Note: This piece is from 2007, but is being re-posted in connection with our Memorial Day thoughts about those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.
Recently I was at the Kansas City International Airport catching a flight to Dallas/Ft. Worth on a business trip. I’d gotten to the airport a bit early and was strolling through the corridor looking for somewhere to grab a bite to eat. I spotted a Starbucks in the distance and was surprised at the large line in front of it. As I got closer, it became apparent that the crowd in front of the restaurant (should I really call Starbucks a restaurant?) wasn’t in line; rather it was gathered near the arrival gate which was right across the corridor from Starbucks. There were a couple of people there with large hand made posters that read “Welcome Home Ben!”
Towards the rear of the crowd were guys that I surmised to be from a veteran’s group, and a couple of them were carrying large American flags. It seemed pretty clear that someone was coming home from the service, probably from Iraq, or maybe Afghanistan. About the time my feeble mind put all of this together, the women in the front of the crowd started to scream with excitement, and I was standing right between them and the gate where they had just seen their hero emerge. I got out of the way as quickly as I could, and turned to see a tall fair haired man in his early twenties walk into the corridor–minus an arm.
Those in the front, his family no doubt, gently attacked him with hugs and handshakes and kisses. The rest of us– I think virtually everyone on that side of the airport that knew what was going on– just stood there and clapped. And we clapped. And then we clapped some more. It was a great moment…I could feel the goose bumps appearing on my arms and back. Many of those gathered there knew this young man of course, but for those of us that didn’t know him it didn’t matter. I didn’t have to know him personally. He was my hero too.
My politics are usually pretty “hawkish”, and I haven’t had much use for those who are howling for us to get out of Iraq. I remain convinced that a premature withdrawal from Iraq would be a huge mistake. But my thoughts on the war cost me nothing. The war cost this young man his arm. He deserves my thanks and un-ending respect and that’s what we all gave him in the airport the other day. Regardless of what each of us thought about the war we together as Americans recognized his sacrifice on our behalf.
Welcome home, Ben…And thanks again.