THURSDAY, MAY 12TH – DAY ONE:
Off to D.C. today to meet up with Jolie Edwards. Tonight we attend a “Black Tie Casino Night” to raise funds for USO of Metro Washington, D.C. I hate going to black tie events and now I will have to go to TWO in less than one week. Tomorrow, we attend a luncheon at the Pentagon for the wounded from Walter Reed, then go to Bethesda to visit with those patients. Taking her on an “after hours” tour of the Pentagon tomorrow night and hopefully meeting up with some of the C40 flight crew from the trip with Charlie Daniels last month. They have one of the navy blue flight suits for me. I have the green one and the brown one. Still needed a blue one and have to find some way to scam a desert camo one yet.
My daughter took me to the airport and I kept telling her on the way that I felt like I had “left” something. I went through security and was “settled” at the gate checking my email, when the office called. I had left a binder with all the information that I needed for the weekend. My daughter rushed back to the airport to try and get it to me before we boarded. I had to go back to the “departure area” and stopped quickly in the restroom. My passport was in my back pocket and it fell out into the toilet. Fortunately, it was “clean” water in the toilet bowl but the passport definitely got soaked. Got my binder and to go back through security once again. I teased the personnel at the security check that if they had showers there, I could just wait until after I cleared to get dressed. Seems I have to take off EVERYTHING every time.
We were departing out of Gate 13 and I’ll be in the Pentagon on Friday, the 13th. Fortunately, I was not sitting in Row 13 and I don’t have to FLY on Friday, the 13th.
Jolie’s flight was late arriving in D.C. and we had a new “driver” from the USO this time. He had a hard time finding us. Then he insisted on taking our bags and they were too heavy for him. I ended up carrying them to the car AND lifting them into and out of the trunk. When we started driving to the hotel, he asked me if I knew where it was….I was scared this was going to turn into a “repeat” of my nightmare taxi ride when I was here for President Bush’s first inauguration. But fortunately, he found the hotel relatively quickly.
Beautiful hotel and I tried to get some email answered before I had to dress. Then, the phone kept ringing and I had a hard time getting into my “black tie” on time! The event was actually fun but the best part was, they had some soldiers attend from Walter Reed and Bethesda. And, I saw Joe – one of the soldiers that I met at Walter Reed in March. He looks wonderful and is on crutches (when I talked to him at WR, he was in a wheelchair. His comment to me tonight was, “I’m taller than when you last saw me, huh? J Such a sweetie.) To refresh your memory, here’s the scoop on Joe. When Chely was on tour last September, we were at Anaconda she was complaining to our escort that she didn’t want to wear the flak vest and helmet because these are extremely HOT and HEAVY. Our escort told her a story about a soldier who was sitting in front of the dining facility when it was hit by an RPG. The ONLY thing that saved his life was the flak vest and helmet. So when we met Joe at WR, we asked him how he lost his leg. He said, “I was sitting outside the dining facility at Camp Anaconda when it got hit by an RPG”. We couldn’t believe it. And, now I’ve seen him again. How awesome is that?
We met another cutie – Mark – who is also injured and he’s in the Army. So many nice young soldiers there tonight and it was great to get to chat with them. Also met some wonderful people who were there as “paid guests” who are doing their part to support our troops.
Event was over early – 10:30 pm — and we don’t have to go anywhere until 11:30 am tomorrow. I’m going to try and get in a long run but my ribs are hurting so bad, might not be able to. I went to the gym this morning and worked my abs really hard which was REALLY stupid. Shouldn’t do that with cracked ribs. I’ve been “paying” for that mistake all day.
FRIDAY, THE 13TH (MAY) – DAY TWO
Called the front desk last night to find out if there was somewhere I could jog outside. The front desk personnel speak very little English and it took quite a while to explain what I wanted. She finally told me that somewhere there was a “map” and she would call me back. Never called back.
Sometime during the night, the sharp pain in my right side subsided. Not sure what happened, but was really glad that it quit hurting every time I took a breath. Won’t be doing any more ab crunches until this heals.
I called the front desk again this morning and asked if there was anywhere I could jog outside. They said yes, of course. So I said, “Okay. Is there a map?” and she answered, “No. It’s on 16th Floor!”. Gave up at that point and just decided to try my luck. I did stop and ask the bellman who also didn’t speak very much English. Through “hand motions”, and jogging “in place”, I managed to convey what I wanted…I think. Of course, the lobby was packed with policemen from New Jersey who had just completed a 300 mile bike ride. I’m sure my pantomime was very entertaining for them.
I took off running down the sidewalk and it was all “commercial and residential” areas but nothing but HILLS. Didn’t get in a longer run than normal, but sure got a workout. I got my quota of hills for the year.
Our first visit today was the Pentagon where we were attending a luncheon for the wounded from Walter Reed. The soldiers took a tour first and then came in for the luncheon. When they came in, everyone stood and clapped for them. It was so awesome. There were a couple of Generals there AND Wolfowitz was also there. Got a great photo of him and Jolie and I “coined” him which insured that we also got “coined”. Jolie got so excited, she gave him the “gangsta grip” which made him laugh. She does that with her boys and just forgot herself.
