When Siobhan Brennan-Sharer visited her husband in Chicago for Valentine’s Day weekend this year, nothing seemed to go as planned.
From the delay of her initial flight to Chicago from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to getting tangled in a 40-car pileup in freezing weather, Brennan-Sharer’s reunion with her husband — who she hadn’t seen in a month and half — was anything but magical.
“It was an all-around crummy weekend,” Brennan-Sharer wrote in an email. “Not how I wanted to spend the weekend with my husband.”
Improbably, things got even worse.
At the end of the weekend, Brennan-Sharer said her goodbyes and headed back to Chicago O’Hare International Airport for her flight home. When she arrived, Brennan-Sharer discovered her flight was cancelled and she wouldn’t be able to fly out until the next day.
Her husband, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Sharer, was on duty and couldn’t come pick her up. She called her mother, a retired Marine, for advice on what to do next. Her mom said to find the USO.
Brennan-Sharer headed to the USO of Illinois O’Hare Center, where she was greeted by volunteers who told her she could spend the night at the 24-hour center while waiting her flight. One volunteer even spent time chatting with Brennan-Sharer when she noticed she was crying.
“After all that had happened that weekend, it was awesome to walk in, see friendly faces that helped me and made me feel safe,” Brennan-Sharer wrote.
“I was there for about 18 hours all together,” she wrote, “and it was great to be somewhere away from home and feel safe and not having to worry about how much extra this canceled flight was going to cost me.”
During her stay, Brennan-Sharer met a number of USO volunteers, including police officer Tim Walsh and his 7-year-old son, Rylan Walsh, who had skipped his Boy Scout pizza party to volunteer with his dad.
Brennan-Sharer — whose father is also a police officer — was particularly touched by the father-son duo, and gave Tim Walsh a challenge coin from her father’s sheriff’s department.
“[I] said he could keep it or give it to his little boy,” she wrote. “He [also] wanted to send me a patch and a challenge coin as [well], so I gave him my information and he just sent [the items] to me a few weeks ago.”
Even though her weekend didn’t go exactly as she had hoped — the airline even lost her luggage on her flight home — Brennan-Sharer still thinks fondly about her time at the USO of Illinois O’Hare Center.
“It was definitely a great place to just catch my breath from the crazy weekend,” she wrote.