Darryl Worley traveled once again to Iraq to entertain the troops. This is almost been an annual event for Darryl since September 11, 2001. The only thing different about this trip from all of Darryl’s previous tours, is this time he got to take his full band with him to visit with soldiers and boost their morale.
Darryl had huge success with his #1 hit “Have You Forgotten” shortly after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. This single was #1 on the US Country charts for 7 weeks. Since that time, Darryl has made it a priority in his life to give back and let the men and women in our Armed Forces know how much he appreciates their daily sacrifices.
Darryl is also known for his hits “Sounds Like Life”, “I Miss My Friend”, “Here and Now” and “Awful, Beautiful Life”.
Tuesday and Wednesday, April 27 and 28 – Nashville to Kuwait:
Left today for our Kuwait/Iraq tour with country music star Darryl Worley. I went with Darryl on his very first tour for the military to Afghanistan and Kuwait with the USO in 2002 for the Sgt. Major of the Army Jack Tilley. That’s also where I met Karri Turner who is my one of my dearest girlfriends. Darryl returned from that first life-changing tour and wrote his career song, “Have You Forgotten”. I have toured with him once since then to Japan and Korea. The troops adore him and it’s obvious that it is mutual by the time he spends with them.
I stopped by Customs en route to the airport and met several of the guys to register the equipment. Quick easy process and we were off to the airport. Everyone except John (my “helper”) was there waiting for me. John found out yesterday that he has pleurisy and something torn in his shoulder. He really should not have come on the trip but it was much too late to replace him.
Check in was easy and painless and we had over an hour to grab a quick lunch. Our flight was on time for departure and the aircraft has been reconfigured. There is still one seat on one side and 2 seats on the other side but now they are leather and there is a 1st class section – with a total of 6 seats. Still the same “size” plane though. It was really windy taking off and freaked me out a little…okay a lot! Darryl finds it extremely humorous that I fly overseas every few weeks and yet I HATE to fly. J We talked about the first time he flew with me on a commercial flight – which was to Japan and Korea. He had never flown in business class and it was hilarious. Had to explain to him how to use the video monitor, seat buttons, etc. He was especially impressed with the hot towels. He’s gone back to Southwest Asia every year since 2002, except last year, but always on a military aircraft. So, this is only the 2nd time he’s flown in business class commercially – except I got him upgraded to first class this trip.
Aaron Tippin’s friend who is the United Airlines pilot – who is now my friend – hooked me up with the pilot on this flight since he couldn’t fly us. I’ve been staying in touch with him on email and he sent me the pilot’s and purser’s names. They were “waiting” for me when I got on board and were so sweet. One of the flight crew is former Air Force, too. One of our flight attendants is having a birthday today and Darryl chatted with her and we gave her his autographed cd.
There was a little turbulence on the flight out but subsided quickly. I ordered the Chicken Tikka because from past experience, I knew it would be good. It was.
This is the first time we haven’t had the 6 hour layover in DC. United added a flight to Bahrain and so the flight to Kuwait now leaves earlier and continues on to Bahrain. We land in Kuwait at 1 pm in the afternoon instead of 5:30 pm….which is going to be heaven. I did miss having all that time in the Red Carpet Lounge to answer emails before we left though.
I watched a movie that I had really wanted to see when it first came out, “It’s Complicated”. It was good – sweet – not terrific but one I’m glad I got to see. I think the Z’s gave me their cold and I’ve been fighting it off as best I could since it’s miserable to fly with a cold. I took a Tylenol cold capsule and tried to sleep some. I always have weird dreams when I fly and this time was no exception. Darryl is in 1-A and I’m in 2-A. First class is these little individual “pods” with only one row on our side, so he’s sitting right in front of me. The seats totally recline flat into a bed. I kept dreaming that Darryl had his reclined but every time he would try to lie down, my feet were where his head should go. I thought he kept turning around looking at me like, “Will you please get your feet off my pillow”. A couple of times I think I even sat up to apologize! Weird, weird, weird.
