Last night, er, rather this morning at 1:45 AM, I accompanied my daughter on a photo shoot. She was taking pictures of a soldier’s homecoming for friends. We met the wife and the soldier’s parents at the specified hanger. I was expecting a much larger group of people to be present at the welcome home ceremony. Perhaps the time of day was a discouraging factor for some. However, for me and my daughter it was an honor to be present to welcome these men and women home from duty. We have our own soldier currently on tour in Afghanistan that we expect home sometime in the near future.
There were welcoming banners hung around the perimeter of the hanger and of course a few of my favorite symbols also. Like, this enormous American flag which was hung as a most excellent backdrop for the speaker’s platform.
Being as this is Fort Campbell, Kentucky, this is the home of the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles!
We spent about an hour together waiting for the plane to arrive. Three of us were armed with cameras and kept ourselves busy practicing and experimenting with exposure and aperture settings and comparing notes. About 15 minutes before the plane was to arrive we sneaked out through a less conspicuous exit to the outside greeting area. This way we were able to acquire the BEST spot for observing the skies and snapping the soldiers when they would disembark.
After what seemed like a long time, we saw the bright, white light in the distance that signaled to us that the plane was arriving. The rest of the crowd from inside the hanger had also found their way outside with us. The taxi down the runway, also, seemed to be laboriously slow. I heard multiple comments along the line of “get that plane down here already!” Then, we waited for the door to open and the soldiers to disembark. This plane is filled with some of America’s ‘guardians’. These men and women serve in the military to protect the freedoms that allow you to enjoy simple pleasures like driving around in your beautiful car, eating at your favorite restaurant, or even sitting in peace on your comfortable couch watching your favorite show or movie.
If you have never been to a welcome home party, you can now see that there is a LOT of waiting. But, it just seems to add to the excitement. The soldiers soon filed off of the airplane and grouped in formation at the side of the building after a lot of hooting and hollering by the waiting families and friends.
At that time we all headed back into the building to, AGAIN, wait for the soldiers to enter the hanger. Tap, tap, tap, came the sound from many an impatient toe! 😉
Here they come! FINALLY, they are here!! My soldier is here! Wait, what? I have to wait some more? Really? Yup. Now we stand while they play a couple of songs. Then we sit while they share a few words. Then we stand again for this and sit some more for that. Toes are definitely tapping!
Yes! We are released to give that long awaited greeting to our amazing soldier. RUN! And you know the wait was worth every second.
After all of the waiting, the soldiers and their families eventually find each other. Since I was just an observer on this occasion, I sat down on the bleachers and just watched all of the interaction. On this particular night, I witnessed a small example of the suffering that our soldiers can experience. In the foreground of the above photo, there is a woman dressed in black holding a baby. She is waiting for her soldier to find her and he does. His little son is about one year old. He doesn’t know his daddy at all. In his mind he has never seen this man before. I watched as the dad tried to say hello to the baby with gentleness and smiling. The little baby just cried every time and turned away in his momma’s arms. I know this is temporary, but it reminded me of the parts of life that we can take for granted. Having our loved ones close most of the time. Seeing our children as they grow up. Many of these soldiers are missing from their homes, on deployment, multiple times during their term of service.
Thank you Screaming Eagles for the price you pay to serve our country for my freedom. Many people are not so appreciative, but I, for one, am thankful for you everyday. God bless you.
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
My God, in Him I will trust.”
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