As I write this, today is Memorial Day, 2009. I spent most of the day traveling from Michigan to the heartland of the great state of Texas. During that journey I witnessed a very unique experience that I wish everyone could have observed in person.
I arrived at the Dallas Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport to connect to a later flight to Killeen, Texas. While heading to my connecting gate, I suddenly heard what began as a loud, rumbling crowd noise. As I moved closer to the source, it sounded as though I was entering an arena playing host to the final game of the NCAA basketball finals. I continued to approach the crowd of what looked to be about 200 people surrounding a gate where a long line of uniformed men and women were entering the terminal from their plane.
I stood, mesmerized, for about 45 minutes, asked questions of several of those cheering crowd members, grabbed some promotional brochures and headed to my connecting gate filled with an uncanny feeling of patriotism and wonder. Later that night, I visited Google to learn more about what I had witnessed at DFW. What I discovered should be shared with every American citizen.
Apparently, every day, anywhere from 100 to 500 soldiers pass through DFW Airport, via several arriving flights throughout the day, on their way home for two weeks of well-deserved rest and recuperation (R&R). As they de-plane from their aircraft and enter the terminal, they are greeted by a very large crowd of volunteer greeters waving American flags, offering hugs, “hero” teddy bears, baseball caps, gift certificates and heartfelt handshakes, smiles and tears. Many others are yelling words of welcome and thanks.
The large majority of these people know none of the returning soldiers! 90% of these people are volunteers who show up at the airport daily to support our troops! 5% are inquisitive passengers like myself who join the group between planes and 5% are actually friends and family. You had to witness the interaction to fully understand the phenomenal display of mutual love, respect, appreciation and patriotism shared by all those gathered in that small gate area! Take a minute out of your busy day to watch this video to see what I mean. It’ll take a minute or two to load, but it’s well worth the wait. Be sure to watch the entire video as there are a few surprises at the end.
I still can’t get over the fact that this scene takes place every single day! Dallas has welcomed home more than 100,000 soldiers thus far. DFW is one of two U.S. airports to conduct this daily program … the other being Atlanta Hartsfied International Airport. Both airports are proud to assist these members of the armed forces as they return home from their service in Iraq and Afghanistan. Participants include corporations, youth groups, schools, civic organizations, religious groups and individuals.
On the second leg of my flight, while reflecting on my thoughts and feelings about what I had just witnessed, I couldn’t help but note the stark contrast between the kindness and patriotism displayed daily at the airport and those who equate Memorial Day with thoughts of outdoor grilling, picnics, boating, and the Indy 500.
Many are unaware that Memorial Day is a federal holiday, that it was formerly known as Decoration Day, or that it commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in the military service. Thankfully, we can be proud of citizens such as those greeting our troops daily and hope that some day we’ll see stories such as this one in newspapers, magazines, or even on a television newscast. This is certainly the kind of news we need to see more of.