We are landing on time in Kuwait. J As we were getting off the plane, Darryl mentioned something about needing Chap Stick and leaving his at home. I told him there might be some in the little toiletry kit they gave him. He picked his up (it was still in the wrapper) and says, “You mean this? It’s mine?”. I assured him that it was and he said, “I can keep it”? Is that cute or what. I’m going to train this boy to fly in business/first yet. LOL.
Landed, picked up our Visas, all our bags arrived and we surprised our escorts by coming out early. Even though we arrived so early, we got stuck in TRAFFIC and it took twice as long to get to the Radisson. Really good to see all my friends at the Radisson. Been away too long. L
There is a “Jazz Concert” taking place in the hotel in the wonderful restaurant where we all eat. I made reservations at the “ship” restaurant for everyone for dinner instead. Got all my bags unpacked and re-sorted and answered hundreds of emails. Coaxial – our production company – was handling sound for the concert so I went down to see all those guys as well. Met everyone at Al Boom Restaurant for dinner and it was really good. A huge “buffet” table with salads and appetizers and then you selected your meat that you wanted grilled. I had the salmon and it was excellent.
Came back to the room to answer more emails and then went to the great health club here for an “arm” workout. Then back to the room to answer tons more emails. JAM comes down and sits in my suite with me a lot because for the first time, I have excellent wireless connection. This is the first time I’ve stayed in this suite. There’s no “kitchen” but it has a great sitting area and a fantastic view. Going to get in bed before 2 am – a record for me. I love this arriving earlier deal.
First show tomorrow at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait. Should be a HUGE crowd and a very long autograph line. Love it. Rick Trevino has been in Iraq performing and his group comes back to Arifjan tomorrow to fly home the next day. Hopefully they will get to come to our performance. Love those guys, too. I hooked them up with AFE to sponsor their tour which was co-sponsored by Taxmasters. Seems their “escort” from Taxmasters has to stay in Iraq in the hospital. He dehydrated and the doctors won’t let him fly yet. Going to be on my guys 24/7 about drinking enough water. We always have someone who doesn’t and ends up in the hospital and I’m determined not to let that happen this trip!
THURSDAY, APRIL 29TH – CAMP ARIFJAN, KUWAIT:
Got 5 hours sleep last night – a record for me the first night in country. It’s all about the flight landing earlier here. Went to the gym for 45 minutes of cardio then had breakfast with JAM. He is NOT feeling any better and we’ll get him out to see the doctor today.
Showered and answered email for about an hour before meeting everyone in the lobby. Everyone was on time and Randy was feeling better. He caught a stomach virus from his wife before he left home and was not feeling good at all last night. Going to get him in to see the medic as well.
Our first stop was the Commander’s Office Call. CSM Harbin is still here and he and his wife Debbie remember Darryl and some of his guys. Darryl actually spent the night at their home a couple of years ago. Debbie and her Mom were at the meeting and she gave me a beautiful Pashima (Bebe, you would LOVE this one J). Guys asked a lot of questions about Kuwait and CSM Harbin presented each with a certificate of appreciation and a coin. Because of the troop drawdown, the population at the base is way down. There will always be troops here but with a different “focus” than on Iraq. Darryl signed autographs and took photos and then we went to the hospital for a tour.
Darryl went outside and walked around last night and the dust and wind were really bad. He said his throat felt sore and he was afraid he would get into Iraq and be sick. So we set him up with the Medic as well. This may be a record for me – 3 with the Medic on the first day. They gave Randy some Imodium and gave JAM a bunch of drugs including valium. They think he has a herniated disk which really isn’t good! He needs to have an MIR and should have had one before he ever left Nashville. Gave Darryl some Benadryl and Allegra and a Zpack.
