A few weeks ago I was in Terminal D at DFW airport. Terminal D is the international terminal here in Dallas. It's not flashy- like Detroit Metro- with beautiful fountains, leather lounge chairs, and an indoor tram; but it's not dinky either. It has rather lofty ceilings, fabulous restaurants, and enough flat screens to remind you that, although spread out and enormous (like everything in Texas) it is still modern and trendy. Mostly, terminal D seems to be a hub for wealthy travelers and more business men and women than I ever, ever care to deal with. They are everywhere. All huffy and puffy and rushed and sipping their lattes and making business deals on their laptops while talking on their ear pieces to someone else- all while trying to pay for their lattes. You get the point. It's the business elite and the people hopping on planes to amazing places like Paris and San Paulo and Beijing.
You go to Terminal D to people watch- and then you try to stay out of the people's way!
I tell you all of this to tell you that when the whole of terminal D was frozen in place the other day for what seemed to be fifteen minutes... I thought the worst. Perhaps the airport had lost cell signal or some other terrible, natural catastrophe had occurred.
But then I saw an older gentleman looking up.
There were tears streaming down his face.
And there, above our heads, encased behind a glass wall, coming out of the international arrival doors, hundreds of our men and women returning from Afghanistan began to file through the doors.
The gentleman in front of me drew to attention- you could almost here his 80 year old bones snap into place- and put his hand to his head in the most beautiful salute I have ever seen.
He stayed like that, at attention, saluting, for 15 minutes.
His wife rose from her wheelchair and steadying herself against him, she began to clap.
Aall the huffy, puffy, busy business folks set their briefcases down and began to clap too. All through terminal D people stopped. Frozen in time. Cheering and clapping. Giving thumbs up and mouthing the words thank you. Wiping tears and not breaking our gaze- we stood there, scattered throughout Terminal D, craining our necks upward, knowing we were a part of a moment that was incredibly significant.
Whether you believe in war or not. Whether you believe in this war or not. You gotta believe in these men, women, and their families.
Some of the men and women in uniform wiped tears from their eyes as we cheered them on. Some of them threw their hands in the air like Rocky- telling us they did it, they made it home. Some of them nodded, and as straight as a soldier who has seen death, walked with purpose down that hall as a man and woman who comes home with honor should. Some smiled. Other men stopped to hug each other and buried their faces in the camouflage of another. One girl started dancing. Their reactions were all different, but all beautiful.
Our airport does an amazing job at welcoming home troops, but it never happens in Terminal D. It happens in another terminal. The USO is set up in a smaller terminal with plenty of room for families to cheer... and no glass walls. So I suppose this group was headed to the other terminal. I suppose the sight of them surprised the Terminal D kind of folks. I suppose people had places to get to and phone calls to make and business deals to secure and... and.. and...
but in that moment, the whole world stood still. And these men and women stole our hearts. And we gave them ours.
I wish the whole world could have seen it.
We- the collective we- we were so proud of them. So grateful. So humbled.
I was deeply touched by the stories of your friends, family, and personal experiences regarding deployment. Thank you to all the blog readers who shared your stories with us. I wish I could repeat them all here. I wish I could tell people your story so that we could ALL have a better grasp on what it truly means to sacrifice.
I wish we could know the feeling a mother has when watching her 20 year old baby boy leave for the foreign desert of Afghanistan.
I wish we could know the feeling of giving birth to a baby while a best friend holds the computer and dad watches on skype from a desert laced with war.
I wish we could know what it feels like to leave our children and husband behind, wondering if they will still be there, if the marriage will still be there, when we return.
I wish we could know the feeling of keeping it together, day in and day out, taking care of children, bills, family health issues, and the simple chores of getting kids ready for school and holidays, while our spouse has been deployed for the fourth time.
I wish we could all, for just a brief moment, experience these things so that we might not only appreciate the sacrifice, but that we might also be drawn to a place of action on behalf of our military families. Like everything in life, once we see it with our own eyes; once we walk through it with our own family; once we put ourselves in the shoes of another... it is no longer a foreign concept, it is a person, a family, a child, a shared moment that- try as we may- we cannot seem to rid our minds of.
Once we experience the shoes of another, we move beyond cursory words of sympathy and we move into empathy. A deep feeling of truly sharing and carrying another's burden or pain. Sympathy is the broadest form we can relate to someone who is hurting. Then comes empathy, which allows us to actually put ourselves in the person's shoes. Then comes compassion, a mixture of both sympathy and empathy marked by a propensity to alleviate the suffering of the person who has suffered. Sympathy is easy. Empathy requires "knowing what it feels like" or at least allowing ourselves to imagine what it must feel like. And once we feel it? We- as humans- are more times than not, driven to compassion.
Sympathy. Empathy. Compassion.
So yes. I wish for each of us that we may, in some way, understand the hardships of another so that we might move well beyond sympathy and into empathy and acts of compassion. This week specifically, I hope to encourage you- whoever you are- to be moved to compassion on behalf of the men, women, and families who sacrificially serve in the military.
At the very least, we can pray prayers of peace over those we know who are currently deployed and serving during war time.
But I hope you and I become inspired to do more than just that! This week I will introduce you to several organizations that you can partner with in big and small ways to show our troops and their families compassion. Be looking for those on Wednesday.
Please print this list out and join me in praying for those who are currently deployed and their families:
Tim, wife, son
Treylyn Smith, wife, son Karsyn
John, his father and sister Lori
Parker and Ellen
Matt Emmon's brother, wife, two children
Serrell Livingston, wife, son, and step daughter
A family that my sister is close with just said goodbye to their husband/daddy as he was sent off to Iraq, again.
A young couple who are moving in two months, and their third baby is due in one month.
A young female soldier who volunteers at my youth group is currently deployed.
Jeanna B and her husband who is currently deployed
Jared, wife, and three children
Colin Kerrigan, wife, and three children