DEAR ABBY: My only son recently died due to complications from a heatstroke he suffered while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa. Upon notifying us that he was in serious condition, the military requested that my daughter-in-law, Billie, and I travel to his bedside in Okinawa.
Billie was able to leave immediately, traveling with military orders and her dependent military ID in lieu of a passport. I, however, having no connection with the military, had to get a passport in a hurry.
The State Department was marvelous. A passport can take up to six weeks to receive, and there are only three cities where one can be obtained in one day -- New Orleans, Los Angeles and Houston.
I flew to Houston on Father's Day Sunday, received my passport, and left for Okinawa the next morning. Upon arrival after this long journey, I found my son had died just six hours earlier.
Abby, my point is this: If I had already possessed a passport, I could have accompanied my 18-year-old daughter-in-law and been there in time at least to have said goodbye to my son. I would like to encourage all parents who have children in the military to get a passport now. I hope they'll never have to use it except for pleasure -- but if a loved one is injured overseas, they won't have to waste precious time, as I did. -- LINDA NICKELL, OKLAHOMA CITY
DEAR LINDA: My sincere sympathy to you, Billie and your family. The point you make is an excellent one, and well worth sharing with parents of all military personnel.
Actually, I checked with the U.S. Passport Agency in Washington and was told there are 13 passport offices nationwide capable of issuing a passport for "life and death" emergencies on weekends and holidays. A duty officer is available to make that judgment during non-working hours in Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Stamford, Conn., and Washington, D.C.
Thank you for wanting to spare others the anxiety you experienced.