It’s been over two years since this Vietnam veteran returned from duty in Iraq. I traveled to an Army seminar this past week and I had to pass through three separate airports. When I was preparing to fly out of Orlando, the Delta Airlines clerk at the gate asked to see my ticket. I gave it to her, she handed it back to me and I asked her if everything was O.K. She said everything was fine.
I didn’t know until I entered the plane that she had switched my seat to first class. I was pleasantly surprised, but regretted that I didn’t have a chance to thank her.
On my return to Orlando, I was in uniform and waiting for my flight in Atlanta when another Delta employee wanted to look at my ticket. She asked me if I had been to Iraq and I said yes. A few minutes later, she announced over the public address system that she would be boarding Iraq veteran SFC Charles Grist before the rest of the passengers.
I was stunned when the entire waiting area of over a hundred people broke into applause – for me. I was embarrassed, humbled and I got another one of those doggoned lumps in my throat.
All I could do was turn to the crowd, salute them and get on the plane. While I will always remember the unpleasant way I was treated upon my return from Vietnam, I will never forget how my fellow citizens welcomed me home this time.
When you greet an American service member or thank them for their service, don’t ever think that it’s a small thing. You have validated their sacrifices and warmed their hearts with the realization that they are appreciated. They are grateful beyond words.
Thankfully, this generation understands that the warrior is not the war. Hal Moore of “We Were Soldiers” fame said “Hate war, but love the warrior”. No matter how you feel about the politics of the war, remember that the warriors are just doing their jobs – for you.
Thanks, America, for your genuine love and your continuing support. Your warriors appreciate you just as much as you appreciate them.
SFC Chuck Grist