Continuous Travels Throughout The Pandemic

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Continuous Travels Throughout The Pandemic

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As an Active Duty Soldier during the COVID-19 pandemic I was able to travel; albeit my movements were extremely controlled and job-related and not for leisure. On 13 March 2020, when the entire Country literally reacted to and shut down due to COVID-19, I was out of town and hours away from traveling back to my duty station. The sudden reality we were all faced with felt like The Twilight Zone, especially since it was also a Friday. In May of 2020, I drove to my hometown of San Antonio, TX. My mother was a COVID patient in the ICU, and I needed to get home to help take care of my father. Thankfully, my mother recovered, and I returned to Tennessee, where I was stationed at the time. The COVID restrictions from Tennessee and Texas could not have been more different; whereas Clarksville, Tennessee treated public separation and mask-wearing with a laissez-faire attitude, San Antonio was very strict with its public safety ordinances. A few months later, I deployed to Iraq; transiting to and from the Combat Zone was extremely restrictive. Prior to the Pandemic, we could enjoy local sightseeing if we had a layover in Spain or Germany; naturally, during COVID we were confined to our lodging.
However, in January of 2021, as travel restrictions began to lift ever-so slightly, I participated in a unit training exercise in California. To my surprise, we had to fly commercially to Las Vegas, NV. To ensure 6-foot separation, we were each allowed our own rental vehicles, and our own hotel rooms while we trained in the California desert. In all my years in the military, that was the only time I wasn’t required to share a rental or hotel room with anyone.
After we had concluded our training, we commuted back to Las Vegas. The original plan was to use military lodging on Nellis Air Force Base, however our Commander allowed us to find our own hotels in Las Vegas, as our flights would not depart for Nashville for another 36 hours or so. At that time of course, no one was traveling or booking rooms; I was able to find a room at the 4 Queens Casino on Fremont Street for forty dollars a night. This turned out to be far more cost-effective to the US Government, as we would have paid around ninety dollars a night had we stayed on Nellis AFB. Restaurants in Las Vegas during the Pandemic opened no earlier than noon, so we had a lot of time to kill in the morning. We walked up and down Fremont Street, the Strip, and it felt as though we were the only group of people in the city. Casinos were empty throughout the day and remained empty well into the night. Being thirsty Soldiers, we visited a Speakeasy and a couple of restaurants; again, with the eerie feeling like we were the only “tourists” there. We even visited the Mob Museum and enjoyed all the history and Prohibition artifacts at our leisure!
Between multiple quarantines, working remotely, COVID tests, memorandums clearing us to leave the country, and the eventual vaccination, we continued military travel. It was impossible for my unit to cease all operations due to the Pandemic; we adjusted on the spot and continued to learn throughout the entire experience. It was impossible for me to narrow my travels during COVID to just one single memory; rather it felt like one continuous surreal dream. Today if anyone asks where or how I spent Lockdown, I have to ask, “When during the Pandemic are you referring to?”

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This item was submitted on October 12, 2023 by [anonymous user] using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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