There’s something I’ve been wanting to put out here for quite some time, but just haven’t known how. Still don’t think I’ve found a total solution, but here it is nonetheless.
A couple months back, I traveled to D.C. for work. It was rather unpleasant, involving a 12 hour delay before leaving Detroit, culminating in a late evening flight and a very cranky Supergirl.
As I prepared to board, a co-worker noticed a hearse on the tarmac. Shortly after, we saw a uniformed Marine near our gate. We easily put it together and realized that this was a final homecoming for a soldier.
When I landed in D.C., I walked off the jetway and looked through the window back at the plane. There, waiting on the tarmac for the luggage to be unloaded, was a Marine honor guard. Gathering in the terminal was the family, waiting for their loved one.
I stood there for a moment, wanting to witness the scene and send up a prayer or two, but I quickly realized it needed to be a private moment. Instead, I went to find my ground transportation, quietly sobbing the entire way.
Fast forward to now. While enjoying a leisurely Memorial Day weekend, DD’s sister got word that her brother-in-law, a 20-year-old Marine, had been killed overseas. For now, let’s call him L. While not directly related to L, I’d seen him at family functions and know his sisters and brothers and nieces and nephews — 3 of which DD also plays uncle to.
The last two weekends have been spent in a whirlwind of emotion, combined with a healthy dose of babysitting. It was an interesting experience to watch the family go through a heartache no family should have to undergo.
At the funeral, the priest mentioned that L had written to his family about the deal he’d made with God so that he’d deliver him home safely. The priest made the point — comforting or not — that God did in fact bring L home safe.
I thought of that Marine I traveled to D.C. with and I thought of L. And I thought about this notion of homecoming. I suppose that while it’s not very comforting, it is true if you’re a person of faith. They are home. And they are safe.
I think of that Marine often, and now I’ll think of L as well.
I’ll think of them as I watch DD’s nephews play baseball on a hot Saturday afternoon. I’ll think of them as I leave the house in sandals and a tank top, with no one to judge my wardrobe. I’ll think of them as I sit on my favorite outdoor patio with a cocktail and good friends. And sure, I’ll think of them when I hear the Star Spangled Banner or cast my vote the next time. After all, it’s because of them and so many others that I’m able to do all of that and so much more without fear and with complete and utter abandon.
We all know people are dying halfway around the world, but do we really know? Do we really understand what that means? Even as an Army brat, with a father who served in the first Gulf War, I don’t think I completely understood.
But when I watched that honor guard wait on that tarmac, and I heard the 21 gun salute at L’s funeral, I got it. I was part of their final homecoming and I’m so thankful for what they gave up for me.