Recently, I was flying from Atlanta to Columbus (Ohio) for business. As I was settling into my seat, a soldier approached in ACUs and motioned that he had the window seat. I moved to the aisle to let him in and instantly thought of a hundred questions I wanted to ask him.
You see, I’m no stranger to asking questions. I ask a lot of them. A lot. In fact, that’s really how MTTA started – because I wasn’t afraid to ask questions all the time. I wanted to ask him where he was going, where he had been, what units he’d been assigned to, when he had joined…and on and on. But I refrained.
I had to say something though. If nothing else, I had to say thank you and it seemed a little silly to blurt that out without any kind of opening.
I asked him if he was on leave and he told me he was on his way home from Iraq. I told him my husband had also served and I just wanted to say thank you. He said thanks and seemed a little uncomfortable so I pulled out my book and started reading.
As we began to land an hour or so later, I asked him if anyone was meeting him at the airport. He said his wife was. I asked him if he had kids and he said yes. Then he told me his older kids had no idea he was on his way home and he was going to their school to surprise them.
I told him that was so awesome and then had to look away to keep from really losing it. I just couldn’t imagine the look on his kids’ faces when they looked up and saw him standing there.
As we were walking towards our rental car, I saw him reunited with his wife and infant daughter. His wife had a huge grin with tear stained cheeks and swollen eyes. Oh, how I remember those days. That amazing feeling when he was back in your arms safe. There are just no words to describe it.
I was once again trying to discreetly wipe the tears as I watched them walk away.
As much as the deployments sucked, that moment when you see them walking towards you again, the fear just fades away and overwhelming happiness surrounds you….it almost makes it all worth it. Almost.