Returning soldiers

I went to the airport to pick up my daugher, flying in from Atlanta for a visit here in Rochester. She text-messaged me that her flight was delayed so I parked and went inside to wait for her. I stood in a glass-walled waiting room, from which I could see people coming off the planes. There were about twenty of us waiting for flight 4763. One couple in their fifties had a big sign: “Welcome home from Iraq our son R…”

The plane finally arrived and eight soldiers in camo were among those who disembarked and headed toward us in our glass cage. Most looked eighteen or nineteen. The woman holding the sign started crying, while her son was still a hundred paces away, and lost a contact lens. A young woman threw herself on her boyfriend as he stood there grinning. A sister hugged her brother intensely and a young mother with two small children greeted her twenty-something husband with a look that seemed to say, “I’m not letting you leave again.”

My daughter said the flight kept getting bumped later and later, and their departure gate in Atlanta was changed twice. She let two soldiers use her cell phone to call their families. They told her they had thirteen days leave and then were headed back to Iraq for eight more months.

I helped the woman with the sign look for her contact lens and I said to her son, “Thank you for serving.” My gestures, however, seemed pathetically inadequate.

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4 Comments on “Returning soldiers”


  1. Nice post. It brings back memories of when my son came home on leave from Iraq and I couldn’t let go of him at the airport. Now, thank goodness, he’s back in the USA for good.

  2. Joseph Belle-Isle Says:

    It may have felt to you as patheticly inadequate but what in the world would have been adequate? His adrenaline may have been pumping so hard he didn’t quite hear you at the time but he will NEVER forget the moment and a stranger helping his Mom. And as your coulum points out our wars are felt on both sides of the pond. What a difference to have the memory of a stranger helpin out than to be throwing insults at him.

  3. paolo. Says:

    I was going to say something like Mr. Belle-Isle. He said it better. Thanks, Rich.

  4. Mary Says:

    Men and women in uniform returning from combat always make me tear up. I can tell you, from experience, the five most appreciated words to a soldier…”Thank you for your service.”


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