The general who advances without coveting fame and retreats without fearing disgrace, whose only thought is to protect his country and do good service for his sovereign, is the jewel of the kingdom. ~Sun Tzu
You know sometimes just a simple observation can really make you think. People are amazing and I truly believe there is more good in the world than bad. It’s just that the bad seem to hold a lot more weight and resonate in peoples’ minds. I am more of an optimist, not overly to the point where I am blinded by evil in the world, but enough to know we are born in the likeness of God and His goodwill and love.
Flying back from Charlotte, North Carolina, last weekend, I heard an announcement in the airport that I don’t believe I’ve ever heard before. They announced their first class members and gold members, etcetera to lead the charge with boarding. In the same announcement, they added all military personnel to the mix. I don’t recall ever hearing that, however maybe I never paid attention, which is always viable. Anyway, I’m not objecting, not in the slightest, but it was… nice. I was flying US Airways. Now I began to wonder if all airlines treated our military heroes with such admiration.
Once we boarded the plane, I had the honor of sitting across the isle from the young airman, who was wearing his fatigues labeling him as Air Force. Now I will say, when I fly, I always get a new book. It’s part of the excitement of traveling that I escape into a book along the way. This trip was no different and I was pretty engrossed in my newest purchase that came out this past December, thanks to Cassandra Clare for Clockwork Prince. So I will admit I really didn’t even look up from the book, I was kinda engrossed in the fantasy world painted in the pages laid out before me.
While flying you can always expect the usual, everyone takes their seats, we take off, they eventually turn off the Seat Belt sign and, soon after, the beverage cart makes its trek from the front of the plane to the back. When I’m so absorbed in a book, no shiny object could steal my focus, except the airman sitting to my right. Once he ordered his drink he reached for his wallet and pulled out some cash to offer the flight attendant. This gentlemen couldn’t have been more than 19 or 20 years old. Yet the respect he was showing for the hard work performed from our flight attendants, whom I’m sure are always taken for granted by passengers (myself included) was really thoughtful. Now the flight attendant didn’t want to accept the money, but the airman clearly meant it as a nice gesture and wanted to tip him. I even heard him say, “You’re working really hard,” which I think embarrassed the flight attendant.
As I sat there, it made me start to think, ‘What a nice gesture’. Now I couldn’t believe I was drawn away from my book, but I was. Then I started to think, I’ve always wanted to walk up to someone who serves or has served in the military and thank him or her for their service. Having the perfect opportunity, I did not, feeling a bit awkward. I don’t know if it was because we were almost in Pittsburgh and if I was going to express my sincere appreciation I should have done it when we initially sat down. Or the fact that I didn’t know him, or whatever my deal was. Alas I did not.
Once we were preparing to descend toward Pittsburgh International Airport, I managed to tuck the book in my bag, surfacing to the world of reality. I did manage to ask the young airman if he was home for the weekend. He told me he was, flying in from somewhere in the States, although I can’t remember where he said. As we were un-boarding, I thought, “Well, here’s my chance to show my respect by letting him off in front of me.” As we walked through the connecting tube into the airport, I heard one of the greeting US Airways personnel say, “Thank you for your service,” and she reached out her hand to shake his. Yes that’s exactly what I wanted to say, and it seemed so simple. He seemed to appreciate the gesture, even though I was facing the back of his redish/blond hair and couldn’t quite see his face.
Following along with everyone else, we all herded toward our designated baggage claim area, the airman among the mix.
Now at this point, I am truly intrigued for this young airman. I had a ton of questions that sparked my curiosity: How long had he been in the service?, What made him join?, Why the Air Force? and the list goes on and on. I did see him being greeted by another young man who looked very similar if not exactly like him, a brother I’m guessing. They didn’t greet each other as if they hadn’t seen each other in years, but like family members who see each other on weekends. It was quite sweet, my young airman friend, and I use that loosely since I didn’t even know his name, was happy to be back in the ‘Burgh’. And you know what? I was happy for him. As everyone scrambled to retrieve their luggage off of the carousel, which makes me dizzy, I lost track of the airman. I really wanted to wish him safe travels.
At that point I wondered how many other people really paid much attention to the presence of the airman among us. I wondered if others thought as I did, or they didn’t care, or they cared but kept their thoughts to themselves as I have.
Having friends and family in all branches of the military, and my dad who was in the army, I do appreciate their efforts. Those brave young men and women are the ones who help keep our country safe and free, allowing me to write freely about my observations. So THANK YOU to everyone who is serving or has served in the U.S. Military. Your actions are not in vain.