Last April I wrote about a joyous moment at the end of a very, very long business trip. After spending an unexpected night in O’Hare airport, my colleague and I had the honor of returning home to Suburbia with a plane full of soldiers returning from Iraq. I was touched by the heartfelt welcome they received and struck by how different our response as a nation has been during this war–having learned a valuable lesson from our failure to honor those who sacrificed for our country during the Vietnam War.
Today brought another business trip, and this time I was met not with the joyous excitement of families welcoming their loved ones home from war but instead with small groups of parents, wives, and girlfriends huddled around their departing servicemen. Sending them off, certainly fearing all the “what ifs” that come with deployment.
I watched a father salute his young son from across the waiting area as he put on a brave face and walked through the entryway. I saw that same soldier’s girlfriend dissolve into tears as he moved out of sight and his mother move to comfort the younger woman. The soldiers boarded early, but none of the family members left the waiting area. Instead, they stood by the windows until the plane pulled away.
Many, many people greeted the soldiers and their families with kindness. The restaurant near our gate gave them complimentary meals; the airline had obviously made exceptions to the “passengers only” rule at the gate, and I heard the woman in front of me thank the soldier sitting next to her as she stood to leave the plane at the end of our flight. But I can’t help but think of the tears and the mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, and children who are left behind tonight, wondering what fate has in store for those men who are destined to put themselves in harm’s way.
I thank all of our service personnel for their dedication to our country. My hope is that we will soon be able to honor them even more by ending this misinformed war and bringing them all home safely. Until then, I’ll be thinking of their faces and the faces of those wishing them well each time I hear a report from the front.