A crowded airport. Each traveler and employee of the facility isolated in their own thoughts, fears and tasks; seemingly oblivious to those around them. It is like any other airport or city bus in that the setting is an anonymous conglomeration of individuals devoid of any true sense of community in that particular snapshot in time.
Then ... a single clap.
More applause fills the air as each denizen of the terminal searches blankly for the source of the commotion, then joins in appreciation with the others. As your attention is brought to the cause of the adulation, it becomes clear: A small group of military personnel, decked out in their desert cammies and sticking closely to one another, makes its way through the terminal — taking in the applause with humility and only a trace of pride. For one brief moment, politics and bitterness took a back seat to decency and appreciation.
Too bad it was just a commercial.
During the Super Bowl.
I’ve stood in airports when American service men and women walk through terminals and I’ve never witnessed such a response. Heck, I’ve been an American service man and walked through airports with my buddies in my dusty cammies and never received such an outpouring of gratitude — not that we ever expected, or really wanted, one. Yes, some kind people stopped us, and I’ve stopped others, but I’ve never seen a spontaneous collective effort by the masses to show appreciation for the things these men and women are doing.
Maybe it’s time that happened.
It’s easy for us to sit back and take shots at the administration for their decision to go into Iraq. It was also easy for us to go to the booths in November and cast our ballots for another candidate. Want something else easy? Fine, it’s easy to second-guess decisions when we are not looking at the same information, or talking to the same people or on the same particular spot to make the decision in question.
I mean, while rooting for the Eagles during the Super Bowl, I was shouting at the screen for Philly’s quarterback to get his teammates to the line of scrimmage during the fourth quarter, and for the Eagles’ offensive coordinator throughout the game to tighten up his blocking with multiple tight ends and spread his wideouts to slow down the Patriots’ gap penetration and get some kind of running game going to set up play-action and some bootleg ...
But I digress.
Now, do you want to hear something that’s maybe not so easy?
To look beyond the grand scope of an administration’s decision, and instead be grateful for the people who are doing the hard stuff we certainly don’t want to be doing. They are paid volunteers, interested in making a positive step in their time on Earth, both for the call of freedom and in the personal growth of their own individual lives. They train hard, follow orders and carry out said orders to the best of their abilities. Often times, with the sacrifice of their own lives as a result.
Yes, we all say we are behind the troops, and we support them even if the war is something many people don’t necessarily agree with, or understand. But do we actually see that support? Do we see as many yellow ribbons as we did during the Gulf War or when our troops first went into Afghanistan following the events of Sept. 11, 2001?
Not even close.
No, we focus all too often on the behavior of a few morons at an Iraqi prison, or our own beliefs that this could turn into another Vietnam. You know what? It could. Especially if we turn a deaf ear and blind eyes to the efforts and sacrifices of our protecting men and women because we don’t like their bosses. How many of us have followed the trials of the pinhead guards at that Iraqi prison? How many front pages across the nation carried those decisions?
Now, how many of us know that one of our American service men has been nominated for a Congressional Medal of Honor?
It is our right to disagree with war, and our privilege as Americans to publicly and vehemently protest the decisions by our administrators and elected officials. Allowing others those same rights and opportunities is one of the major reasons our military personnel chose the career they did.
Let’s just remember their role in these wars, and maybe thank them for what they do when we see them.
Heck, buy them a Bud. I don’t mind plugging Anheuser-Busch after that commercial.