We went to visit the Wounded Warriors Center after our hospital visit. Only a couple of guys in there and they had been injured in Afghanistan. Got word that the snare drum was broken and we couldn’t do sound check until 5:30 pm…which mean no dinner unless we ate at 5 pm which was my plan since we didn’t have lunch. We walked back over to the stage for a few minutes and some of the guys went to the Exchange. Took everyone over to the DFAC for dinner and the food was worse than ever. The food at the DFAC’s in Iraq is so much better than it is here. Strange!
My friend Kurt came to the show and I finally got to meet his fiancé. They are getting married in Los Angeles in July and of course, I’ll miss it because I’ll be in Europe all Summer. Milton – Rick Trevino’s manager/keyboard player came by to say hello and fill me in on their tour. They “ran” them much too hard and everyone except Rick was not feeling well. He had gone to see the Medic as well and we didn’t get to see him. I did see Ryan who I recommended to Milton as a last minute replacement for his sound guy. They were very pleased with him.
The show started on time and there were thousands of men and women in attendance. Darryl puts on a fantastic, very entertaining show and spends time talking to the troops and making sure they know how much they are appreciated.
After the show, he autographed and took photos for two hours. We headed back to the hotel with the good news/bad news. We don’t depart the hotel until 10:30 am for a 1:15 pm flight to Iraq tomorrow. Great that we don’t have to get up at 3 am to depart. But, that means we arrive very late and will have to hustle to get the show up and running. Fortunately, it is an 8 pm show time instead of 7 pm, so that helps a lot.
Tried to get JAM’s flight changed so that he could fly back home tomorrow but it will cost $2,800 without a Saturday night stay! Going to re-pack my bags and try to get in bed before 2 am. Won’t be able to send Road Reports from Iraq until we leave the Camp we’ve just visited.
FRIDAY, APRIL 30TH – KUWAIT TO CAMP SPEICHER IN TIKRIT, IRAQ:
Amazing that I had time to work out again today – 3 days in a row on one of these tours is a miracle. Everyone was on time and we departed the hotel to the air terminal. Got everyone situated in the VIP Lounge and checked in. Then sent half of the guys to the DFAC for lunch and several to Subway for sandwiches. I opted for a salad at Subway.
Flight was on the ground on time and it was “The Rock” out of Little Rock, Arkansas. My new best friend — Tommy from LA – who is in charge of the Pax terminal took me out to the plane to chat with the flight crew. Just wanted to check the rules on wearing Kevlar and was happy to hear we only had to wear it upon landing at Speicher. Flight crew was really nice and let everyone rotate up onto the flight deck during the 1 hour 40 minute flight. The descent seemed to take longer than normal and I thought maybe it was weather. But, everything seemed fine once we got on the ground.
Aubrey with MWR who I have worked with before with Aaron Tippin met us and introduced us to her replacement JB. Hard to believe Aubrey has been here for 8 months. We are lodging at what they call “Freedom Rest”. You might remember my description from previous road reports. It is a wonderful facility where the troops from all over Iraq can come for three days of R&R. We are in buildings behind the main facility and I have my own room. The guys are sharing 2 to a room and all the restrooms and showers are out back. The main building has television, games, huge internet room, phone banks and 24 hour dining facility where you order from a menu. This is also the place where I was able to plug into the back of a telephone with a DSN line and get on internet with my laptop.
The sound techs went straight to the stage since we had arrived so late and we got everyone else situated at lodging. Then Joe and I rode over to the stage to see what time they thought we should bring the guys over for sound check. Went back to lodging and had a quick dinner – another egg white omelet. J
Darryl had an interview with PAO when we arrived and someone handed him a note when we walked in for that. Seems a guy he grew up with was there and wanted to say hello. Darryl says it always happens on every tour. He knew exactly who the guy was. They had time for a nice chat before the show started.
We had a HUGE crowd. The MWR folks said it is the largest ever since they’ve been there (8 months). I quizzed lots of folks about the popularity of country music. They said that was the biggest draw for their troops and they were not getting “too much” country – at least not in that area. Don’t know if I mentioned it but the folks in Baghdad did a “survey” online and said that country came in at number 7 as far as what the troops wanted with Rock/Pop as #1. Nice, but country music artists are the patriots and the ones willing to donate their time. I have a very limited list of rock acts who want to come to Iraq. Also, as we discussed last night, probably not a lot of country fans who take the time to go online and fill out a “survey”!
