We thank God for answering our prayers for Chris’ safety, and for Amanda’s well being. In this most recent note he shares some touching reflections and a happy surprise. Welcome home, Chris (and crew).

“Hello one last time from the air on our way into Iraq. We are headed to Balad on our final mission before heading home tomorrow. We were hoping that our relief would have been in place to fly however the crew was slightly delayed and couldn’t get spun up in time to fly tonight’s mission. Actually despite the long hours and little sleep I am glad we are flying one last time as a crew. Friday morning we will board a C-17 on our way to Andrews AFB and finish our journey by vehicle on our way back up to New England.

By the time we get to DC we will have flown 175 hours (over one week), travelled over 80,000 miles (3 times around the world) and transported over 350 patients, plus tonight’s load in just 14 missions. Not a bad pace when you consider when I was in Afghanistan for 140 days we flew 8 more missions and we thought that we were busy back then. Efficiency has kicked in and now we are able to do more with fewer flight crews having to be deployed, sounds very reasonable to me.

My thoughts and memories from this deployment will be very different from my previous deployments however they will be cherished just the same. On one of our previous flights back to Andrews AFB we had the chance to meet two Medal of Honor recipients, thePresident/CEO of the USO and John Ratzenberger from Cheers and Gary Sinise known to most as LT Dan. It was nice of them to take time from their busy schedules to come overseas and visit with the troops. Unfortunately we were trying to take off on time so there wasn’t an opportunity to take a picture or to get any autographs.

While over here in Germany I was fortunate in being able to maximize our limited down time with some very memorable trips to Normandy, Bastogne and Remagen. Perhaps the most moving of all and forever unforgettable were the American Cemeteries at St Avold, Luxembourg and Normandy. With meticulous precision and detail if the perfect lines in which the crosses sit were not enough to move you the sheer magnitude of the number will leave anyone in awe, they truly were the Greatest Generation. Much as before I still hope at the end of this life that in the deepest recesses of my mind that my final thoughts will be those of my family and the life experiences that this job has shared with me.

From being on the ground during the first elections in Afghanistan history back in 2004, to seeing the drastic reduction in casualties
over the past 3 years it is comforting to know that the personal sacrifices made by all of those who serve this great country have not been in vein. In the past 3 years since I have last deployed I have seen flights with anywhere from 10-15 battle casualties andsometimes even more reduced to a handful, 3 maybe 4 on an average flight. Unless something changes before we land tonight we have no scheduled combat related injuries and that is simply amazing to me, this is Iraq after all.

Of course all of the improvements made through the years will never get passed along to those back home. For some reason the media feels compelled to sensationalize all of the bad news while very rarely reporting on the good stories. While a change in our current policy may seem to be a great vote getter for some, I fear what the eventual consequences will cost. It is my true hope thatsacrifices made today will make the world safer for our children and can only pray that the battles that we have waged over past 5 years will mean that they will never have to.

In closing a special thank you must go out to our friends and neighbors back home. All of the help they have given Amanda with dump runs, snow blowing the driveway and bringing in wood can never be measured. It made this separation just a little easier knowing that while she was pregnant (surprise) and home alone that she was still being taken care of which in turn enabled me to take care of my mission over here. All too often I think we neglect the commitment and dedication that is required to be the spouse of someone who is in the military, especially when that loved one is deployed.

It is easy to think of and thank those who go overseas and serve but they are only half of the equation. This being the first time I have deployed since Amanda and I got married I can say that it takes two to go overseas and the support from friends, family and co-workers will be forever remembered. Thank you to all from the bottom of my heart and I will see everybody soon. Chris”