Today is Day 263…we have 102 days left….or do we??
So, back in early April, Rich was playing rugby and tore his ACL, not a complete tear, but might as well have been. The MRI showed that it was hanging on by a thread. Anyway, at the time there was some back and forth with the doctor and the surgeon. Rich tried to have surgery done while he was home on leave. Ultimately, it was decided that he would just wait until he PCSed so he could have the surgery in the states. The recovery sounds like it would be miserable for him over there. For the last few months, this has been fine. He got a knee brace and he was still flying and doing most of his normal activities.
Then, the second week of September, he was due for his yearly flight physical. What seemed like all of a sudden, the doctors would not pass him with the torn ACL. And just like that, he was DNIF (duties not to include flying) until he had surgery. So again there was more back and forth with the doctors. In order to have surgery in Korea he needed 90 days post surgery for recovery. Otherwise, he would have to extend. Basically, his return would be contingent on his recovery. From our point of view, it sounded like a great way to get stuck in Korea. As it turns outs, the first pre-op appointment wasn’t until the end of October, leaving him with less than 90 days in Korea.
Ok, now for the exciting part :) So since he doesn’t want to extend (surprise, surprise) and he is DNIF and he needs surgery, the flight surgeon recommended a medical curtailment. His commander was on board and so they started the paperwork to shorten his Korea tour for medical reasons.
From the time of the flight physical to the curtailment paperwork was about 24 hours. Rich told me all this the day before I left to visit him. At that point, I was trying to pack and get things organized for my trip. I couldn’t even process the information. I just said, ok, well we’ll see if it gets approved. I can’t get my hopes up for that. It would be too crushing if it didn’t go through. I figured, the Army is not that fast. We can talk about this in person.
Honestly, sometimes writing all this out is wearisome. But, I just keep reminding myself that if I tell it once on here then maybe the fewer times I have to recount it all for everyone. But mostly, I’m just tired of the Army roller coaster.
Flight over was long. I couldn’t sleep at all. I read an entire Agatha Christie book, Murder on the Orient Express, and watched two movies. I was just happy to get there in one piece. It took a little while to meet up with Rich at the airport. My phone didn’t work except on WiFi inside the terminal so I texted that to Rich and planted myself next to Door Number 6 until he found me.
By this point, he had started the curtailment paperwork and he needed to talk to branch about assignments and getting orders, but it was Friday so nothing was going to get done until the following week.
Thankfully, I didn’t suffer hardly any jet lag on the way over. Saturday was Rich’s birthday and we met up with my best friend, Kathryn, who has been in Korea since July. (These pictures are all from her camera.)
Back on post, this is the view from Rich’s window. The first day I was there we did get to see the Korean Blue Angels practice over the airfield.
I should mention, that I came to Korea to see Rich. He just happened to be in a foreign country. I throw this out there because I think a lot of people expected us to see a lot of landmarks or visit some Korean sights. We didn’t really care about that. I just came to spend time with him and rest. I was so happy because I got to workout almost everyday I was there. I didn’t have to worry about a babysitter when I went for a run. I sat and worked on a puzzle Rich had without any care about housework or dishes. We just enjoyed being together; not talking on the phone and having a sense of normalcy.
People I met seemed surprised by this. I kept getting asked “what do you think of Korea?” and “have you seen anything interesting?” I didn’t have an answer.
We did visit the Korean War Museum.
And we spent a lot of time looking for a trinket for Lizzie, who had requested I bring her back “something little,” meaning small in size. She is very into miniature toys these days. We scoured the streets of Seoul, where they sell all kinds of random junk. We were looking for Meaningful Junk, if there is such a thing.
We walked into the Canon building, but it was just an office building. I did snap this picture though.
Over the week, we had some progress on the curtailment process. Rich filed the official paperwork, requesting the date November 10th as his new leave date. And he heard from branch and got confirmation that we are going to Fort Riley, Kansas. After this, we spent a significant amount of time searching for houses online and discussing plans–so much easier in person.
We had dinner with some friends, went to the squadron bbq (I know it is called a company in the Army, but it will always be a squadron to me), drank coffee, looked at houses. It was nice.
When the next Saturday came around, I got to run a 5K in Seoul. Kathryn had it all coordinated for me and we met for the race. It was probably not big by Korean standards but there was a huge turn out compared to the local races I’ve done recently. We showed up to find a sea of yellow-shirted Koreans. Apparently, everyone except us it seemed was already wearing their race t-shirt. There was a stage set up with performers in sparkly outfits who led a group warm up. A thousand yellow-shirted Koreans all doing synchronized stretches. It was hilarious.
I didn’t run hard. I had to dodge people walking the whole race. I’m convinced I ran further than a 5K. Speedster Kathryn was the first female finisher in the 10K. :) Then afterwards we took the subway back to post and showered before going out to lunch.
I never got the hang of the chopsticks. Thankfully, they brought me a fork. I was starving. (Kathryn took all these pictures too.)
Rich caught a cold half way through the week and I caught it the last day I was there which made the trip back kind of miserable. We finally found Lizzie a trinket at the gift store outside the airport. Rich picked it out. The flight back was worse than the flight over. I left my book on the coffee table in Rich’s room and I was sneezing the whole trip. I was so relieved to get off the plane and be back in the US. And thank goodness for the military line through Customs. It was a breeze.
By the time I left, we were waiting on an RFO (request for orders) from branch and for the O-6 to sign the curtailment paperwork. We got our RFO to Kansas on Tuesday so that’s one thing. Now we just need the paperwork to go through. Everyone thinks it will because it is in the Army’s best interest to get Rich fixed. Plus, most people don’t go against medical. We’ll see.
My flight into Atlanta was delayed and I ended up having to sprint through the Atlanta airport to make my flight back. I was determined to get on the plane at that point. The guy behind me almost missed it and he said he didn’t have his running shoes on. I looked down and saw he was wearing flip flops. My thought, I would have kicked my shoes off and ran barefoot. I was going to get home.
Lizzie was overjoyed to see me. She has been my constant shadow these last few days. Lou was excited too. I’m finally recovered from my jet lag and we’re getting back to our routine. Oh and she loved her trinket. Her name is Charlotte.
We just need to bring Rich home so we can be a real family again. If it all works out, he will have spent 309 days in Korea. He will be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and we will be moving before the holidays. If not, then we will continue to persevere through to the end. Either way, we are Kansas bound! Bring on the snow!