Show started on time and an Air Force Colonel introduced Darryl. He did a great job and really got the crowd pumped for the show. Audience seemed to know the words to almost all his songs. He sang for 75 minutes and did an encore. The autographs were held inside in the gym where we usually hold the performances. As usual, it was a long line and we didn’t finish until almost midnight.
Went back to lodging and the front doors were locked. We banged on the doors but it took a long time for someone to hear us and let us in. I had to answer emails and tried to use the DSN cable and plug into the phone as I did last year. Wouldn’t work. So I got on one of their computers but I couldn’t get Skype to work on it. After over an hour of manipulating, I had everything up and running only to have Joe come in and tell me he logged on just fine using the DSN line! I went over to the computer he had been using and was able to log right on. By that time it was after 1 am and I worked until 2 am. Knew I had to take my shower before going to bed because it would be too busy the next morning. I got in bed by 3 am and was going to get 3 ½ hours sleep. Only John had brought me a cup of the strongest coffee in the world at about 12:30 am and it kicked in. I could NOT fall asleep. I don’t think I slept an hour all night. And the fact that this was the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had in Iraq didn’t help at all.
Darryl’s voice was sounding really bad when he finished autographs last night. Wish he had started taking the Z-Pack earlier. Hopefully, we won’t have to cancel any shows.
SATURDAY, MAY 1, 2010 – COB SPEICHER TO BALAD AB:
After a sleepless night, got up and dressed and carried my heavy bags across the rock field to the main building. Had breakfast (another egg white omelet) and had a little time to answer emails before leaving. Everyone was ready to go on time and we drove out to the flight line. There was no water on the bus and we were waiting on the side of the airfield so we had to drive to the passenger terminal to pick some up. Our C130 landed while we were picking up the water. Arkansas crew again but not the same guys as last year.
Darryl sounds really bad and we’re taking him to see a medic as soon as we land to see what can be done for his throat. Hate that we are getting in so early and will have time to do lots of fun stuff but looks like he won’t be able to participate. The last thing he needs to do is talk.
We landed by 11 am and Dave and Matt from previous visits were there to assist. Really hate that we are losing them soon to go back home but happy they get to be back with their families. While the guys got a briefing, I got Darryl situated in his room and then took him to the Medics. Balad has the best Trauma unit in Iraq and quite possibly the best in the world. Today was no exception, even for a vocal problem. They gave him an IV of steroids and antibiotics which will hopefully have him singing by 8 pm tonight. I’ve had to cancel all his activities and put him in “time out” and he did not go willingly! He really hates that he is losing his voice and very worried about tonight’s performance.
I was talking to a Neurosurgeon while Darryl was getting his IV and he told me about a rocket being launched from the other side of the base and going through a C130 last week. There were 6 guys on board the aircraft – one only 6 feet from where it went through the fuselage – and no one was injured. Only reason they are alive today is because the folks who launched it forgot to ARM it! He also told me about one of our servicemen who was shot and the bullet went in through his nostril and exited below his left ear. He was flown in from Bashra and supposed being flown directly to the States only it was during the time of the volcanic ash and no flights were allowed out. Turns out that he actually needed another surgery which they performed at Balad and could very well have saved his life. While we were there, a burn victim was brought in from Baghdad. It was one of our troops but not a combat injury, just job related. I wish you could have seen the trauma unit spring into action. I’ve never seen so many doctors, nurses and staff standing at ready. The nurse that was supposed to remove Darryl’s IV had to participate, so it took a while to find someone to take it out of his arm.
Got Darryl back to lodging and Michael went to tour the flight line. Everyone else wanted to wait until after the show but that is before they know we have a 3 am “lobby” call time! Going to try and negotiate that up a little, I hope.
