Homesickness hit me hard–It was my first Christmas overseas. I took leave and saved money for round trip airline tickets home. After shopping around, I booked flight on a charter airline that is no longer in existence. The fine print on the ticket explained that times of departure could vary. Checking frequently with the airline was advised. I was in uniform with two-stripes on my sleeves. There were several other military guys on the flight. Most of them were involved in the Vietnam conflict. We automatically felt a kinship. The plane landed in Philadelphia and I made connections to St. Louis.
It was nice to spend Christmas with Mom, Dad, and the family. Seeing old friends, being with the family did wonders for my morale. I expressed my gratitude to the congregation at church. It was cold and snowy in Illinois that winter–a white Christmas and New Years. I stayed in my Grandpa’s old house trailer. It was like having my own apartment. The holidays were over too quickly and it was time to head back. My brother drove me to St. Louis for the return flight. The packed snow made for a slow, bumpy ride. My charter flight to Germany was scheduled to depart at 7:30 PM from JFK Airport.
My flight to New York arrived two hours before departure time. I settled in and waited. Time wore on and I began to get nervous. I fidgeted, looked at the departure schedule, purchased a snack. Why no boarding announcement? It dawned on me that something was wrong. An information counter person told me my flight departed earlier that afternoon. How could that have happened? It was too far to return home and even farther to Germany. JFK was a huge place, the bus ride from the main terminal seemed to take forever. What was I going to do? It was either get back or be AWOL. My wallet was just shy of forty dollars and change. At my young age, I wasn’t a credit card holder. I didn’t have enough money to buy another ticket.
It was a real dilemma. The butterflies in my stomach bounced basketballs. Lord, what was I going to do? …My prayer of desperation. Was I going to be stranded in NYC? People gathered in earnest for a departing flight. It turned out, the flight was leaving for Frankfurt, Germany–where I needed to go. A desperate need swept over me. It went deeper than just needing money. My eyes scanned the room. Among the waiting passengers was a career Army soldier with his family. I sat down next to him and struck up a conversation. “I just don’t know what I’m going to do.” “My flight left earlier this afternoon without me.” “If I don’t get back to base, I’m in deep trouble.”
I trusted that he somehow would lend me the money. I needed a small miracle, one that seemed big to me. “I’m sorry about your flight,” He said. “I’m going to trust you and loan you the money.” “Find out if they have any no-shows.” It turned out there were three available seats. “He spotted me the money and I got my tickets.” “Thank You, I really appreciate it.” “Let me get your address and I’ll send you the money as soon as I get back.” I fulfilled my promise, after arrival–headed straight for American Express–returned the money with my gratitude. My spirits were bolstered and my faith in mankind restored. It was just what I needed.