A Tribute to a Hero

Some comments merit a post all to their own. July 4th we asked those reading the blog to tell us what July 4th means to them in the comments section. Sandra Hudson wrote a special tribute to a fallen Airmen she shared a special plane ride home with just days prior. Please read it and take another moment to say thank you to these brave men and women, and their families.

 

I heard the news while sitting at Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. It seems the saga of Michael Jackson’s death will be with us for a long time. And while I have been both a fan early-on and a skeptic in recent years, amid the unfolding drama I feel indifferent to the news.

That sentiment was predicated by events three days earlier at another airport.

Arriving at Atlanta’s Hartsfield International, with more than two hours between flights, I am in no hurry to grab my bags and dash through the cabin.

Movement outside my window seat catches my eye.

Stoic and in full dress uniform, an Army Staff Sergeant marches toward the baggage handler. My heart drops. This is a Hero Flight.

Seated directly above the conveyor belt, I watch the long, cardboard-covered box drift slowly from the aircraft belly. The NCO, bearing his own purple heart, vigilantly renders honors.

It’s the only motion I can see on the silenced tarmac of one of the busiest airports in the world.

Embedded in my mind’s eye forever, a flag detail hovers while a crew slides the box into a special carrier.

As the Soldier signs papers and receives final instructions, the cart pulls away. The flight line returns to its harried pace.

That day, an Air Force Staff Sergeant made his final journey back home, to North Dakota. I know this because I could see his rank and destination written on the box.

This Fourth of July, in the nation’s heartland, a family mourns the loss of a son.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, a fledgling country continues taking steps closer to the Independence he helped enforce.

And here in Savannah, between the hot dogs and fireworks, I’ll take a few moments to remember the unknown Airman, now a celebrity in my heart.

 

Lt. Gen. Jim Lovelace, U.S. Army Central commanding general, addresses the crowd of service members, civilians, coalition forces troops as well as Kuwaiti soldiers during a Memorial Day observance at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, May 26. More than 4,000 service members are pictured on the wall behind Lovelace which commemorates the sacrifices of those who have fallen during Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.