Joe, John, Michael and I rode over with our escorts to the DFAC for dinner. Sure can tell the difference in the food – and the real plates and silverware! I had pasta and veggies and it was really good. Went back to lodging to take Darryl his food and then over to the show site.
They always do a magnificent job with the stage here – huge American flag for the backdrop. We were afraid we were going to be rained out earlier today and have to move inside, but it was beautiful. Darryl was “whispering” and I was “praying” before the show. General Franklin, the base Commander who I adore (he gave me the largest coin I’ve ever received when I was here in October) came backstage not only to welcome Darryl but to present each person in our group with his coin. That man is just so classy. I got to meet his XO and FINALLY got to talk to my buddy Dave who takes such excellent care of us for a little while. We got separated earlier today because of the emergency room visit. He leaves here in July and will going to San Antonio. I also saw “Luggi” (that’s his fighter pilot call sign!) and he is the one who set up the tour of the Predators and gave Joe Bowser the flag that they had flown when we were here in October. Such a sweetheart. Everyone at this base is so nice and friendly and my opinion is it comes from the top down. When you have such a wonderful leader like General Franklin, you can’t help but feel good about what you’re accomplishing. Come to think of it, I saw it throughout the years here with General Rand, General Field, and General Bishop.
Darryl took the stage and he seemed a little bit tentative the first couple of songs but then he was back to normal – great as ever. I expected him to cut a few songs from his set list but he did every one of them and then a two song encore! I finally started breathing again. J
General Franklin stayed for the entire show and came backstage to again thank everyone. The autograph line was very long but I had over 200 photos that Darryl had pre-signed that I was saving for “emergencies” and this seemed as close to one as we might get. Every person came in one at a time and had a photo taken with Darryl and then I handed them the autographed photo. Really saved a lot of time and a lot of “wear” on his voice yet everyone received personal attention. Have to say I really like doing it that way.
We finished up by 10:30 pm – a record. The wind had started blowing so hard people were coming back in asking for a second photograph because theirs had blow away. It was sprinkling when we left the venue to go to lodging.
I negotiated giving our escorts our passports tonight and having them pick up the bags at 3:30 am. Everyone was going to shower tonight and take the bags to the main building to leave them. Then we don’t have to depart until 5 am for the flight terminal. Really much better than being ready at 3 am!
No internet in my room but it’s Saturday and I’ve sporadically kept up with it on my blackberry when I have service. Going to go take my bag over and try to grab hours sleep now.
SUNDAY, MAY 2ND – BALAD AB TO BAGHDAD, IRAQ
Can’t believe it’s MAY already. Where does the time go????
Set my alarm for 4 am and at 4:05 am, the power went out!!! Guess it’s a good thing I was fully dressed and ready for the day when I went to bed at 1 am. It was pouring rain and of course, I had packed my umbrella and sent it off with the luggage to be palletized. Thankfully it quit before I had to walk over to the vehicles.
We departed to the terminal at 5 am and by 6:30 am, we were on the aircraft. There were a few other soldiers on with us but only about 3 plus our pallets of equipment/luggage. It was a short 15 minute flight and we landed in Baghdad by 7:30 am….but it felt like afternoon because we had been up for so long. The guys who have never been here were impressed and looked like a group of Japanese tourists snapping hundreds of photos of everything. We’re staying at the JVB and my friend Brian has gone back home to Washington State. The new group is from Louisiana and they are rocking. Brian made sure that I got my Taji Suite before he departed. Wade is my new contact now.
Everyone had a quick breakfast and then I think most of them went to bed. I, of course, went to the computer room. They have changed it and there’s nowhere to plug in your laptop anymore. Only I unplugged one of the government computers and it still worked with mine just fine. Got caught up on my emails which was a real luxury.
Darryl and I went over to have lunch with General Anderson. It was a truly great visit because Darryl asked questions that he had about our withdrawal and the progress we’ve made here. I’m so glad that the Generals take time to spend with us on these visits. Makes a world of difference to the visiting entertainers.
