The Trip Home

I sat in my seat of the Boeing 767 waiting for everyone to hurry and stow their carry-ons and grab a seat so we could start what I was sure to be a long and uneventful flight home. With the huge capacity and slow moving people taking their time to stuff luggage far too big for the overhead and never paying much attention to holding up the growing line behind them, I simply shook my head knowing that this flight was not starting out very well and although I had a great bunch of meetings while conducting business on this trip, it was quickly becoming tarnished with these delays in my getting home to my loved one whom I had not seen in several days. The meetings although fruitful were long and I had not slept well, not to mention those blasted new dress shoes that rubbed a blister on my heel.
I was pretty focused on "my" issues and just felt like standing up and yelling for some of these clowns to get their act together and focus on taking their seats. Knowing I couldn't say anything that would really help, I just thumbed thru the sky mall widget magazine from the seat pocket in front of me. You know it's really getting rough when you resort to the over priced and mostly useless sky mall crap to break the monotony and inconvenience of the trouble "I" was going thru. With everyone finally on board and seated, we just sat there with the cabin door open and seemingly no one in any hurry to get us going even though we were well past our scheduled take off time. The paper work had not yet come in to the flight deck, the attendants just stood around talking.
No wonder the airline industry is in trouble I told myself. Don't they realize we have some place we are supposed to be? We should be treated with more importance; after all we are the customers, right?
Just then, the attendant came on the intercom to inform us all "that we were being delayed" she paused, the entire plane let out a collective groan. She resumed her announcement, 'we are holding the aircraft for some very special people who are on their way to the plane and that the delay should not be more than five more minutes. Their connecting flight had traveled a long way and we would get underway just as soon as possible."
Now, I have had this happen to me before and more often than not, I had to catch the next flight or even go to another carrier to get to my destination. Still, I was grateful for the times when they waited for me, so I thought that I would go back to my sky mall pages and try to forget just how much "I" was being inconvenienced.
As the word came from a scrambling attendant down the connecting tunnel to the main cabin door I thought that maybe she had some information that would let us know why we had been sitting there for over 30 minutes!! Had someone finally given word that after waiting six times as long as we were first promised that "I" was finally going to be on my way home? Why the hoopla over these folks? Just get their butts in a seat and lets hit the gas, I thought to myself.
After a few minutes we were all "locked on" when the attendant came back on the speaker, semi expecting some celebrity or sport figure to be announced as the reason the aircraft was delayed so long. I thought who cares, let's go!
She announced in a loud and excited voice that several American soldiers returning home from Iraq were joining us!!!!
Just as they walked onboard the entire plane erupted into applause.
The Men were a bit taken by the surprise of the 340+ people cheering for them as they searched for their seats. It didn't stop, they were having their hands shook and touched by almost everyone who was within an arm's distance of them as they tried to push thru the aisles. Whistles, cheering, an occasional "oorrahh", one elderly woman kissed the hand of one of the soldiers as he passed by her, and the applause didn't stop for a long time as they continued toward the back of the aircraft.
When we finally got air born I am sure I was not the only civilian checking his conscious as to the "delays" in me getting home from my "hard business meetings", finding my easy chair and remote, a cold beverage, and tending to my blister". In fact I felt pretty stupid, as I am sure many did. After what these  Men had done for all of us, and I had been complaining silently about "me" and "my issues"?
It sure made me realize that as much as I told myself that I didn't take for granted some of the everyday freedoms I enjoy and the conveniences of the American way of life and that it sometimes seems like a personal attack on one of us when things don't go exactly right...I was doing exactly that. I was taking it for granted. I took it for granted when others who had really paid the price for my ability to moan and complain (even if it was just to myself)...let alone a few minutes delay to me so that those HEROES could go home to their loved ones.
I attempted to get my selfish outlook back in order and minutes before we landed I suggested to the attendant that she announced over the speaker a request for everyone to remain in their seats until our Hero's were allowed to gather their things and be first off the plane. The cheers and applause continued until the last soldier stepped off and we all rose to go about our too often taken for granted everyday freedoms....
I felt Proud of Them. I felt it an Honor and a privilege to be among the first to welcome them home and say  Thank You for a job well done.
I vowed that I would never forget that flight or the lesson learned. I have said it before but I can't say it enough, THANK YOU to those VETERANS and ACTIVE SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN who may read this, and a prayer everyday for those who cannot because they are no longer with us. GOD BLESS AMERICA.