Flying from Chicago to Providence through Dulles International Airport, Ann Zartler ran into complications. The retired school psychologist was returning home after visiting family for Thanksgiving. During her layover at Dulles, Zartler discovered that her next flight was overbooked, and the airline was seeking volunteers to take a later flight. The catch was that the later flight was out of Reagan National Airport, 30 miles east.
Zartler spotted a Naval officer standing nearby who had also chosen to be bumped. She asked if he could help her navigate the change in plans. “He found us a cab which drove us through DC traffic and he handled the cab voucher,” she explained. “We flew from DC to Newark, but by the time we got to Newark, there was a notice that our flight had closed. The officer decided that we needed to get to the departure gate to figure out what to do next. We needed to take a bus from one terminal to another, but as we got there the bus was pulling away. A worker at the gate said that she’d call us a van, which came quickly. However, our van got stuck behind a luggage truck and a piece of luggage fell off. When we finally got to the gate, the waiting area was empty. The departure gate staff asked if we were from the Washington plane. When we said yes, they opened the door to the jet way and let us on the plane.”
It turned out that LCDR James Diefenderfer was stationed at Naval Station Newport, right across the bridge from Zartler’s home. “When we landed, he drove me home, got my suitcase out of the car, and brought it to my front door, and off he went to the base.”
“The whole ordeal lasted seven or eight hours,” Zartler said, “and James stayed calm the whole time. He personified an officer and a gentleman.” Zartler asked Diefenderfer if she could make a donation in his honor as a token of her appreciation, and he suggested she donate to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. “I have a lot of clients from the base. For many years, I was a school psychologist in Newport, so I’ve known a lot of military families, and I know how much the Society helps. I appreciate what the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society does because I’ve seen how it impacts the people I’ve worked with.”
“The situation was challenging and it was so helpful that James was kind and accommodating,” Zartler said. “It was like my own personal Hallmark Christmas movie.”
Thank you, Commander Diefenderfer, for your kindness to Mrs. Zartler, and for suggesting the Society as a beneficiary of your gallantry.