While waiting to board a flight out of Savannah recently, I couldn't help but notice a large number of military personnel in the gate area.

They were all men, accompanied by what I assumed were various family members. One, a strikingly handsome, tall black man, was with an older woman and a little girl -- his mother and daughter, I imagined.

Several sat with wives and young children, sharing those last few minutes together. Some of the wives were wearing t-shirts printed with this message: "My husband is serving over there." Another man stood with an older gentleman whom I guessed was his father. They hugged fiercely just before he boarded.

I tried not to invade their privacy, but it was hard not to look at each group as they said their tearful goodbyes. There was just so much raw emotion. They were all dressed in light brown colored fatigues -- not the "jungle green" from other years -- so I knew where they were going. Most of them looked so young -- surely much too young to be going off to war, in such a far off place.

My "zone" was the last to board. As each man passed by, I read the name tag sewn onto the front of his fatigues, whispered a quiet "Thank You", then said a quick prayer asking God to bless him and keep him safe. By the time the last man boarded, I was barely able to keep from sobbing, and I didn't know any of them personally. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for those guys and their families.

From conversations overheard during the course of the flight, I learned that most of the men were returning from leave. In my opinion, that would have made their leaving -- again -- even more difficult. As we began the initial descent into Atlanta, the captain announced, as they often do these days, that several soldiers were on board, and he just wanted them to know how much we all appreciated their service to our country. Then he added a request that, upon landing, all of us remain seated, allowing the military to deplane first because they had a tight connection.

When we got to our gate, everyone stayed in their seats while the soldiers gathered their backpacks and the rest of their gear as they waited in the aisle.

That's when the plane erupted into spontaneous applause, accompanied by calls of "God Bless," "Be Safe," "Hope you come home soon," and "Bravo, Man!"

Of course, my tears began again and I felt a great surge of pride in my fellow Americans -- these brave young men were being sent off with love and blessings from total strangers! The good wishes continued with many pats on their backs as they passed through the plane, until finally, it was just us.

So we gathered our belongings, looking at one another with a small smile or a brief nod, and went off to business meetings, reunions with family, or a continuation of our journeys, while those strong, precious young men -- U.S. soldiers -- went off to war, making our peaceful "everydayness" possible.


Bobbi Hahn fancywriterbobbi@aol.com

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