Thursday, October 25, 2007

I Wasn't Prepared For...

I had to hurry to get to Atlanta by 1300 today so that I could in-process for a flight that boards at 1815 this evening. Typical. Hurry up and wait. God bless the United States Army.

The wonderful people of the USO provide free wireless internet, which I am now gratefully using to post to the Adventure as I wait for my flight back to the war.

I had prepared for saying goodbye to my children. I set a calm and cheerful example, and being prepared for it kept my emotions more manageable. My kids did pretty well with it, and I'm pretty sure that being calm myself really made a difference for them. I was prepared to say goodbye to my family. It's not easy, but it's something that you know is coming. It's not a surprise, like when you know that you're going to get an innoculation... the pain isn't a surprise.

I was prepared for traveling in uniform... every soldier has been out in the public in uniform and knows that feeling of being something of a curiosity. It's like being a circus clown; people don't see the person inside, they just see a circus clown.

When people see you in uniform in public, they just see a soldier. That's why we have the responsibility to maintain the dignity of our uniform.

I would like to say that I've been nothing but supported when people have seen that soldier and it's me inside. People have said many kind and supportive things. People have shaken my hand and wished me luck. People have told me that they pray for me and all of us (prayers are always welcome!)

But I wasn't prepared for what happened today.

As my flight from Cincinnati to Atlanta was beginning its descent, the flight attendant began her normal spiel about landing and gates, and assistance finding your connecting flights and so on. Then she announced that I was on board and on my way back to Afghanistan after spending two weeks with my family.

The plane erupted into applause. I was stunned.

I nearly burst into tears. My emotions, barely contained under the thin fabric of my ACU uniform, rushed towards the surface and nearly made it out. Somehow, I managed to keep it all together, but it was close.

We arrived in Atlanta with only about a half an hour before my report time to the USO for processing for my flight to Shannon, Ireland and then Kuwait. I had to get a quick nicotine fix and find something to eat. They formed us into a line upstairs at the USO, probably 200 or more of us, and took us downstairs in two long lines. Soldiers and Marines paired two by two in a long line snaked through the airport towards the Army Personnel Command desk to do our formalities. As we wove through the airport, the throngs of travelers began to applaud.

I wasn't prepared for that, either. Again, I struggled not to lose it. It was like cracking the seal on a warm, freshly shaken coke. All the bubbles rush towards the cap, bringing the contents of the bottle along. That's what it felt like. I managed to keep all my fluids contained; but it was another close call.

How could I be so prepared for saying goodbye to my children that I could put a brave and cheerful face on and nearly lose it when perfect strangers applaud?

35 comments:

  1. You had me tearing up. I'm so thankful for those people who are visibly showing support to you. We should be, in appreciation of all you do for us - but also for the sacrifices you make for us.

    Thank you.

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  2. whatever else you may be in-person and at-length, you sound here like a fine American who is a credit to his uniform and family.

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  3. "How could I be so prepared for saying goodbye to my children that I could put a brave and cheerful face on and nearly lose it when perfect strangers applaud?"

    Because it came as a surprise. You have been watching the news and maybe you think your cause is unpopular here. But look deeper into the numbers. The US military is the most trusted institution in the country.

    The service members who volunteer to serve are our sisters and brothers, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, neices, and nephews, and cousins. Nobody messes with our soldiers because our soldiers are our family, or our neighbor's family, or the family of a friend. You represent the the fruit and flower of America. We all hope and pray for a successful mission and a safe return home.

    I only regret there is no place nearby where I might offer soldiers departing such a send off as the passengers in Atlanta offered you.

    Godspeed.

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  4. When one of my sons was returning to Iraq, his brother and I met him in Atlanta. We, too, formed in the line with them on the march through the airport. On another occasion my brother and my non-soldier son did the walk with another son going back. It did my heart good to hear the applause and cheers and know that the sacrifices of my soldier sons and the many men and women in uniform are recognized. Keeping the tears from flowing was rather difficult for us too.

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  5. How could I be so prepared for saying goodbye to my children that I could put a brave and cheerful face on and nearly lose it when perfect strangers applaud?

