Monday, May 31, 2010

Thank You for Your Service

I was waiting for my flight out of Nashville International Airport at a gate that seemed to have previously been a storage room until someone knocked out a wall and installed two rows of seating. I had just pulled out a ball of yarn (marveling at how the airlines allow items such as crochet hooks and knitting needles on board a plane and thinking how, in my hands, my crochet hook is useless as a weapon, but if I could identify one of those undercover sky marshals and get a hook to him, it'd be better than nothing... but he'd probably have his own gun anyway) when the couple sat down across from me. They glanced quickly at the bare walls of the area as they settled in.

I gestured, “They really need to put up a TV in here.”
They nodded and chuckled. “At least some pictures,” offered the woman.

Between the two of them, they had one big carry-on. Only one of them was leaving. The other had come to say goodbye.
“Is Chicago your final destination?” I asked them both, knowing the answer would tell me who was going and who was staying. “Or, is it just one stop to somewhere else?”
The man spoke, “I’m headed to Saudi Arabia.”
“Oh! Very not Chicago, then.”

I focused again on my handful of yarn.
A soldier leaving his wife, I thought to myself. How terribly sad they must be right now.
I made a decision: If there is any trouble on this flight, I definitely slip this guy my crochet hook for a weapon.

A crazy thought to have, maybe. But, when we boarded our flight and he took the assigned seat next to me, I was grateful. Moments later, as an off-duty flight attendant settled into the emergency exit row directly in front of us, I leaned over and whispered to this man, “Excellent! Someone who knows how to work the door!”

With all these precautions around me, I felt very safe on this airplane. As if to prove how protected I was, the entire flight was uneventful.

SoldierMan and I engaged in small talk during our 90 minute flight. I learned the woman at the airport was his second wife, and that he was very happy to finally be stationed in Nashville near his teen-aged son. He was returning to Saudi Arabia to finish up his year-long tour after a 30-day leave. He was going to miss his younger son’s entire little league season.

Our flight landed early in Chicago. My bus home was leaving in half an hour. If I could find the bus terminal and purchase a ticket in time, I’d be with my family in two hours. This man, in the same amount of time, would be on an eight-hour flight headed an entire world away from his family.

For the past five years, I’ve been the producer for a radio host who happens to be a Vietnam veteran. He tells me how one day he was dodging bullets, and the next day he was home drinking lemonade.
This radio host speaks fondly of once meeting John McCain. Senator McCain shook his hand, looked him straight in the eye, and said, “Thank you for your service.” It was the first time anyone had thanked him for the sacrifices he had made and the things he had endured in Vietnam. For this, the host will always respect Mr. McCain.
Today, this host makes a point to thank every military member he interviews. I hear the sincerity in his voice. I hear the gratitude in return.

And this is why, as our plane taxied to the O’Hare gate, I turned to this man next to me and said, “Good luck with your last few months. Thank you for your service.”

He nodded. And we said nothing more.

I never learned his name. I’ll never know when he returns home to Tennessee.
But I know there’s a desert full of men like him. And I pray for them everyday.

Today is Memorial Day.
Say thank you to a serviceman. You just might be the first one ever to do so.


Andy said...

Roses, very good post. I know that many are reluctant to approach a service man, or woman and show gratitude. Not because they are not grateful, but just the general unease of approaching a stranger.

I have two sons that serve. One is the Air Force, and the other a Soldier. I would say to any that read not be shy to approach them. It is ALWAYS appreciated by those that serve. Even a "thumbs-up" in passing is like a cool drink of water to them.

And, after you make the habit of doing it, you'll not feel "uneasy." A good time will be had by all!

Miss Em said...


Today is actually the Day to say "Thank You" to all of the Families that have LOST a Loved One who has run to the sound of battle.

It is They who have sacrificed the most for this Country for it is They who will never hear Their Loved One's voice or feel that Loved One's hugs again.

So, seek out these People and let Them know that Their loss was NOT IN VAIN.

Miss Em
Austell, Ga.

Roses said...

Right you are, Miss Em!

I will take this post down at the end of the day and set it to re-post on Veteran's Day.

Andy said...

Okay...Roses, feel free to remove this comment if it violates the tone of your blog. It will not hurt my feelings one bit. Miss Em makes the point that this is Memorial Day, and not Veteran's Day.

I'm pretty sure that you KNOW that. But, not everyone knows, or can connect with the family of a slain warrior. However, we all run across those that serve on a nearly daily basis.

There is NEVER a day that it is not appropriate to say "Thank You" to those that serve. Even on Memorial Day.

Because the sad truth is that you never know... You might be the last one to "thank" the next one that will pay the ultimate price.

Put it up on Veteran's Day...and every day if you want to. Great story...

Just my $0.02.

Thumper said...

It's never inappropriate to thank someone for their service; Veteran's day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Gumby's birthday...

Too many of us have too many friends who were there one day and gone the next, all in service to their country. Andy is right, you may be the first and the last person to thank a service member...

Leave it up. It's the intent, not the occasion, that matters...

Andy said...

Thumper, I have a looooong story about the very first civilian that my #3 son ran across when he graduated at Fort Benning out of Army Basic Training.

I did a blog post about it. She was an old gray-haired lady that we met at the entrance to a mall in Columbus, GA. He had only been "off post" for about 15 minutes. As he rushed in front of her to open the door for her, she stopped and thanked him for serving.

I was moved to tears (but, I'm a big cry-baby, so that's nothing new). I wondered how many have served for years, and NEVER heard that "Thank You." From that moment on, I always say "Thanks, Dude!," or give a "thumbs-up."

Priscilla said...

I thank them. Every chance I get. I'm a notary and I have NEVER charged a service person or a vet if I know.

My little way of saying thank you.