Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stalking a Serviceman - A Plane Ride

I'm not someone who likes to pry into someone else’s life. I don't like hearing things I shouldn't hear or seeing things I shouldn't see (see Involuntary Stalking). Luckily though, last week on a business trip I was able to see and hear a small tidbit into the life of one of our countries finest. The life of an army serviceman returning from Iraq.

The soldier

I sat in one of those small economy jets enjoying the spacious cabin while reading a good book and on came a soldier dressed in uniform. He was happy. I would later find out he was going home for a short break after 14 months of service in Iraq, to which he would return and do another tour of the same length.

This solider sat in the row in front of me, putting me in a perfect position to get a taste of who this man was. A stewardess also noticed him, and wanted to show this man how much she respected him, though she had never met him. She offered him a seat closer to the door. Lucky for me not everyone had boarded yet so no seats ended up being available and he was stuck in the row in front of me. She was denied one attempt to show this man honor, but did not let that stop her from a second attempt.

The stewardess picked up her phone thingy that lets her speak to the spacious cabin all at once and openly thanked that serviceman for his service and invited us in the cabin to show him the same thankfulness and respect. We in the cabin responded with applause.

The conversations he had

Another soldier in civilian clothes was sitting in the row in front of the serviceman. They talked. The soldier in civilian clothes asked why he was in uniform, the serviceman responded that they were now supposed to return home in uniform. The soldier in civilian clothes also asked if he was going to have a drink on the plane ride, the serviceman responded that returning soldiers were not to drink on their trip home anymore either.

The woman he sat next to asked about his family. He took out some pictures and showed them to the woman and with joy told her about his son, daughter and wife. He talked about taking them to Sea World and Disneyland during his visit home. He sounded joyful.

I couldn't help but have respect and admiration for this man I had never met and never spoke to. I didn't know him. But the way he spoke to others was with respect and his attitude toward what may seem pointless rules was one of voluntary obedience.

The fourteen month reunion

This was my first business trip away from my family. I slept the night before alone in my house as my wife went to stay with family during my trip. I missed my wife and newborn son greatly. But so far it had been only one night.

When the serviceman exited the plane I heard the words "daddy" said more beautifully than I have ever heard them spoken and saw his little boy run up to this large soldier and wrap his arms around his father's neck, tears filling the little boy's eyes. The boy looked like he would never let go. That was followed by a little girl doing a similar thing. This soldier lifted both children up and held them in his arms. A mother stood watching longingly, and with admiration. I looked back often as I left the terminal, and the picture didn't change.

A tear came to my eye. I wanted/want to be a father like that. Thank you unknown soldier.


merrilykaroly said...

oh, wow. this is such a beautiful, touching picture you have painted. that man seems like such an honorable, wonderful person. I hope that others will always show him that respect that he deserves.

and his wife...having to raise those little children without her husband near...what a strong woman. I loved the part where you described the fourteen month reunion...someday you will have at least one child wrap their arms around you and call you Daddy. what would it be like if you hadn't seen that child for 14 months??!!

some people deserve all the respect and honor in the world.

Kyle and Alli said...

Wow. Thank you Josh for sharing this story. I am wiping a tear now just thinking of the scene. May God bless all those who selflessly serve others.

NoSurfGirl said...

brought a tear to mine, too.

Jen said...

Thank you for taking the time to sit, ponder and memorialize this example of our brave men and women in uniform. They are each sacrificing time with loved ones and experiencing many things I pray my own children will never be witness to.

To all those who serve: Thank you, and God bless.

motherblackham said...

What a lovely story. If everyone felt the way you do about those who serve our country and showed them the honor they deserve, the world would be a more peaceful place. Someday it WILL be a place of peace. I for one can hardly wait. That peace will come one family at a time. I see that already happening in yours. What a great daddy you are!