The travel day yesterday went completely smoothly, utterly without any of the usual delays and aggravations. But there’s a moment I need to share, about a homecoming of a very different order.

There was an Army sergeant on the IAH-BTR leg of my flight, sitting in the aisle seat of row 1. I was on the other side of the plane, in row 2, and I was happy to see him there, assuming at first that he, in full dress uniform, was making his way home from Iraq, and that the airline had upgraded him as a gesture of thanks. The guy sitting next to him assumed so as well, and asked him about it, and the sergeant responded, quietly, that no, he was transporting a casualty home.

Last night, Louisiana National Guardsman David Joseph Murray was met at the airport by his family, and a color guard. As we began our initial approach into Baton Rouge, the pilot told us of the sad cargo our flight was carrying, and of the sad duty of the sergeant in row 1, and asked that we all remain seated after arrival until the sergeant debarked the plane.

And we did. After the plane pulled up to the gate, the sergeant rose, and the rest of us sat very still, thinking of our own homecomings, or of our loved ones who are far away, or of — regardless of what one may think of this war — the sacrifices made by too, too many young people. And no one moved a muscle, until the flight attendant thanked us for our patience.

For our patience. As if that were any struggle, at such a moment.

1 Comment

  1. Wow. I had a far less intense, but still affecting experience yesterday on the last leg of my journey home from Africa.

    We were standing in line for reentry into the US, along with a huge crowd of people, when a Customs official got on the loudspeaker and said that anyone in active military service (we had a group of army guys on the flight from Frankfurt) could come to the front of the line: “Thank you, and welcome home.” There was a brief moment of silence, and then the entire crowd burst into applause for several minutes. It was pretty moving.

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