Lost cat shows how military ‘family’ works together

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Cheryl L. Toner
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Staff Sgt. Tina Hernandez knows first hand what it's like to be supported by the U.S. Air Force "family." She wasn't late on a bill or stranded anywhere. Well, she wasn't stranded, but her cat was.

Through a long chain of events and help by a then-faceless kind-hearted couple, as well as a soon-to-PCS technical sergeant, Sergeant Hernandez and her family will soon be reunited with their beloved feline, "Skittles."

Sergeant Hernandez and her family of five made a permanent change in station move in October 2007 from Incirlik, Turkey, to Spangdahlem. About two weeks prior to leaving Turkey, the family moved into temporary quarters. In an unfamiliar environment, Sergeant Hernandez said Skittles got scared and ran away.

Enter Jayme Cupples who works at the Incirlik veterinary clinic. She said a lady and her children came in to the clinic one day with Skittles. Through a micro chip, Mrs. Cupples quickly determined that Skittle's family had PCS'd.

Mrs. Cupples agreed to take care of Skittles until Sergeant Hernandez could find a way to get the cat to Germany. "My husband Donnie and I have another cat named Meu Meu, who is quite the stinker and always wants to try and play with other animals," she said. She also said that Skittles doesn't like Meu Meu "at all" and that Skittles tries to "rule the roost."

"I've never met Jayme Cupples, but she and her whole family have put themselves out to do a really selfless thing for somebody they haven't even met," said Sergeant Hernandez. The Cupples are not only caring for the cat, but they are also doing all the veterinary and certificate work necessary to move Skittles from one country to another.

Now, enter Tech. Sgt. Errol Gibson. Sergeant Hernandez contacted her old squadron at Incirlik, the 39th Communications Squadron, and asked her previous first sergeant, Master Sgt. Daniel Goodwin, and her chief enlisted manager if anyone from her old squadron would soon be heading to the Eifel.

Sergeant Gibson was, but he was deployed at the time. However, upon reaching Sergeant Gibson, he said he would be happy to help - this, despite returning from a deployment and then immediately going on emergency leave in Belize.

While Sergeant Gibson is well-traveled - this is his sixth PCS in 11 years - he admits he's a novice when it comes to cats. "I don't even know what to feed it," he said with a laugh.

"I know this is putting additional strain on him; there are more things for him to do as part of out processing since he's taking a pet with him, and we all know leaving Turkey has its quirks anyway," said Sergeant Hernandez. "He has really gone out of his way to make this work."

How do her kids feel about seeing Skittles again? "My husband and I haven't told the kids that somebody has found our cat or that she's going to be delivered to Germany for us, so they are going to be ecstatic," she said. Sergeant Gibson will be reuniting the family and Skittles March 4.

Mrs. Cupples, when asked if she would do this again, said not any time soon. "She's a sweetie," she said of Skittles, "but my kitty needs his house back." Sergeant Gibson, however, said he would do something like this again. "Sure," he said, "Why not? I just like to help." Well, this is what he said before traveling with the family pet.

"I am just thankful," said Sergeant Hernandez. She said she appreciates the military community as everyone is taken care of - both big and small. "I don't think that much else says 'military family' than this," she said. "People just don't help somebody they don't know like this ... the military truly is a family."