Excerpt from blog
National Airport’s Terminal C crackled electric. Fanning into a gauntlet from Gate 38’s open door, civilians like me swayed shoulder-to-shoulder with soldiers donned in crisply pressed navy and white or green uniforms. Children squeezed through us waving petite American flags like sparklers in the night. One gentle Golden Retriever working dog smiled in abiding patience at her place in line beside our knees. Musicians in the brass band seated to my right, reconfirmed the order of their sheet music.
We scanned that open door, all of us, for World War II veterans arriving from Hudson Valley, New York on an Honor Flight. Soldiers were coming home to the nation’s capital and to the welcome they never got and always deserved.
And then the wheel chairs, pushed by grateful volunteers, started to roll, transporting precious cargo: once young soldiers, now octogenarians and nonogenarians. Then came the men walking as tall as they could with tripod canes, including Jack from Staten Island and Rocco from Rochester.
Sixty-eight years ago, these same soldiers returned without fanfare, without the PTSD diagnosis that could bring relief, without help to face substance addictions, but with the expectation they would overnight return to life and work, putting the war horrors behind them.
Urged by the line around me, I flew to each soldier, offering a hug, thanking them, honoring them, crying with them. My heart burst with gratitude and love. War is not my answer; but, I will always appreciate the people who risk everything to defend the freedoms we hold dear.