I travel frequently for work and have logged a lot of airport time this year. My cab got me to the airport before sunrise this morning without incident (no pulling over on the side of the highway, no anger over my paying with a credit card) and when I stepped into the airport, I remember thinking “Well, this is going to be a good day”.
I had no idea.
I was sitting at my gate, thumbing through a magazine when an announcement was made: a wounded soldier was coming back from Afghanistan and everyone was invited to Gate B17 to welcome him home. Tears came to my eyes, I grabbed my bag and started heading to B17. This was something not to miss, this was something all of us at Midway had time for as the dawn was breaking.
Apparently, everyone agreed with me.
The gate was packed and the second that soldier stepped off the plan, cheers erupted. His family was there, the USO was there, Chicago police officers, proud in their uniforms, were there to show respect and welcome a hero home.
But then there was everyone else. Perfect strangers eschewing getting to their flights in order to be a part of this welcome. I stood there, watching people extend their gratitude, their hands, go in for hugs, photos. It was the most stunning display of humanity and a brilliant example of what is right with our country. We’re all on the same team and we all stand for the same thing: the freedom to live our lives in the country we have built.
I salute this soldier and his family and give gratitude for the sacrifices they have made to maintain freedoms that certainly are not free.