Are we there yet'
(Left to right) Karen Lamb, Grace, Anah and Lt. Col. Don Lamb, from Heidelberg, Germany were vacationing in Spain when their plane was canceled due to volcanic ash issues in Europe. They were originally on a train back to Germany, but were stopped at the Spain-France border. By the second day of waiting at the border, they said thousands of others had amassed and tensions were getting high and price gouging of the stranded had begun. They decided to take a 24 hour long ferry ride from Barcelona to Livorno, Italy and ended up at Camp Darby, Italy. They will take a privately chartered bus late April20 back to Germany. (Photo by Joyce Costello, courtesy U.S. Army)

CAMP DARBY, Italy- Service members and their families along with Department of Defense employees vacationing in Italy found themselves stranded when airports across Europe canceled flights over April 16. Over one hundred stranded travelers ended up at Camp Darby, Italy.

The Prince family, from Ramstein, Germany was vacationing in Rome when their car service called them April 16 about international flights being canceled. They went to the Rome USO to use the internet to research military bases in Italy that they could get to. They ended up finding lodging at Sea Pines lodge at Camp Darby, Italy. Getting there on the other hand would require a nine hour wait in line at Rome\'s main train terminal.

"There were 40 people in front of us when the terminal services representative announced that all the trains going north of Italy were sold out," said Ami Prince. "I called the deputy at Ramstein and we started working on a plan to get a bus to Germany."

April 17 when Camp Darby's lodging offices were closed, stranded travelers were still arriving. Donna Tucker, Catholic Coordinator at the Camp Darby Chapel, was with James Baron, a catholic Chaplain candidate in the Army Reserves studying at the catholic seminary at Rome, and was talking about upcoming outreach programs when they noticed a large amount of families with luggage showing up to the Darby Community Club and Bowling Alley area.

"It was almost nine at night and I saw three families with luggage looking around rather lost; I learned that that they had no place to stay," said Ms. Tucker. "I knew that if they had to take a taxi back to town it would cost almost as much as a hotel so I called our chaplain to see if we could accommodate these stranded families in the chapel."

We got them some food and made a make-shift buffet and ran them back and forth to the laundry facilities. That night they slept on the pews, but on Sunday the families were able to get into lodging on base," said Ms. Tucker.

To make matters even more challenging, Camp Darby doesn't have a dining facility on base and the commissary is closed on Sundays and Mondays. However, the Commissary manager was able to get enough staff in place to open for two hours on Monday, April 19 and U.S. Army Garrison Livorno Directorate of Logistics made sure the base shuttle went by the lodging facilities to help transport the families with their groceries.

With no word of flights out of Pisa becoming available any time soon, Ami Prince continued her crusade to organize a bus from Camp Darby to Ramstein and figure out how to help families from the U.K. get back.

"None of the Italian bus companies would agree to go out of continental Europe and one can't take an Italian rental car out of Italy right now," said Mrs. Prince. "I worked with Stefanie Simon, Aviano's Information Tickets and Travel office, to get this bus, but it's going to cost 5,000 Euro which will end up being about 100 Euro per person."

Prince added that some families were feeling the strain from the additional cost the flight cancelations.

"For a family of five to have to pay 500 Euro to take a bus home can really cause a financial concern, but all of us who are stranded together are doing everything we can to help each other," said Prince.

Air Force Capt. Jeffrey Elliott, Aviano Services director, adds that Air Force families in need of assistance should contact Air Force Relief Society. Army active duty members and retirees should contact Army Community Services about an Army Emergency Relief loan.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16