Reader Jim, a vet with a son who spent a year in Iraq, sends this (his own) observation:
I've read about this happening and received emails through friends of friends, but you cannot imagine the feeling until you experience it first hand.
A few days ago, I was waiting at the departure gate at Louis Armstrong New Orleans Airport for my connecting flight back to San Diego. One of the passengers that filed out with the others of the arriving flight was a small, dark-haired, and slightly rumpled young man in desert utilities who was enthusiastically met as soon as he emerged from the gateway by a dozen family members who hugged, kissed and shot digital pictures of their son, grandson, brother and/or husband’s safe return. His last homecoming gesture was to lean down and wrap his arms around the shoulders of an elderly white-haired man in a wheelchair.
As the young hero, surrounded by his family, made his way through the crowded gate area, a woman’s voice rang out, strong and clear – “Thank you!”
Almost instantly, this one small corner of America broke out in spontaneous applause which rapidly became a standing ovation by everyone within hearing distance of the woman’s heartfelt expression of appreciation.
The young man, somewhat embarrassed by the unanimous public display of gratitude for his service and safe return by a hundred or more total strangers, shyly raised his hand, nodded his head, and smiled – at us and then back at his family who, for whatever time had been necessary, had lovingly and unselfishly shared him with us and his country.
As a veteran, long since retired, I would hope that this scene is, and will be, repeated again and again, in every corner of this country to impart our sincerest appreciation to our returning service members and their families for their sacrifices to maintain our freedom.