    You can feel thier love in that applause. They love what you are. They love what you do. And because you do it, they love you.

    I amazed anyone can go through that and not lose it.

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  6. Thank you and all of your 'Brothers in Arms' for your service. Y'all are in my prayers.

    “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”
    attributed to George Orwell

    Good luck and best wishes, Sheepdogs!

    Chip
    Tennessee

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  7. We're all so proud of you and the many other fine Americans like you making so many sacrifices for us. Come home safe and soon!

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing this. I live in a blue state and my chances to show support to military personnel in person - with a thumbs up or a smile or a quick Thank you - are few and far between. I hope I someday have the opportunity to applaud our soldiers and Marines in person. I sign petitions, I make phone calls to Senators and Congressmen, I donate money to several charities that help military veterans and their families - but there is something so special in making a personal connection with an American who is serving in our armed forces. You all work so hard in Afghanistan and Iraq. Please know that the vast majority of Americans support you and pray for you and are proud that the best among us are fighting to preserve our rights and freedoms. I deeply appreciate the sacrifices you are making, and the sacrifices your family is making. My father served in Vietnam in 1971. Be safe.

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  9. Here is something to keep you warm until you get back to the world. From a vet of another war who is too old to put on boots and hump the boonies with you.

    The author of I Wanna Go Home, Karridine, has authorized me to give away 1,000 free copies of the song to our men and women in the military for personal use only. However, recipients of a free copy can let anybody listen to it if they want. Members of the military can put it on their i-pod, use it on their computer, or make one CD.

    You can find out how to get a free copy at 1,000 Free Copies.

    If you want a copy for review e-mail me. My e-mail address is on the sidebar.

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  10. More applause for you from here in NYC. God bless & Godspeed....

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  11. Wonderful! That must have warmed your heart tremendously! Especially with the majority of the MSM's coverage on all of this. God bless you for your patriotism and what you do to help Americans, even the ingrates who abuse their freedom of speech!

    I'm going to post a link to this on Saturday's post.

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  12. A great post. Only a fellow soldier can feel and understand may be from another country. God bless you man

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  13. Godspeed, soldier. We love you. You face our enemy abroad and at home in the media with courage and dignity, and we admire you greatly.

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  14. God bless you!

    You face our enemy abroad and on the media home front with courage and dignity, and we love you for it.

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  15. Found your blog via Ace of Spades HQ - Just wanted to say Thank You Sir for your service and God Bless You and your family. Tati, No. VA.

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  16. Trackbacked by The Thunder Run - Web Reconnaissance for 10/26/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

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  17. I would gladly have joined the chorus of applause if I had been there; thank you for making the sacrafice that gives the rest of us the opporunity to live a better life and pass it on to our children.

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  18. Thank you for your service, I'm applauding across the internet.

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  19. An organization needs leadership so please consider this.

    This soldier's story has been repeated many times for good reason. These are people who are prepared to sacrifice all (including their lives) for us and our country and way of life.

    Compare these people to the shallow self centered weaklings (republican and democrat alike ) who haunt the halls of Congress and spend their time on lying and cheating to achieve their own ends.

    We need leaders like our service men and women who put the interests of the people ahead of their own.

    Jon M. Stout

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  20. Kinda makes it all worth while. You enjoy doing things for people who appreciate it. Then there's the disloyal opposition.

    My call not yours.

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  21. Well.
    I just got home from Hartsfield and doing the USO thing with a bunch of Vietnam Vet friends.
    The walk thru the Atrium is the highpoint of our day. Its as moving for us who work with USO as it is for the soldiers, sailors and marines.
    We get thanks from the service people passing thru for the cookies and hot dogs. I really want them to know that it is the least we can do.
    Thank you for your service.

    Note also that you aren't alone in being touched. There are more than a couple in the two columns who seem to be really concentrating on the guy in front of them.

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  22. (((hugs))) You deserve every bit of that applause, and then some. Thank you for your service, and God bless you.

    ((hugs)) again
    Momma Kat
    Loganville, Georgia (E of ATL)

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  23. I can't thank you enough for your service to our country. God bless you and your family, and please take care.

