Standing in the baggage claim area of the airport, Alexandria Johnson’s heart skipped a beat as she waited to see her fiance for the first time since their engagement.
“My heart’s beating so fast. If I pass out that won’t be good,” said Johnson as she paced back and forth waiting for Nathan King’s plane to land Saturday night at the Killeen-Fort Hood Regional Airport.
King, 22, a seaman and logistic specialist stationed in Naples, Italy, has only been home a couple of times since his three-year assignment overseas. He’ll be home until Jan. 16, with the assistance of Let’s Bring Em Home, which paid for King’s $1,330 ticket home. The nonprofit provides round-trip plane tickets for junior enlisted servicemen to travel home for the holidays.
“I’m happy to be home,” said King, after a long embrace with Johnson. “It’s amazing. I don’t want to go back.”
Despite missing her fiance while he’s overseas, Johnson is proud of King’s service.
“It’s been stressful, but I appreciate his job and what he does for our country,” she said. “I know that it’s bigger than our relationship.”
The couple made it through the difficulties of talking through the seven-hour time difference and trying to be there the best they can for one another. They plan to get married Thursday while King is home on leave.
And, although King wasn’t home for Christmas, his mom, Jamie Eastman, is thankful for the nonprofit, who got him home just in time for the new year.
Eastman heard about the organization last year when she was depressed about spending her first Christmas without King.
Although it was too late to apply then, she and King kept an eye on the website year-round, until the application period was re-opened.
King stayed awake all night to make sure he was the first to apply, and within a week of submitting the application, his travel arrangements were made.
With her son overseas, Eastman’s home hasn’t looked like Christmas the past two years.
“I didn’t put up a tree. I just couldn’t celebrate it. I felt sad because all three of my kids weren’t home,” Eastman said. “You could tell Nathan not being here was very noticeable. It was very sad.”
Despite daily phone calls and video chats, Eastman missed everything about her son while he was gone — from getting a hug when she needed one to getting her buttons pushed when he instigated problems.
Now, she looks forward to having the loudness back in her house, with her three children together.
“He may not have been home for Christmas, but at least he’s here,” said Eastman, who’s thankful for Let’s Bring Em Home. “Now I know where we’re donating to.”
How to help
Let’s Bring Em Home is a nonprofit that provides plane tickets for junior enlisted servicemen so they can come home for the holidays.
This year, the nonprofit received more than $81,500 in donations and issued 117 tickets for service members worldwide.
The nonprofit also accepts frequent flier miles as long as its enough to fund an entire round-trip fare, which is usually 25,000 to 50,000 miles.