The homeward journey began in Iraq aboard this J Series C130 (L). Saying goodbye to Lt. Col. Eddy Saunders at the Kuwait City airport (R).
31 March, Snellville, GA 12:26 PM EST
It’s great to be home!
After the last message we hastily packed our bags and made a mad dash for the flight line. It seems that the Major and Colonel were able to pull some strings. Or, perhaps a grateful audience member decided to help us out. In either case, we had our own private plane again, this time a brand new J series C130.
This new plan afforded us some extra time in Kuwait , where we were greeted by our old friends, Broadie and Contee. Colonel Saunders was with us, but Major Tootle said goodbye in Iraq and was headed back to his home base in Fallujah. We enjoyed the evening together, repacked our gear and went out for a burger at Frosty’s, Camp Doha ‘s recreation center.
Our flight to Frankfurt left around 2:00am yesterday, and I think everyone was able to manage some sleep in route. Once in Frankfurt , we enjoyed our layover in the Delta Crown Room, exchanging laughs and stories from the incredible experience we had shared. We have dramatically deepened our friendships, and I know these guys will always be a part of my life.
18 Stage shows
Numerous informal performances
20 Flights (6 commercial aircraft, 6 military C-130s, 8 helicopters)
We parted ways, John and Spence headed back to Washington , DC and Todd and I to Atlanta . After another ten hour flight, we landed at Hartsfield International. After clearing customs, I was greeted by my wife, Sheila, and son, Eddie, who dropped his “Welcome Home Dad” sign to plant a hug that nearly knocked me over. What a fantastic reception! The homecoming got even better when we reached our house and saw my two year old daughter, Maggie. She ran up to me, arms as wide as her smile, and the days we spent apart melted away.
In my absence, my wife has had our house completely painted, landscaped the yard, and remodeled my closet! Maybe I should leave more often. Speaking of which…
I’m off again in forty five minutes. Tomorrow morning I speak in Billings , Montana . Saturday, I have an engagement in Houston . I’ll be home after that for more than a week, and you had better believe I will be spending most of that time with my family.
The theme of this whole experience has been “Off Balance On Purpose.” It certainly has lived up to that description. I’ve been off balance every step of the way with little sleep, hectic travel, shaved head, personal body armor, and non-stop learning and excitement. But the purpose has been so worthwhile. I have developed a newfound respect and appreciation for the men and women of our armed forces. I understand firsthand how they live, what they deal with on a daily basis and how HUGE the effort to fight terrorism truly is. It is a battle fought on many fronts, and we have had the privilege to experience what few civilians ever will see or do. I am incredibly blessed.
I want to thank my family, friends, clients and collegues for the support, encouragement and prayers throughout the journey. I want to thank, especially my wife, Sheilia, for letting me “go for it!” I want to also thank Mike Thurmon for the fantastic job he did maintaining this website. And thanks to you for coming along with me. I can’t tell you how much your emails meant to me – encouraging and validating our efforts. This truly became a shared experience, through the miracle of modern technology, and it was delightful to describe what we were doing and share some images along the way.
Check back soon, as I will be adding a lot of content, stories, and photos to give this more take away value for all of us. And you better believe I’ll be talking about it in all my future speaking engagements.
God bless you all, bless our troops at home and overseas. Never underestimate the power of laughter or the impact one person can make on the lives of others. Keep looking up, and keep living off balance on purpose.