After lunch we went back to the JVB and the guys went over to the Al Faw Palace (where our meeting took place) for a tour. I know that is always the highlight of the visit for them. Darryl and I went back over to meet with General Odierno. Darryl walked in first and I was behind him. When General O saw me, he had a very strange look on his face. His comment was “No one told me you were here”. He was so gracious and thankful to Darryl for giving his time to come over. I love that man and am truly worried about what will happen when he leaves the area. This has been his “baby” for so long and as much as I know he wants to be home with his family, it has to be a concern to him as well to leave before we withdraw from the area. He asked Darryl if he had seen my photo on my Facebook page which took me by total surprise to know that HE had been on my Facebook site. How cool is that????
Left the Al Faw and went back to the JVB and there were two 2-Star Generals (males) checking in and one 3-Star General (female). Of course, I had to “snoop” because I love seeing a female 3-Star! Gave them Darryl cds, picks and my coin and exchanged business cards. One of them said he works for General Petraeus and when I told him I was the one responsible for getting Bo Bice to perform for their Centcom Army Ball this June, he grabbed me and hugged me. Then I told him I also had Aaron Tippin going out over Thanksgiving with General P for his annual troop visit, too.
Had a little time before we have dinner and the performance, so I’m working on emails and Road Reports! John came by to show me an email he got from United saying he could now check in for his flight home on Sunday (today). Had to call Penny at home to see what was going on. Evidently when we were trying to find an earlier flight back for him, United put in the reservation for “pricing” only. Sure scared me!
We had dinner in the JVB dining and it was good. Left for the show and did a little “meet and greet” with the folks from J-1 Programs who handle all the entertainment for the area. A young man came in and said he was “Doug Drake” – someone that I was supposed to find and take a photo with for his Dad. His Dad works for Lowe’s and was quoting me a price on a new deck and fence. I got the photo with Darryl plus one with me and gave him a coin, picks, and cd. Will email the photo to his Dad for sure! Got to chat with him for quite a while as well.
Darryl began the show a little bit late and we had a huge crowd. One of our security escorts said it was the biggest crowd he has seen at that stage. General Anderson and his aide Tim arrived a couple of songs into the set and stayed for the entire show! I love that man, too. J It was a great show, enthusiastic crowd and very long autograph line. Still going through about 400 autographs per night limiting them to one per person. I was checking the back of the line to see if anyone had walked up and needed a photo. Started talking to an Air Force guy and he introduced me to the Iraqis he is working with. One was a C130 pilot, one a flight nurse, one an aircraft mechanic and one a pharmacist. I spent at least a half hour just chatting with them and it was fascinating. Such brilliant young men! The pilot looked to be about 12 and when I quizzed him, he said he was the youngest to ever enlist at the age of 18. He went to the UK to train and has a “bit” of a British accent. He is 22 now. I made sure Darryl met them and we both took photos of them. I gave them coins, cds, and picks as well and my business card. Folks—that is the future of Iraq and why I believe we have succeeded in this country. Those young men were so well-spoken (English by the way) and intelligent. I would fly with that C130 pilot any time. And there are thousands more in Iraq just like these young men who want independence and a better way of life for themselves and their families. Every trip something different happens that has a profound impact on my life and this was one of those moments.
Got back at the JVB at around 10:45 pm and took a shower. Tried to write everything in my journal still get in bed by midnight. Have to get up at 5 am for a 6 am bag drop and 6:30 am departure and wheels up at 8:30 am.
MONDAY, MAY 3RD – BAGHDAD TO BASHRA, IRAQ:
Everyone had their bags out at 6 am and we all had a quick breakfast and departed to the terminal at 6:30 am. I walked over to the medics to try and find an inhaler for Darryl’s throat and get some antibiotics for Dinks’ abscessed tooth! No luck. Will have to try when we get to Bashra.
