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The Few and the Proud

Posted on | January 25, 2008 | 1 Comment

On Christmas Eve of 2007, my family went to DFW airport to welcome home soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan for R and R. It was one of those experiences that will last in my mind as long as I live.

You could say that I have a deep appreciation for our nations military and I am proud to be an American.

What prompted this post was a new video for the Marines that I think is very cool.

Back to Christmas Eve; my wife wrote about the experience better than I could have so I will quote her:


We arrived at terminal D at 7:45 am. There was a large crowd of people gathering there. Many of the people carried American flags and homemade signs. There were old soldiers dressed in their veteran outfits and young children with sleep still in their eyes. There were women and men of all ages, colors and creeds. Santa Claus was there with his bag full of treats, and an old Nam vet dressed to the hilt in blue Scottish
plaid, holding bagpipes. We found our place in the crowd, against a black belt barricade the airport uses to direct human traffic. All around we were greeted with the sounds of Merry Christmas, and warm handshakes. After a few minutes, a member of the USO got on a bull horn and gave us some instructions. Then she announced that the plane carrying 183 members of the military had just landed. They were home, fresh from the front. 300 People crowded in close, holding their flags and homemade signs high. Patriotic music began playing over the loudspeakers. The doors to gate 22 slid open, and the old Nam vet began playing on his pipes. Santa shook his bells and shouted Ho, ho, ho. And then the troops began to appear. We all started clapping and waving our flags. Members of the crowd were reaching out to shake the hands of the servicemen and women. And the soldiers were reaching back.

It just so happens that Dallas/Fort Worth is the first American soil every soldier touches as he returns home, and the last American soil he
touches as he returns to the front. Every single day a plane brings soldiers here, where they meet flights that connect them to home for two
weeks of R and R. Every single day another plane carries soldiers away to stand between us and evil. And every single day a crowd of American citizens gathers to welcome them home and to see them off. Today, we were able to be a part of that crowd.

As these service members walked through that gate, tired after a day and a half of traveling, you could see the war in their eyes. A small
handful tried to hide the war from us by wearing dark shades. Many stared straight ahead and marched down the gauntlet of people as quickly as possible. For those, we all stepped back and gave them the space they needed, serenading them only with our clapping. There were others, many others, that would step through the gate and see us standing there, and the war would begin to melt from their faces. They would reach out their hands to grasp the hands of the children who were lined up at the front of the crowd. Some, would reach for the hands of the adults, standing behind the children. As they shook my hand, they met my gaze with liquid eyes. I would squeeze their hand tight and say, “Thank You, and Merry Christmas.” They would stare right into my eyes and nod their heads the way only soldiers can.

In those powerful moments, I saw humanity melt the war that had settled into the soldiers hearts. I saw tears run down the cheeks of warriors and citizens alike. I felt tears of gratitude spill from my own eyes as I watched these men and women make their way humbly through the crowd. I saw wives greet husbands, and Daddies greet their children. One Texas soldier was met by his whole extended family. His grandmother turned to the crowd, and with her hand placed over her mouth to hold back the sobs, she raised her other hand to wave at us all and then she mouthed the words Thank You, before sobs overcame her and she was led away by her husband, a veteran of long ago.

This experience was beautiful. It was worth every moment of lost sleep. This week as we celebrate the birth of Christ, remember that we
are able to do so because today, there are men and women standing between us and evil. Remember the price of freedom is real.

Now that I know, I will go back, again and again.

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One Response to “The Few and the Proud”

  1. The Blog at » The greatest athletes
    December 18th, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

    […] go the airport and welcome home the troops who were enroute to their R & R leave from the war. I wrote about it in this post. While we have made several trips to the airport this year, maybe I can talk my wife into going […]