The air was thick and sticky; smells of perfume, cologne, and sweat mixed with the propane from the grills lined up in the parking lot. My father, mother, uncle, and mother-in-law were somewhere nearby, but difficult to spot and impossible to talk to in the crowded terminal. Bohdan perched upon David’s shoulders and Vivi upon mine – the only two in the group to have a semi-clear shot down the long corridor. We waited, shifting back and forth attempting to catch a glimpse of who we had come to see.
The sounds of cheering and applause could be heard in the distance and then grew as the wave of energy swept through the crowd. They had arrived! A sea of people parted ever so slightly to make way for the troops, but then quickly closed in around them, arms patting shoulders, women offering hugs (the older one’s sneaking a smack on the cheeks of the handsome soldiers).
I found myself frantically clapping like mad. If I was going to make it until the last soldier passed by, I needed to pace myself, so I slowed down to a more calm, even cadence. I continued to shift, catching glimpses here and there of a tan hat or a buzz cut, a smile here, a nod there as men and women filed past the throng.
I blinked away the tears. What was I feeling? Pride? Sadness? Patriotism? I looked around. I was not the only one moved by this simple experience. There we were, a few hundred people; men, women, children, Democrats, Republicans, Christians, Atheists, Blue-collar workers, upper management, war supporters and war protesters, all there together, in UNITY. Doing something GOOD. Learning from past mistakes. Setting aside our POLITICAL AGENDA, ignoring our DIFFERENCES and practicing a random act of KINDESS.
This is what it meant to me to welcome home an airplane full of soldiers from
All I did was stand and clap, did my best not to cry and offered up silent prayers for the soldiers and their families, and those who won’t be coming home. And if that is all I get to do when I go back (which I promise you, I will) it will be worth every minute and worthy of many repeat trips.*Thanks go to Michelle for informing me of this amazing opportunity. You are awesome!
**Anyone is welcome to greet the troops at Pease whenever they have planes coming home from or going out to Iraq. For more information visit www.peasegreeters.org