Military stories from past to present, both wars.

Merry Christmas to all!!

December 27th, 2007 Posted in The SandGram v1.0

I just returned from four days on the road and just wanted to wish everyone a VERY Merry Christmas. Santa came to visit the girls early and Jake celebrated his first Christmas on Sunday. Figured they would call me out (being on reserve), so Tee and I enjoyed playing Santa Sat night. I think the best part is drinking the milk while you put all the presents out. That afternoon on Sunday, off I went to DC for the first night. It was a 737 international trip that I was covering so the next morning we took off for DFW with an overnight in Belize City, Belize.

When I walked out to the counter in DFW, decked out in my Santa hat and Grinch tie modeled after a Marine I know, I noticed a woman at the counter just flat out sobbing. I approached her and asked if she was ok? In between her sobs I found out that her daughter and fiancé were delayed coming in from Chicago with eight guests and if she didn’t make this flight, she would miss her planned wedding the next day out on some island off the coast of Belize. I pulled up the flight number and saw that it was on the ground and parking on the other side of the airport from us in A terminal. “Mrs. Tucker, call your daughter on her cell phone and tell her to take the tram to D22 exit and we’ll make sure she gets on the plane. We won’t leave her on Christmas Eve, trust me, I’m the pilot.” the tears stopped and a look of complete peace came over her followed by a thousand thank-you’s. About this time a man walked up to me at the counter with a big smile on his face. “Taco?? Taco Bell???” I hate that, I know the guy, but can’t place his name. “Where do I know you from?” He smiles and says “it’s me Desi from TBS (the basic school for Lt’s in the Marines) I can’t believe you’re my pilot. We sat down and caught up in a fast ten minutes. Flight school in Corpus and that was the last I had seen of him and that was back in 1989 or 1990. Where the hell does time go? He ended up going to work for Qualcomm out in San Diego and has been there since (ladies, he is single and a V.P., but before all the gals out there try to track him down, you would have to be as hot as his English girlfriend on the next island over). Turns out he owns a hotel on the island of Caye Caulker in Belize where he grew up. He invited me and my Captain to come visit his home island the next day and filled me in on how to get there.

Christmas Eve, Perry my Captain talked about going out for dinner and I agreed. Anything but the usual fare at the hotel, so we took off for a walk down the road and discovered a brand new place called Jambel. It’s a Jamaican style restaurant about a quarter mile walk from the hotel. It was a beautiful night so we sat out on the patio upstairs and enjoyed a nice cold beer while checking out the menu. We ended up meeting Rhonda Crichton the proud owner who told us how she went into business just a week before. She recommended a combo platter of chicken, beef, shrimp and a lobster tail. It was awesome and very spicy!! Just remember if you ask to make it EXTRA spicy, the old motto of Hot in, well Hot out the next morning. Rhonda is also a tour guide there and here is her email and site. email and her website

Christmas day, we caught a plane out to his island and what an awesome place it is. No cars, just golf carts, colorful hotels, coconut palm trees and a mixture of delicious smells wafting from the local restaurants there. We toured his small Caye and then were lucky enough for a boat trip with his brother Nano out to reefs. The water is crystal clear as we put on the masks and fins to go snorkeling along the reef. Schools of Stingrays would glide past you and disappear then circle around swarm you from behind. It was a lot of fun. Funny how time passes and we haven’t seen each other since 1989 and yet it was like yesterday. If I had to be away from home for Christmas, then who better to be with but another Marine brother and his family.

Sorry I forgot to finish the story, as Paul Harvey would say “and now for the rest of the story” the lady at the counter who was worried about her daughter making the flight…well we left without them…no I’m just kidding. I told the Captain and he agreed that there was no way we’d leave them on the last flight of the day, especially on Christmas Eve. We took a twenty minute delay waiting for them but it was worth it. They ran down the jet bridge with the exuberance of newly weds. When they got off, they promised to name their first kid after me…Taco. I have that going for me at least.

Here is a Belize trip report for you to file away for a future vacation. First of all, book your flight down there on American Airlines, the best way to get there. Once you land in Belize and pass through customs, you will go to Maya Island Air, small airport and all right there. Best to book your flight via or call 011-501-225-2336. at Belie International. Tip, if you pay cash, they give you a 20% discount. If you are an airline employee, then it’s another 20% off. With the exchange rate around 2 to 1 right now, It cost about $50 U.S. bucks for a roundtrip ticket to Caye Caulker.

Now my buddy’s hotel, The Costa Maya Beach Cabanas, which is run by Julian Rosado. It’s right across from the beach and downtown. Rates are 50 to 60 U.S. a night. There is an awesome room overlooking the ocean for about $100 a night that I would opt for size wise. They have a couple of really nice dive/snorkel boats and even a glass bottom boat for those who watched “Jaws” at a young age and afraid to get into the water. You can swim with sharks or Sting-rays out over these beautiful reefs. Don’t worry, they are pretty tame and under the guidance of Nano, Desi’s brother and reef guide, you won’t have any problems. They have different water trips on the boat that vary from $45 dollars to swim around the local reefs to a trip to the Great Blue Hole over the lighthouse reef atoll to all day fishing trips for $175 dollars. Something that you’ll never forget. To book a room, go to their phone number is 011-501-225-2336 or Julian’s cell phone 011-501-610-3151 Bonnie found some of Desi’s photos on the web that you can check out here

Then if you get tired of the beach/ocean stuff, you can go cave tubing and then explore the Mayan ruins or take a jungle cruise. If it’s up to me, I think after nursing my hangover and a sun burn, I’d like to swing under the shade of a large coconut tree with a cold drink in my hand and watch the surf pound the reef with a nice breeze blowing over me. The small streets are lined with family owned restaurants with a mixture of local Belize, Jamaican and Chinese foods and a couple of pubs. This use to be a British colony and a lot of Chinese immigrated from Hong Kong over the years, so you really get a mix of cultures in one place ie local native, Spanish, British and African influence. I could see going for three days to a week and taking the family along too since there were a lot of kids running around. It’s easy to get to and really nice during Oct to March timeframe. Crazy how a chance encounter with an old friend can open up new adventures in life.

I’ve covered the basic logistics’, now its just up to you to plan out a great vacation. I hope you have a great New Year and talk to you soon.
Semper Flying,