When I arrived at the luncheon, one of the pilots from our C40 flight with Charlie Daniels met me at the door. He had my blue flight suit with him and get this, it was personalized! There was, of course, the American flag on it but there was an Air National Guard patch, a 201st Airlift Squadron patch, AND, on each shoulder – a STAR. I’ve been promoted to GENERAL…How cool is that?? Now, if the person who has offered to give me one of their Desert Camo flights suits will leave his “decorations” on there, I’ll get another promotion. J
We went from table to table, signing autographs, taking photos, and just thanking the men and women. I recognized one young soldier from my last visit to Walter Reed. His name was Jared and he was from Branson. When we stopped to visit him, he was in surgery and his wife said he was going to be so disappointed because he was a huge Chely Wright fan. We left him some goodies but then we went back by his room after his surgery and visited with him. It was wonderful to see him at the luncheon and looking so much better than when I saw him in March. This is a wonderful “treat” that USO Metro DC provides for the wounded on the 2nd Friday each month. Will definitely have to bring some other celebrities up for a visit.
We walked through the Pentagon to the Gift Shop so Jolie could purchase some souvenirs. On our way down the hall, we passed General Myers and he was holding a young child that appeared to be his granddaughter.
Drove from the Pentagon to Bethesda but we got in “Friday traffic”. Our escort tried to get our driver to get on the Beltway and he insisted on going through the middle of town. It took us well over an hour to make the drive. I’m not sure it would have been any faster on the Beltway, though, because traffic was bumper to bumper there, too, from what we could see.
There were only about 6 patients at Bethesda, which was wonderful. However, they were expecting several more that night and several for Walter Reed as well. I forgot that Jolie had not done this visit before and how emotional it can be. I remember crying in every room the first time I visited. She handled it beautifully but we saw some severely wounded young man. The fact that they were intent on thanking her and making her feel better was something to witness. Jolie has two sons aged 13 and 11. When they learned that she was coming to visit the wounded, they asked if their classes could write letters and have her deliver them. Also, the only thing they wanted was an “autograph” of the soldier because they are their “heroes”. We distributed the letters, along with some armbands that I had brought with me and of course, my “coins” to all the wounded at the luncheon and Bethesda. Jolie also got an autograph of each soldier for her boys. One young soldier in Bethesda gave Jolie an autograph photo of himself and General Hagee for Jolie to take to her sons.
It still amazes me what the surgeons can do at the hospital. For the second time, I saw a young man with half of his skull removed. The skull is placed inside his stomach and when the brain quits swelling, they replace the skull. The majority of the time, there is no brain damage and the patient fully recovers. Almost all the patients have family members there with them in their rooms and their travel expenses are also covered.
Left Bethesda after a couple of hours and drove back to the Pentagon for an “after hours” tour by a dear friend of mine. Didn’t take but about 15 minutes to make the trip BACK! We only had about an hour to spend, so Jolie got to see the “highlights” and visit the Memorial Chapel where the plane hit in 2001. She also received a certificate and a “chuck of granite” from the damaged part of the Pentagon. We got to go into the Army Crisis Room (I think that’s what it’s called) and meet all the men and women working in their and learn what each of them did. It was my second visit to that room but there were different people working there than 3 years ago. They insisted that Jolie “sing” for them so she did a verse of “Two Doors Down”.
After that tour, we met the pilot who had delivered the flight suit to me earlier in the morning for dinner. We were supposed to meet several of the other pilots as well, but it was a Friday night and most couldn’t make it. We went to a great seafood restaurant “The Chart House” in Old Town. Jolie and I had been walking around in high heels all day and were almost crippled by that time. I am sure people were staring at us as we hobbled along the waterfront. There was a long line and we were told the wait would be about an hour. But, they said we could wait in the bar and grab a table if someone got up. Only 90% of those waiting for a table had the same idea. While Mike (the pilot) went to get us drinks, I went back to the hostess to at least get our name on the list. She asked how many I had and when I told her, she said, I have one table upstairs right now! Couldn’t believe our luck. Of course, Jolie and Mike think I made some kind of secret deal, paid her off, or dropped a few names to get the table. I really didn’t but hated to spoil their fun.
Food was delicious and afterwards, Mike took us on a quick “driving” tour around the Memorials and Government Buildings. It was Jolie’s first visit to the city and I wish we had been there longer so she could have seen the sights. Then, we got lost trying to find our hotel. Poor Mike! He was so sweet and never got upset. Finally made it back a few minutes before midnight.
SATURDAY, MAY 14TH – DAY FOUR
Up EARLY to fly home for less than 24 hours. Leaving for Las Vegas on Sunday for the ACM Awards show and then straight from Vegas to Korea for 5 shows with Jolie and Mark Wills for our troops. I realized when I got up that I had left my credit card at the restaurant the night before. I called them but no one had turned it in, so I had to cancel it AND have them federal express me a new card to Las Vegas so I would have it for the rest of the trips.
Our driver this morning was the owner of the company and a dear, long time friend. We got to catch up on all the gossip on the drive to the airport. Our flights departed on time and I arrived back in Nashville early for once. Certainly need every second I can get in order to pack for Vegas and Korea!