218th stuck in Kuwait, while families stuck waiting

CHAPIN, SC (WIS) - Families who have been waiting more than a year to see their loved ones are going to have to wait a little longer.

That's because about 200 guardsmen with the 218th are stuck in Kuwait because a bankrupt airline cancelled their flight, and it looks like it will take at least another week to get the guardsmen back in the US.

One-year-old Ethan doesn't say much, but there is one word he keeps repeating.

"He says 'Dadda' all the time," says Sharon Lindler.

"Dadda" is Allen Lindler, a guardsman with the 218th. Lindler has spent the past year in Afghanistan.

"He left when Ethan was five months old," says Sharon. "He hasn't had a lot of time to spend with him. That's sad."

Sharon was upbeat because Allen was supposedly on his way home this week, so the family made signs and Ethan practiced his new walk.
  
But that's when mom got a call from dad.

"The first thing he said is 'I have bad news. I'm stuck in Kuwait until the 23rd, with no flights out,'" says Sharon.

In all, Lindler and nearly 200 members of his 218th Brigade Combat Team are affected.

Colonel Pete Brooks says the members of the 218th Brigade Combat team were expected to arrive at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Tuesday after their year in Afghanistan, but the bankruptcy of ATA Airlines, the airline contracted to fly the troops home, left them stranded.

Troops' deployment and return flights are arranged by the Air Force, which contracts with civilian airlines. Brooks says they're working at the highest level of the Air Force to get the soldiers home, but there's no update on when they'll be back.

"As big as the military is, they should have a backup plan if something happens," says Sharon.

Mom certainly didn't have one, and now each passing moment without dad is an eternity.

"Eleven days seems like a lifetime. I'm just ready to seem him. It's like I'm on an emotional roller coaster," she said.

While Ethan might not understand what's going on, he knows he's still waiting to show off his new walk and to wave hello to the dad he hardly knows.

The 1,800 soldiers of the 218th are expected to come back in waves through mid-May.

Reported by Dan Tordjman

Posted by Logan Smith

Copyright 2008 Raycom Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.