but think that I would probably never see these two in my life again, but I was more than happy I crossed paths with them. I appreciate what they did for me and will have the memory of that roadtrip the rest of my days. What a memory it is. Good times.
Thanks for reading,
Spc. M. Montesa
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