The noise in the crowded airport prevented much conversation as we waited by our gate. People dragging suitcases rushed past. Antsy toddlers were entertained by their parents. Wires hung out of teenagers ears as they listened to I-pods, oblivious to those around them. Business travelers worked on laptops and cell phones.
In the midst of typical airport noise, applause began with one person, and then another. Startled, I looked around to see what was causing this commotion. Someone pointed in an upward direction. An upper level door opened. Men and women dressed in army fatigues, carrying their duffel bags entered the airport terminal on a walkway above the general gate area.
Everyone in the crowded gate area below joined the applause. One by one the crowd stood up. More and more soldiers entered.
Cheering and clapping continued, getting louder and louder.
Hundreds of soldiers had returned from deployment; fellow travelers acknowledged them with applause.
Garbled sounds came over the loud speaker. We could barely hear it for all the clapping, but quickly realized it was the boarding call for our flight. A part of me didn’t want to leave this scene of appreciation for returning soldiers, but I knew I had to leave.
Once in line to give ticket agent my boarding pass, I continued scanning the scene. Soldiers filed into the airport. Some waved to the crowd below. Outside more were deplaning. I wish I could have stayed to applaud for every last one, but that would not happen. It was time to board.
Stepping into the jetway, I glanced over my shoulder for one last look at the returning defenders of freedom with gratitude in my heart.
The scene in the airport reminds me that we are the benefactors of the courage of many who defend our country. They deserve a heroes’ applause everyday.
“The spirit of man is more important than mere physical strength, and the spiritual fiber of a nation more than its wealth.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th U.S. President