Sunday, April 20, 2008
Applause Of A Nation
“Announcing the arrival of a military flight from the middle east with 263 of America’s finest men and women on board”. These were the words that came across Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport’s public address system, the busiest airport in the world, while I waited in baggage claim. Down the escalator emerged a snaking line of tired looking uniformed soldiers and Marines, daypacks slung over their shoulders, smiles on their faces, all happy to be back home to the “land of the free and the home of the brave”. The applause started as a ripple and grew to a sustained, heavy crescendo as the hundreds of passengers in the terminal, US Customs agents, flight crews, and airport personnel recognized the job that these men and women had done for the past 15 or so months of their lives.
I was happy and deeply touched to witness the welcoming that this country, or at least the Atlanta airport, gave to its returning heroes. I know from experience that this was one of those moments that will fondly reside in the memories of all 263 of those servicemen and women for the rest of their lives.
I too was arriving from Iraq, but my commitment paled when compared to the long, arduous ordeal that these heroes were emerging from. My applause, however, waited outside the North Terminal ,sitting behind the wheel of a white Toyota SUV and also strapped into a carseat in the back.