47. Home for Christmas

47. Home for Christmas

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Home for Christmas

I dream of giving birth to a child who will ask, “Mother, what was war?”

~Eve Merriam

I watched as a handsome young man came through the airport terminal late that night with self-assurance and confidence beyond his years. He must have been the last person off our plane, which was so late in arriving that the terminal was all but shut down for the night. Perhaps he waited for the pineapple-toting vacationers, some college kids, and the rest of us to disembark and clear out of the public area, or he took a minute to compose thoughts and feelings, or to wash up and look at his reflection in a mirror on the men’s room wall.

Wearing civilian clothes, he could have been mistaken for a student, a musician, or a junior partner in some law firm. He was none of those; he was a soldier coming home for the holidays.

I was privileged to watch.

Family members that included an anxious mom, a preteen girl holding a hand-drawn WELCOME HOME poster, and a few other adults and children had been waiting for a long time. They were restless. A gentleman in a suit and tie waited with them. He wore medals of combat on his chest and a VFW hat was on his head. An honor guard of sorts. They were positioned where they could see the passengers descend on the escalator, head for baggage claim, and then to the cars waiting at the curb.

I stood back, unnoticed, to wait with them.

The kids saw him first and the excitement grew. He rode the escalator down and saw them waiting. Hugs, tears, and camera flashes from the family, then a quiet handshake from the older veteran said what words could not. The young man then turned to his mother. She fell into his open arms. I am sure this was the moment she had waited and prayed for, the hope that kept her strong. He lifted her off the ground and hugged her for a long time. Their laughter and tears collided.

As they all began to walk away, I touched his arm and when he turned to me I thanked him for his service, welcomed him home, and wished him a Merry Christmas. I’m sure he will not remember me, but I will never forget him.

~Jana Tritto

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