My first thought when I moved to GK was “My dad has cancer, what if he dies? How will I get back?”. It’s a hard and scary thought. I had warning of my fathers impending death, but sometimes we don’t get that luxury. What happens? How do we get home?
July 2012, I called my father for a chit chat and was told by my mom that he was being rushed to the hospital and had less then a week to live. I talked to my husband and we waited two days pondering what decisions to make. Go on emergency leave? Find a pet sitter last minute? Stay home? Go after and attend the funeral?
It was a confusing and emotional time, but we made the decision to go on leave and try to catch the chance to say goodbye. On a Wednesday night (rather late I might add), we called my husbands first shirt and started the process. The next day my husband went to work and within 2 hours arrangements were completed. Another family sent their high schooler to come sit the animals for a week, and on Friday morning we took off from the local airport on a civilian airliner. The airline costs from Dusseldorf to Dallas Texas (where my dad was hospitalized) was completely paid for. All we had to do was stay with family or pay for our own hotel. We stayed for 7 days (chargeable leave).
36 hours after calling the first shirt, we were in the air. That’s pretty miraculous that they arranged for that and people came together to take my husbands work shifts and to arrange to have a pet sitter, and to get round trip paid airfare. I’ll tell you that my father, my mother, myself, my husband, his father, his sister, and his sister’s husband have all served in the military or are currently serving. So to say the military is family is a drastic understatement. During this hardship, it was so relieving to know that the military had our backs and exceeded all of my expectations in taking care of us.
They did offer counseling and repeatedly checked on us to see what else we needed to have taken care of. It was a blessing and a heart warming experience.
I truly hope that no one ever needs to use emergency leave while overseas, but I wanted you to know that if you do, it is a simple process that happens quickly and makes things so much less stressful. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I hope our experience helps to alleviate that worry in the back of your mind.
Just so you know, we made it in time. We got there and held his hand and gave him a kiss. He died about 15 minutes after our arrival. I don’t know if that last minute goodbye would have been possible without the quick actions of all those at GK.