A couple of days ago, my husband and I were flying home from spending Christmas with my family. As we approached the departure gate, I began looking for a spot to sit down. I saw two seats next to a uniformed soldier and decided that's exactly where I wanted to sit. Birds of a feather, and all that stuff....
The soldier and I began talking and I found out that he was stationed at Ft. Lewis and that his wife had just given birth to their second child, Christmas. She could not travel during the tail end of her pregnancy and was unable to join him at Ft. Lewis, so he came to her.
This soldier began telling me about his son, his wife and their new daughter. Then, he pulled out the photos and I have to say, he has the cutest kids on the planet (next to my nieces and nephews, of course). Then, the soldier did something that touched me deeply.
He handed me a photograph of his wife and new baby, as well as a photo of his son. "Here, Andi, this is for you," he said. I protested and said I couldn't take his photos, but he showed me that he had extra copies so I gladly took the photos and thanked him for them. I felt like a pseudo-auntie!
We had a great conversation and the episode reminded me how quickly military families tend to bond with one another. I talked to the soldier for all of fifteen minutes before we had to board, but it felt like I had known him for years. He is my family.
We boarded the plane together, but were separated when we had to take our seating assignments. Just before take-off, I saw the flight attendant approach and lead him to the front of the plane. I elbowed my husband and said, "look, they're moving him to first-class. Good for him." I couldn't help but think what a difference in seating this must have been compared to his flight to/from Iraq.
We flew US Airways, an airline I rarely fly. I'm not sure if this is a standard policy for the airline, or if the flight attendant made the decision to upgrade the solider on her own. Either way, the gesture made me proud of the airline and the flight attendant.
Before the flight, I gave the soldier the URL for SpouseBUZZ and asked him to pass it to his wife. He'll be back in Iraq sometime next year and I'm sure his wife could use the support. She and the new baby will be joining him later this week in Seattle. They will be a family once again. Under one roof.
It's rare to have a pleasant experience in the airport these days, but I can honestly say that our trip was about as good as it gets. All because I had a chance to meet another member of my military family. A proud solider. A proud father. A man who made me proud to be associated with the best Army in the entire world.