When my husband and I arrived at our gate at the airport, three others were there, notably a young Marine in full dress uniform. I glanced at him periodically wondering, “Is he heading home or reporting back to duty…?” He seemed restless. I was struck by how young he looked; he had to be close to the ages of my sons.
Gradually, the room filled to about 150 people. Then, as if on cue, nine soldiers dressed in camouflage quietly walked in and lined up at the entrance where passengers disembark. One held a large ‘Welcome Home’ sign. Within minutes the entire room was transfixed on this group. We waited, with them.
As each journey-weary soldier entered our area, the ‘welcoming group’ saluted and hugged each man or woman, sharing kind words and warm smiles. Though in a public place, they shared a private moment, not intending to draw attention to themselves.
I glanced around the room. Faces wore various expressions from sober to teary to admiration to big smiles. Without words and without knowing the soldiers or one other, we were grateful for them and glad they were home… Someone’s mom, dad, brother or sister, son or daughter. Thank you, Lord.
As my eyes combed the room, I spotted the young Marine. He was standing, watching, and seemingly waiting. Maybe he’s waiting for a friend to disembark.
After the last soldier was welcomed, they all walked together toward the door, talking quietly among themselves. Then spontaneously, the rest of us stood and applauded them until the last one was out the door. Our collective emotions poured out: Admiration for their selflessness and courage… deep, unspoken gratitude for what they do for all of us… that these are ALIVE… the relief that they are home.
I looked over at the young Marine, still standing and watching as the other passengers disembarked and entered our room. No one came toward him. Then he left. I was so curious as to why he had been there, in our room, waiting.
About 10 minutes later, I walked out into the corridor heading toward the restroom, but as I did I glanced out the window at the plane everyone had just left, the same plane that I would soon board. I stopped. There was the young Marine.
He was standing at attention, saluting, and two baggage staff were standing by him, their heads bowed with a hand across their heart. My eyes followed the direction of the Marine’s salute. A single casket was being lifted into the cargo bay of the same airplane. I gasped softly as tears welled in my eyes. To my left I heard someone sniffing. Another witness.
Until the plane’s door closed and the Marine stepped back, I could not move. The moment was overwhelming, especially following the prior celebration. I prayed for the young Marine and I prayed that the deceased was also “going home”, to be with the Lord.
“Thou knowest me right well; my frame was not hidden from thee, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was not one of them.” (Ps.139.14-16)
Our days are numbered by God. We don’t know what each holds, but He does. Loving us, He desires to lead us through each one. Loving us, He allows us to choose daily whose way we will follow – His, ours, someone else’s. I don’t know my number of days. But I do know one of my most significant purposes – being a mom.
The men and women who serve our country have responded to a call on their lives. What they do is not for their own benefit or for others to notice. They do it for us, for me. They live serving. We casually call it being “in the service”. They don’t wallow in or flaunt their sacrifices and struggles; they press on to accomplish their purpose. Humbly, they risk their lives for the sake of other’s lives, for me.
Life and death, with purpose. Life and death, honored. Service, for the sake of others. God, thank You for their example in my life.
God, thank you for Jesus. The ultimate Example. Life with purpose. Death with purpose. ALL to serve You. For the sake of mankind.
Help us love and disciple our children “in service” to you, for your purposes and glory. Amen.