SGT. 1ST CLASS CARLOS I. ALVELO
56th Multifunctional Medical Battalion
Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.
As the transition to my next duty assignment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., neared, I decided to take the family on a vacation to Orlando, Fla. We all had busy schedules at home and were excited to finally take a break. So, we packed our bags and headed down I-95 South to Walt Disney World.
I’d planned to start the 15-hour trip from Maryland to Orlando about 11 p.m. so I could avoid traffic and let the kids sleep. My wife and I agreed that I would take the first leg of the trip so she could sleep and then we’d switch so I could get some rest. As we left our home, we said a small prayer that the Lord would keep us safe as we drove.
About three hours into the trip, I pulled off I-95 somewhere in lower Virginia and stopped at a little gas station so I could use the restroom and refuel. I still felt good and alert as we continued our journey, thinking of the good time we were about to enjoy as a family. As the miles and time passed, though, I began to get a little tired. I tried to stay awake by using all the usual tricks like opening the driver’s window, drinking coffee and energy drinks and turning up the radio. I figured that would help me stay focused.
At one point, my wife asked if I was tired, but I told her I was fine — although I was really feeling the effects of driving for the past seven hours. After a few more fuel and restroom breaks, I stubbornly stayed behind the wheel and ignored the warning signs that I should transfer driving duties to my wife. Somewhere in North Carolina, though, I got one more warning that it was time to switch. In fact, it almost turned this trip of happiness and joy into pain and agony.
The only thing I remember is the rumble strips on the road making a loud burring sound as I edged off the side. The noise woke me up, and I jerked the steering wheel back to the left. At that moment, my wife and kids woke up and asked what happened. I had fallen asleep while driving and put my family, as well as anyone else on the road, in danger. Divine intervention must have woken me at the right time because I was heading straight off the road.
We always promote safety in our units before the weekends, especially when Soldiers will be traveling long distances. But I completely did the opposite at that moment. I ignored the signs that I needed to switch drivers so I could rest. Immediately after that scary moment and pushing my heart back into place, my wife fired me from driving duty and took over.
We must continue to encourage our Soldiers and family members to be safe regardless the activity. Safety should never be taken lightly. We eventually went on to have a great time at Disney World, but one careless moment nearly caused this vacation to go south.