As we were walking back, our security detail told us that the plane was ready for us to board – an hour and a half early! We gathered all our flak vests, helmets, and personal luggage and got on board. It was the same Little Rock, Arkansas flight crew that flew us from Kuwait up to Speicher earlier in the week.
I’ve been pretty worried about the flooding in Nashville. Sounds like it’s the worse they have ever seen. Just don’t want Lindsey at my house by herself with the twins and not be able to get them out if she needs too!
We landed at around 7:30 am and went straight to lodging. I was pleasantly surprised to find Kenny from several previous tours working this one. Had no idea he was in this area. He is a great MWR escort and everything ran so smooth. Supposedly all the trailers were wired with DSL lines but of course mine wouldn’t work. The IT guys fiddled with it until we left for lunch at 11 and said he had it working. When we came back after lunch, it was down again. I had JAM change rooms with me because his was working and he didn’t bring a computer. I’ve learned never to unpack anything until I KNOW the internet works. J
We had a short “meet and greet” with the engineers who won’t be able to attend the performance tonight at 1:30 in the MWR building. This is really a nice base compared to what I was expecting. Several of us are in a little complex of “wet trailers” and have our own rooms. The rest of the guys are in a “bunkhouse”. I worked on email all afternoon. Received one from Matt at Balad telling me the fire alarms went off in the DVQ’s and everyone had to be evacuated right after we left! Turned out to be a faulty air conditioner.
We went to the DFAC for dinner at 5:30 pm and then over to the show site. There are only about 2,000 people total on this camp and I expected a small crowd. It actually turned out to be a LARGE crowd. I got a photo from my daughter showing the flood water at the very edge of my driveway and it freaked me out!!! I started trying to call her and couldn’t reach anyone. JAM called his friend Ryan and told him to go check on her. I kept calling until she finally answered. Turns out they had to be evacuated from the neighborhood in a CANOE! She sat in the canoe holding Zoe while two guys held the sides and her huge diaper bags full of clothes and her husband walked along side in waist deep water carrying Zac. The water has not gone inside my house YET but it was 3 feet up my driveway and rising. What a nightmare. They have closed the neighborhood and I may not be able to go home when we land on Wednesday.
Darryl had a fantastic performance – sad that it’s the last though. Everyone received a certificate and Darryl signed autographs and took photos with everyone afterwards. We got back to lodging a little after 10 pm – earliest we have been finished the entire tour. But, our bag call is 5 am and a 6 am departure to the airfield with an 8:15 am wheels up. Good news is we have rooms at the Radisson and can shower, sleep, workout, swim, have a nice dinner, whatever until we have to depart to the airport at 8:30 pm.
Going to bed soon.
TUESDAY, MAY 4TH & WEDNESDAY, MAY 5TH– BASHRA, IRAQ TO KUWAIT TO USA!:
Up at 5 am to put bag outside and then meet everyone at 6 am. We had time to get “to go” boxes at the DFAC for breakfast. I didn’t get very much because I figured we’d arrive at the Radisson while breakfast was still taking place as early as we were leaving. Our plane arrived early (again) and we departed early (again). It was our Little Rock flight crew (again). We had two of Darryl’s guys who had never sat on the deck for a take-off and landing sit up there. It was a short 30 minute flight.
Our escorts were waiting for us in Kuwait and we arrived at the Radisson much earlier than they anticipated. Had everyone go in to the restaurant for breakfast while they assigned our rooms. I spent the entire day answering email and repacking my bags. Also found time to go to the gym for an hour of cardio which really helped me feel a lot better.
Have been so worried about the flooding. My daughter said the police evacuated the neighborhood and the electricity and water were off. The water was too high for anyone to go in and see if my house was flooded so all I could do was worry. There are pictures all over the internet and the news. The Grand Ole Opry is under water and that is the saddest thing ever for our industry. Opryland Hotel will be closed for 3 months or more. My daughter finally went by the neighborhood again and said the water was down enough for her to drive to the house. Thank God the water didn’t go into the house! It covered the driveway but started receding after that. She said the power was still off but the water was back on. At least all I’ll have to deal with is spoiled food – not a flooded home. I may have to stay in a hotel tomorrow night and maybe longer since no one can tell me when the electricity will be turned back on.
