By Joseph Andrew Lee

Military spouses are often the unsung superheroes of a long-distance move. But even superheroes can get overwhelmed.

Becca Kofonow experienced this when her husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason Kofonow, executed orders to Japan and left her to pack up the house and move their two young kids and the family’s two cats half way around the world.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Kofonow family | Photo credit Kofonow family

Moving day started well with a five-hour flight from Baltimore to Seattle. A long flight, but the airline had entertainment tablets and the flight crew was pleasant. The airline promised a porter would be waiting at the terminal when they arrived to help get their family – which Becca calls “Circus Kofonow” – over to the Air Mobility Command terminal by 3:30 a.m.

Of course, that didn’t happen.

“No one was there and several attendants looked at me like I was crazy,” Kofonow said. “I had to leave my son on the plane because I had my infant daughter asleep on my chest and two bags and two car seats on the plane.”

Kofonow stood on the jet bridge sobbing.

“My kids are crying, I’m crying, my cats are a mess, I can’t find two boxes of our clothes and I’m just a complete wreck,” she said.

Just when she was about to lose it, an airline supervisor learned she was a military spouse and directed her to the USO. When she arrived, a gentle voice spoke up from behind the counter. It was USO Northwest volunteer Tom Lancaster, whose first instinct was to offer to put her cats in a dark room where they could relax.

“It was the first smile I’d gotten since deplaning in Seattle,” she said.

With the cats in the office out of the way, Kofonow finally relaxed, ate a hot dog and nursed her 2-month-old daughter to sleep. She got a little sleep, too, before waking up to feed the cats, change the kids and get packed up for their 2 a.m. check-in at the AMC terminal.

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Forgetting to even change her own clothes, Kofonow strapped her daughter to her chest, put her son in a car seat and headed out. But once again Lancaster stepped up to help, loading luggage and the family pets onto a baggage trolley he’d fetched.

“I just thought he was helping me load them up and I’d push it all but then he just started pushing along,” she said. “He walked us down with one trolley then went back for the other.”

She told him about the missing bags as they walked. And once she was in line with the kids and cats, Lancaster went across the airport to track them down.

“He was calm, friendly and helpful when I was just about toasted mentally and physically,” Kofonow said.

Kofonow said Lancaster even went back to the USO to make copies of her husband’s orders and her veterinary paperwork “just in case.”

“I really wished I could’ve done more to thank Tom and his crew,” Kofonow said. “I don’t know what I would have done without him. Lord help those without access to a USO.”