I always feel humbled, grateful, and somewhat awkward when I see soldiers at the airport. Is it appropriate to talk to them? Certainly I have nothing in common with their most immediate experience.
Sometimes it’s a man in his mid 40s. You see the wedding band and know that he has someone he’s leaving behind, maybe a full family. Sometimes it’s a woman in her mid 30s. She couldn’t wait to start a family, and they make it work with her deployment.
Sometimes their unit patches or their carry ons tell you whether they are career soldiers or reservists. Every single one of them is a normal person who struggles with family, money issues, life aspirations. And on top of everything else they have chosen to shoulder an incredible burden.
An hour ago, we went through security at Reagan. The woman in front of me has silver matching Tumi luggage, a French manicure, a designer down parka, and a bunch of fabulous accessories that I’ve never seen before but look really expensive. She’s really put herself together for this trip.
The kid 10 feet behind me is in his mid 20s, and the first thing I see is his cane, the second the digital camo pattern on his rucksack, and then his high and tight haircut. He’s probably infantry. His face is wrinkled and hints at
He’s so polite. The woman behind him is asking him all sorts of personal questions, the kind you sometimes don’t mind answering but can be irritating when you don’t feel like making small talk or are occupied with something else. “Yes, ma’am…”, “No ma’am” is how he begins all of his answers. Most of his answers are curt but still convey an enormous story. Why is he in Washington? He is being treated at Walter Reed. Where is he going? Oklahoma. How is it there? There’s 2 things you can never predict about Oklahoma, the people and the weather.
Is he excited to go home for the holiday? Yes. This is the first time he’s been home for Christmas in 5 years.
I’m speechless. I’m overwhelmed.