Last Flight Home
Today I am flying home from a business trip to Huntsville, Alabama. Only Monday, I posted Nothing To Do But Write from the DFW airport, complaining about business travel, particularly by air. The business went well, in spite of missed or late flights, missing visit requests, and endless meetings. We were up early to catch a flight to Dallas today on a regional jet, meaning a plane with even smaller seats than usual. I’m tired, my back is sore, and now I’m crammed into the exit row with two other broad shouldered guys. There’s not room for the three of us to sit back, a situation in which the passenger on the aisle usually loses. That would be Older Eyes, leaning into the aisle.
It is the kind of day that often brings my Inner Curmudgeon out but something happened during our layover in Dallas that was a reminder that even the off-days are a gift. Outside the lounge area of our departure gate, a flag-draped coffin was unloaded from the jet parked at the gate into a cart decorated with the symbols of the armed forces. A while later, it was loaded into the luggage compartment of our plane by an honor guard, accompanied by a single marine in full dress. A good-sized crowd gathered at the window, standing in respect. Some saluted. A marine and I are both headed home to our families on the same plane but there won’t be any joy in his arrival.
I don’t know how he died or if what was doing actually protected this country of ours. Sometimes, it seems we send our soldiers into harms way for questionable reasons. But whatever he did and however he died, he did it in the service of all of us and I was touched by being there to pay my respects. He won’t soon be in the arms of someone who loves him as I will … and this will be his Last Trip Home. So, today, I’m not going to complain about the inconveniences and annoyances of my trip home. I’m going to count my blessings in his honor.