We all met at the restaurant and had a fantastic dinner. My friend Kurt met us and Mo was supposed to be there, too, but didn’t make it until after we had finished dinner. Omar did stop by and say hello though. Those are all people that we visited with when the comedy tour went out to Omar’s home.
Checked out of Radisson and arrived at the airport at around 9 pm for an 11:40 pm flight. Everything was going well until John said they would not let him check in. Said his ticket was booked for yesterday and when he didn’t show up, they canceled his flight. He had received an email from United saying he could check in for his flight yesterday but I called Penny who called our travel agent. The agent called United and got everything sorted out but evidently there was a mix-up somewhere. I had to call the agent again to get him back on the flight because United in Kuwait was telling me there were no seats available. I knew that was ridiculous because I had just checked the seat availability before we departed the hotel less than an hour ago! The agent was very rude to John. I checked in and then was going to pay to upgrade Darryl to first class. We usually do this at the gate because it’s much less expensive than booking it a first class in advance. The agent informed me that it was no longer possible to upgrade with him and that it had to be done “online”. I told him I couldn’t just take out my computer and book it right there. Then he told me to go to the travel agency outside the area where we had just cleared security and have them do it. I asked about getting back inside with Darryl’s passport and he said, “Just show the security guard your paperwork and they will let you in”. Took me a while to find the travel agent and she thought I had lost my mind when I asked her to upgrade him! She said it had to be done by United at check-in…..exactly what I thought. I went to the security officer and he refused to let me back in, so I had to go through security all over again.
In the meantime, I called our travel agent and told him to upgrade Darryl on line and check him in. When I finally made it back to the United counter, I asked ‘Mr. Personality’ to get me a supervisor. I was nice at first but he told me the same ole b.s. that he couldn’t see how many seats were available, etc., etc. and couldn’t do the upgrade. I reminded him that both John and I are “Global” on United and that the amount of money I spent with United each month is probably paying their salary for the next 5 years! He finally agreed to handle the upgrade but after fiddling around for about 20 minutes, he said there weren’t any seats available to “purchase” but that Darryl would have to use miles. I told him to use my miles – it was only 30,000. At that point, it was the principal of the matter. After about another 20 minutes, he FINALLY gave Darryl his boarding passes. I gave him John’s passport to check him in and instead he got on the phone in a long-winded conversation which had nothing to do with our visit. John got a little “testy” and I had to calm him down before they took him off to Kuwaiti Jail!
We only had a few minutes to go to the Lounge but at least I got my emails downloaded so I could answer them off-line on the flight. Plane departed on time and I sure didn’t eat anything after that large meal last night. I think I slept off and on for about 7 hours – a record after the short nights in Iraq. We landed early which is good because we have a short connection. I went to the Global Access computers for immigration clearance and finally found one that worked after my 4th try. Glad it did because the line was very long. All our luggage made it – although mine was the last piece out. Just glad it came because after the hell I raised at the check-in counter, figured I’d never see it again.
Had time to go to the Lounge and check some email before another on-time departure from Dulles. We landed in Nashville a few minutes early as well. You would not believe the devastation we saw when flying over the flooded areas during of landing. It’s just impossible to describe. If you want to see photos, you can go to: www.tennessean.com or google “I survived the great monsoon of May 1st “ on Facebook or google Nashville flood on YouTube.
All the luggage made it to Nashville and I gave everyone a big hug of thanks for a really great tour! Was such a pleasure working with Darryl and his boys again. I’ve gotten numerous emails from the troops in Iraq saying how much the visit meant to them.
Was really nice to see my house again and delighted that there was no water damage. My neighbors and businesses in the neighborhood were not so lucky.