Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When I think of Veteran's Day

When I think of Veteran's Day, this story comes to remembrance first. It wasn't on Veteran's Day, but it was my veteran's day.   

This is repost from ten years ago. Now that's hard to believe! Soldier Girl's name and facial pictures cannot be posted due to her current job. 

What a glorious homecoming!

And how cool was this!

Soldier Girl’s reserve unit left Fort Bragg on a particular interstate A for the trip to her reserve unit about 2 a.m. Plans were to arrive at the unit at 10 a.m. and be escorted 10 miles down the interstate and through town by a Black Hawk helicopter and more police cars and fire trucks than any Christmas parade I’ve ever seen. 

We left home at 3:30 a.m. to travel on a particular interstate B for five hours to pick Soldier Girl up at her reserve unit. The “we” I refer to is her dad and older sister and me. Her two brothers could not come due to work and class. About 4:30 a.m., Soldier Girl calls on her cell phone to say that they are about 20 miles from a particular city where the two interstates merge. I realize that we are also about 20 miles from the same particular city. We all thought how cool that would be to pass the buses on the interstate and wave to each other. With that in mind, I ask her what the buses look like. Two white Southern buses, she’s in the second one on the driver’s side. 

When we get to the particular city, we need to make a bathroom stop and decide to at McDonald’s and also get breakfast. It’s not quite 5 a.m. as we sit in a corner booth that I chose so I could hopefully see the interstate traffic pass. Well, I couldn’t see any interstate traffic at all, only traffic exiting the interstate. We hadn’t quite finished our sandwiches when what do I see but a white Southern bus pull off the interstate. No. What are the odds? Then, a second white Southern bus. Oh my. My excitement is overflowing! What are the odds that this can happen four hours away from her unit a state away? Both buses pull into McDonald’s parking lot. I’m so excited I can hardly stand it! And I realize the cameras are all in the car. The buses pull right in front of our corner seat. As they do, older sister Ashley dashes to the car to retrieve the cameras. 

Then the buses unload most of 60-some soldiers dressed in their DCUs, tired, and looking for a quick meal. They begin to pile into the short-staffed McDs where I placed myself strategically behind a trashcan to lean upon with the camera. Now this, I think, will sure get Soldier Girl back for all those surprises she’s pulled on me! But, no Soldier Girl shows up. I keep reading the names on the DCUs, recognizing the names from hearing stories but not knowing the faces to put with the names. Then I see a female. There weren’t but three in this group. I know this one and the face, but it’s not Soldier Girl. It’s her battle buddy, "J". Out pours “J---!” She immediately recognizes me from Soldier Girl’s pictures. I quickly explain to her this unexpected encounter as many of the other soldiers listen. She said Soldier Girl was asleep on the bus, but she would get her off to come in without giving the surprise away. She did and because of the crowd, they came in the opposite door and Soldier Girl headed for the bathroom. We positioned ourselves outside the door to catch her on camera as she emerged. Finally, the door opens, but out comes a civilian who promptly backed back up into the bathroom and says to Soldier Girl, “They’ve got cameras out there!” So after she dries her hands, which to us seemed forever, Soldier Girl comes out and cameras flash. 

Then, she realizes it’s Mama. And the tears flowed. Hers, not mine. I was too, too excited over this!

We recover and finish breakfast, marveling at the odds of such an unplanned encounter! (This will keep me going for months!)

The soldiers reboard the bus and head for the unit. We get out ahead and make it there not too much ahead of them. 

The homecoming to the unit was patriotic, as it should be—dozens of police and sheriff cars, more fire trucks than I knew existed in that part of the state, all with the sirens and horns blaring! And the greatest escort for these soldiers attached to an Airborne unit----a Black Hawk helicopter that led the way. Television and news crews. Families of all types and sizes. Fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, nieces, nephews, policemen, mayors. All welcoming Charlie Company home after a year’s deployment in Iraq. And, as far as I know, all of the soldiers came home. Thanks be unto God.
If you have read this far, thank you because you are probably some of whom have so thoughtfully and diligently prayed for not only Soldier Girl’s, but all the soldiers’ safety. Thank you for patiently listening and responding to my pleas for general and specific prayer throughout this deployment. It was a long and hard year for them. And they are so glad to be home safely. 

No matter which side of the fence we are on, we are all citizens of the world, if not the United States of America, and we honor that position by doing our duty, as Robert E. Lee said. 

Pictures that don’t need words........

America, the Beautiful
Land of the Free

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