Well yesterday, I was off doing what I always do when I travel – getting in the “zone.” Focused on getting to the gate, getting on the plane and heading to my location. Things to read, things to think about and out of the blue a change takes shape. As I was standing in line waiting for my flight to come in an an announcement was broadcast at the Southwest gate at Dulles International (IAD)... “dear passengers on the flight to Chicago we need your generosity. Your plane is about to pull in and it is filled with WW2 Vets, many disabled, coming to Washington to see the WW2 National Memorial and to have a special day. If you would like to join the color guard and welcome line please do. While this will delay your boarding, we will make it all up in the air and this is a special opportunity to thank those that gave so much for our way of life.”
Wow, all the passengers where standing in line, looking at one another – motionless. All these young military people started showing up and going to the hallway right out side the plane gangway. So I said to the Southwest employee, “can I go out there and be part of that?” He said “as long as you clap very hard and make sure the vets know you care?” After my handshake commitment off I went to the hallway and I would say 50 plus of the other passengers followed.
So the plane was pulling in and two fire trucks pumped water over the plane, in a water cannon salute. I had never seen something like that and everyone in the long glass hallway started to clap and cheer. Within a few minutes all the WW2 vets started coming down the hall way, in wheelchairs, with walkers, with canes or standing up straight and walking on their own. They were wearing hats with what branch of the military they were in, or where they served, some in their old military jackets. Some had around their necks pictures of them as young soldiers. Men, women, African American, Asian American, all colors, all different but they all had this glow about them and the biggest smiles.
As the Vets came down the hallway, the people waiting clapped, hugged, kissed, patted each and every Vet. I heard “thank you for serving” and “welcome to Washington DC” and “you are a great patriot.” The tears were flowing on all sides (the Vets, the welcomes and even those on the other side of the glass that had not followed into the hallway.)
For a moment it felt like we were all doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. You know that moment when the world and time seems to stop and you want to do the best you can. I shook the hand of every single one of the Vets and looked them in the eyes and said “thank you and welcome to your Capital” boy, the connection in their eyes. Such a humbling moment for all of us, the sense of love of fellow human, fellow American. It recharged my batteries and made me think of my Grandfather and how he served in WW1 and my Uncle Bob who is a Marine that served in WW2 in the Pacific and my Father In-law Gorge who served in WW2 in the Army in the Philippines and Pacific. How soon they will all leave us and we need to say thank you.
We should all have to do that, stand in a line welcome those who have served and say “thank you” - makes you realize we have a great deal to be thankful for.