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Tears of Perspective

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Every once in a while something occurs that makes you pause, reflect, and put things in perspective. One of these events happened while I was flying back home from North Carolina last week. As I was waiting at the gate I noticed four Marines walking up in formation. There were also two highly decorated individuals as well as about six civilians as part of the group. I assumed these young men were heading off for duty. Then came the announcement: ladies and gentlemen these two colonels have the privilege and sadness of flying home a fallen hero (who happened to be a 20-year-old specialist from the Marine Corps.) The young Marines were to go outside and transfer the body onto the plane in a ceremony we would all witness.
Soon everyone at the gate was at the window watching the ceremony outside. It did not take long for me to realize that this young soldier was a year older than my own son Daniel. As I began to become emotional I took time to look around. Every mother inside had a tissue and you could see many of the men with tears in their eyes as well. Not only that but it was almost silent at the gate area.  The Marines made their way back into the gate area and marched through the crowd to a standing ovation.
I had never witnessed an event like this before but needless to say it caused an emotional response. I could not wait to get home and hug all my children. I am not the greatest when it comes to flying, but I felt incredibly safe and without fear as I boarded this flight. As we took off I realized that waiting for us in Chicago was going to be a mother, father, and other family members of the young hero on our plane. Little did I know what awaited us. As we pulled up to the gate, there were multiple fire trucks spraying water over the plane as well as about 100 firefighters standing at attention. I could feel the hair on my arms standing up. The pilot made an announcement that unless you had another flight to catch, if we could please wait until after they removed the body of our fallen hero. What happened next was nothing short of amazing. The only people to leave the plane were the two colonels. For the next 20 minutes there was silence on the plane as the ceremony took place on the tarmac. I was fortunate enough to have a window seat and again witnessed the honor deserved by this marine specialist.
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I am sure this plane ride home had and an effect on the other passengers as well. I saw it in their tears and expressions on their faces. I wish my two teenage sons would have witnessed this as well. In fact, it would be a good lesson for all high school kids to have witnessed what we did on that flight. Like our fathers and grandfathers before them, we have young men and women who have sacrificed their lives for many of the freedoms we enjoy today. I prayed on the flight home like I always do but on that day I prayed for that soldier and his family. I know reading this cannot duplicate the impact I received witnessing this event, but I hope the tears of perspective I received that day resonate with you as well.
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2 responses to “Tears of Perspective

  1. Margie ⋅

    This is amazing. Thank You for sharing it. Hope you had a great trip to North Carolina.

  2. Carole Ann Coombes ⋅

    Jim, every once in a while, a person is confronted with a terrible challenge, as you have been with ALS. My husband Jack, also lived and died with ALS. And he, like you lived with dignity, hope and complete awareness of the world around him. His favorite song was “It’s a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong. And he, as you, would have been deeply touched by the young Marine’s “Home Coming” in the casket. You watched as the proper Ceremony took place–and it touched you deeply. What beautiful respect for Human Life. And I, as so many like me watch people like you, with your own difficulties have TRUE COMPASSION for OTHERS as they meet Life’s challenges. I watch you as I have watched others to carry on bravely. We all have or will have our own difficulties to bear—. Thank you, for your brave example Jim. Hope to see you sometime this year!!! Carole Coombes

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