Tired and emotionally wrung out, I pulled into my garage, truly thankful to be home. My travel saga began yesterday at 2:00 p.m. and ended today at approximately the same time. 24 hours to make a trip that should have taken five.
But just as I was feeling really sorry for myself–what with the night spend on an army surplus cot in the middle of an O’Hare concourse, complete with 4:00 a.m. rousing by the airport employees who needed to clear out the cot brigade in time for travelers arriving for 6 o’clock flights to get through–I experienced one of those moments when it becomes clear how self-centered I too often am.
We arrived at our gate, to be met by the sight of a group of Marine reservists returning to their home base near Suburbia. They’ve been in Fallujah training Iraqi soldiers for that last year. And, no matter what I may think about this war and the incredible lack of planning for the post-invasion period, I was honored to share a flight home with them. I can’t imagine leaving my family and putting my life on the line like each and every one of those young men had just done.
Fortunately, I believe they had an incredible homecoming, from the applause on the plane to a firetruck water hose salute as our plane taxied in, to the group of family members, friends, and other citizens who took the time to come out and greet them at the airport. I was in tears just following them out and seeing the reunions going on all around me. I am so, so happy that this country is not repeating the mistakes made regarding the returning veterans from Vietnam. Like my seatmate, who had two daughters ages 1 and 3 waiting for him at the airport, my own father left a newborn baby when he shipped out to Vietnam forty years ago. Unlike the young soldier today, there were no cheering crowds waiting for him when he flew home.
Our military men and women deserve those cheers. They deserve recognition of the fact that they have answered the call of their country. And, they deserve a government that won’t ask them to fight unless there’s a true risk to American safety and security. Hopefully soon, they’ll have all three.