During my deployment to Kosovo in September 2008, I was notified that my mother, who had stage 4 breast cancer for a couple of years, was taking a turn for the worse. Her doctors said if I wanted to see her before she died, I needed to come home ASAP on emergency leave. My command removed me from the mission we were currently on near the Serbian border and transported me back to Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo. Within 48 hours, I was in a vehicle headed to Alexander the Great International Airport in North Macedonia. From there I flew to Vienna Austria with no issues. The next stop was Frankfurt, Germany.
When I got there, at O-dark thirty, I found the nearest check-in and I was informed that I did not have the necessary paperwork. My S-1 [administration officer] had omitted that paperwork and in my haste, I did not think to ask how this process would work – and I could not understand how I got through two international airports without this paperwork. I was talking with the German manager of the airline, with whom I pleaded my case. He said there was nothing he could do until I had that documentation, but he was confident he could help me and showed me where the USO center was. He said that they will open at 0700 and to be here when they open.
True to his word, just before 0700 (0640-ish, I think) a gentleman showed up early and, if I remember correctly, he was a retired first sergeant. When I explained my situation to him, it was full speed ahead. He made contact with my unit and in very short order they were faxing the necessary paperwork. I made it to my gate a half hour or so before boarding started and later reunited with my mom and dad. Coupled with time and that I have a bad memory, I cannot remember the USO employee’s name, but the actions he took on my behalf will never be forgotten. He is the reason that I donate to the USO and will as long as there is a USO.
– Mark E.