Monday, June 11, 2007
I knew what to expect when we deplaned in Dallas but knowing it didn’t really prepare me for what happened. As we got off the plane and headed towards customs we were on the upper level from one of the ticketing areas. The walkway was glass enclosed so we could see down to the waiting passengers and they could see us. As we began to walk around the ticketing area the passengers began to clap and cheer, some even stood up to clap, cheer and wave. And that wasn’t even the planned reception. As I looked at all those faces looking up at us I was overcome with a tremendous feeling of pride for the privilege I have of wearing my uniform and serving my country. I’ll concede that it actually caused my throat to tighten and my eyes get a little bit wet. I couldn’t help it. It was such a cool thing to see and experience.
As we cleared customs that’s where we were met by an organized mob of cheering, whistling, waving, smiling people. There were easily over 300 people there. Signs of support were everywhere. Hundreds of flags were waving. People were reaching out to shake your hand, to touch your uniform, to simply let you know that you were loved and supported. Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts, retired soldiers from the Korean Conflict in their dress uniforms were there. Families with young children, Grandparents. You name it, they were there. People were thrusting water bottles, Girl Scoutt cookies, bags of goodies, flags and all other sorts of things at us. That’s where I lost it. I had tears in my eyes. I couldn’t help it. The raw emotion in that room was so overpowering. Once again, the pride at being able to wear this uniform and the tremendous outpouring of support simply overcame my ability to keep my emotions in check.
As I finally made my way through the cheering throng and was waiting for the shuttle to take me to my gate, a young boy approached me and asked me for my autograph. His brother ran over and thrust his autograph book into my hand. Their mother then asked if they could take their picture with me. Here we are. Their mother said that her boys absolutely love to come to the airport and cheer for the soldiers. I can only imagine that they will grow up to be soldiers themselves.
As I looked at all these people I couldn’t believe the generosity, the support and the love for the troops. People like this gather every time a R&R flight comes in and that’s just about every day. These people were performing a vital service for us, one that I’ll never forget. I was truly humbled by their willingness to come down and cheer for total strangers. I wondered if I lived in the Dallas area would I be willing to do this same thing. I hope that I would.