During the week after Christmas, my family and I returned to BWI on a military rotation flight after 10 days of leave in Germany. After passing through customs we were met by several hundred people enthusiastically cheering service members returning from Iraq.
There were parents and grandparents and veterans and Girl Scout troops. I tried to hurry my family along as quickly as possible, feeling that this amazing welcome was not for us. But it was impossible not to smile. The gratitude and enthusiasm of that crowd of welcomers was palpable.
On reflection, I wish that I had slowed to express my thanks to the people who greeted us. I am positive those returning service members were profoundly grateful for the welcome they received.
As a member of the military, I know that our men and women join because they truly want to serve. It is a real sacrifice to leave one's family and friends and face the real risk of not seeing them again. The sacrifice is much easier knowing that the people you are serving recognize what you are giving up and are genuinely grateful for it.
The writer serves in the U.S. Air Force.