    ~A former Marine's wife

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  24. Thank you for your service, and for the very interesting blog!

    I've been following the Afghanistan conflict as a personal interest for well over ten years now, since the days of Massoud. Even when the Taleban had 90% of the country, I had the feeling the Northern Alliance would hang in there, despite the fact that the mainstream media had given them up as dead. Everything I've read--and everything you've said--has indicated that the Afghans have been great allies. Their experience and determination, and our organization and technology, have been a solid combination. Overall I think we're making great progress in Afghanistan.

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  25. Hooah - as one of the volunteers at the Atlanta USO today, I can appreciate your emotions - we volunteers feel them, too. We're proud of you and your fellow Soldiers.

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  26. Glad you got to experience some real Southern charm and hospitality. Southerners are very patriotic, we love our U.S. military and support the tough work you all do. Thanks.

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  27. God err, Allah speed and a safe return soldier.

    Salaam eleikum!

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  28. I am not a US citizen. I am an Aussie Czech. If I was on that plane I would have also clapped. The way I see it is that you are not only fighting for your country, but for others as well.
    Thank you.

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  29. As I read your posting, I cried. The thought that each man marching in those two lines represents a life being laid down for my safety and welfare overwhelms me, especially when it is not mandated that he do so. The Holy scripture says "no greater love hath any man than to lay down his life for a friend." How can we say thanks enough? A small pause in our day to acknowledge your courage and sacrifice is but a small token of the debt we owe. The fact that you were unprepared for a public display of that gratitude speaks of the humility in which you serve. To you, you are just doing your job. To think that someone really appreciates what you do and would go out of their way to show it,is not in your normal train of thought. That is what makes our military the best in the world.
    Despite what our "great" news media would have you believe, we do care, we do support, and we do appreciate. Yes, there may be naysayers, but for each one of them, there are 100 of us who say Thank you. God Bless you and we will pray faithfully till you and your fellow soldiers reach these shores once more.

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  30. See "it" on video.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq9yAauMEkA

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  31. I'm a US Customs and Border Protection Officer at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. There's a World Airways flight filled with GI's coming from Kuwait everyday. To see these kids coming back brings a tear to my eye. Pure energy, professionalism and dedication-some of the best Americans I'm sure I'll ever meet. I can tell you they are gold in our eyes. I always make sure that I get the opportunity to stamp them in to the US and tell them welcome back. Frequently the US citizens and foreigners waiting to enter the US break the into spontaneous clapping. Strong, confidant, heads held high, I'm proud as hell of our military.

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  32. I travel through the Atlanta airport at least once a week both domestically and internationally. I cannot remember a time in the past several years that there weren't military personnel passing through. While there have been a few times I've heard people ask "those questions that should NEVER be asked" for the most part I always experience thankfulness and appreciation by the public towards our amazing Warriors. It is the VERY LEAST we can do - to tell you and show you our appreciation.

    I cannot remember a Delta flight I have been on with men/women in uniform when the flight attendants didn't acknowledge them. Often we are asked to remain in our seats while the military personnel deplane first. That's just FINE with me - no amount of respect is enough for us to show you all.

    Be safe and always know that prayers are said for all of you each night in this house. Prayers for your safety and prayers of thanks for each of you and your families.

    While I support troops in several hazardous duty zones today my heart is definitely with those of you in Afghanistan. We DO know you are there. We DO know the great work you are doing. We DO know that the Afghans have proved to be good partners and we DO know the danger is high. Don't ever doubt that.

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  33. Wow. I have just read ever comment, and there is not one negative one. Praise Him!

    They have all said my words, so I shall do this: *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap* *clap*

    :)

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  34. I hope you took advantage of Joe Paddy's bar. I must admit I had four Guinesses and a 14 YO scotch. It seemed to help. Yea, I got that in ATL too. A guy bought my coffee and lunch too. I was stunned, I guess I got caught buying into the media machine too until then.
    If you want to see real America look in places like that, a veritable cross section of humanity. God love um all.

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