A great many people are going to find themselves in airports over the next several weeks for holiday travel. It will be hectic, it will be busy, it will be awful if weather gets in your way, but it will be happy, too. You are going to spend the holidays with family and loved ones.
While you are traveling, be aware! You may see military men and women traveling, too. They will probably be in their tell-tale ACU's and desert boots. They will be carrying overloaded backpacks. They will probably look tired. They will probably try to stay out of your way. They will probably sit on the floor so that others can have the limited seating.
Don't just stare at them. Walk over, smile at them and talk to them - thank them. It is a definate that they are either going home - where they haven't been in a long time, or they are heading away from home - for a long time.
Now all of this may seem obvious, but it is not to most people.
While returning from vacation last month, we were sitting at our boarding area, playing hurry up and wait. An Airman came into the area and sat on the floor. Then, a Marine joined him. Finally, two Soldiers sat down. I went over and thanked them and shook their hands. They were all headed to the middle east, returning from leave. I wished them well.
I went back to my seat and started watching people. Not one person spoke to them. They all went out of their way to avoid the four of them. They tried to not get caught looking at them. I was embarrassed for my fellow Americans. It was pathetic. When the flight was called, the entire full flight had to walk by them to board - still no one spoke to them. I was angry that people could be so disrespectful of our troops. Maybe, they felt too shy to speak - but, that is not an excuse.
If you see one of our troops while you are traveling - say THANK YOU! and smile. The smile you are rewarded with will make your day!
Why the C-130 picture? When we did get on our flight, the last person to board was flying stand by and he sat down next to me. He spoke politely to us, and settled in. He looked tired.
"Where are you heading?' I asked. "Alaska," he said. As we were on the east coast, I made the obvious remark, "long flying day for you." He looked at his watch and said, "I'm on hour 23 now." So, I asked if he was coming from the middle east. He cautiously said that he was. I touched his arm and thanked him for his service to our country. Then, THE SMILE. He had been treated so badly at his previous connection location that he changed into civilian clothes. He was an Air Force C-130 pilot. He had been flying in and out of Baghdad for the past months. We talked for some time - about flying, about Iraq, about his wife and children, about our country, about the wars, and some entertaining stories about flying in and out of Baghdad.
Then, he asked me, "Why do you support the war in Iraq?"
I have a great many reasons for supporting the war in Iraq, but the reason that I do not loose faith in it is because those who are there fighting it have not lost faith. I get letters and emails from "our kids" all of the time telling me why it is the right thing to be and how much good we are doing. I told him that I could not loose faith as long as the troops had faith.
"Good," he said. "Because we are doing great things there. It would be a disaster if we left."
If you are traveling this holiday season and you see one of our troops - smile at them, thank them. They are not the policy makers - they are the brave young men and women who go where they are told and fight to keep us free, so that you can travel for the holidays.
God Bless Them All.