Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The Soldier Returns

I am home from greeting The Soldier at the airport on his return from Iraq, and I am so thankful he and his unit are home safe.

The entire event was a bit of an emotional blur for me - I am a softie for these types of things. I watched as families were reunited, and it was easy to see the love and camaraderie in the soldier's unit.

The last soldier to emerge from the secured area was my friend. It was just like him to allow all the others to come out first. When I saw him, he was carrying his youngest son, who turned one last week, but his wife and two other sons were close by his side. That image alone made the trip worthwhile.

As the returning soldiers hugged loved ones, they completely blocked an area of normally heavy pedestrian traffic. No one would have said a word, but the commanding officer sized things up and quickly moved the group to a larger area. Even after traveling for more than 24 hours, military discipline reigned.

Having the opportunity to watch each soldier be awarded the combat patch was an honor. Each of these soldiers gave up a year that he/she will never get back, and each did so at great risk. The patch was a simple piece of cloth, but the smiles it brought revealed a greater value.

My most lasting image of today was seeing my friend place his one year old son at arm's length, then watching the little guy walk back to him. It was the first time the soldier had seen his youngest son walk, and I cannot imagine seeing him happier than at that moment - home with his unit, his friends, and most of all his family.


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