Standing on the flightline at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, I watched the fiercely blowing snow fly over the asphalt slamming into aircraft and into the med-evac personnel who were patiently waiting as the crew of the newly parked C-141 Starlifter readied the aircraft for offload.
The cold cut my bones and the night surrounded me but neither could do anything to the tightening of my chest as I watched the stretcher carrying the first wounded Soldier emerge down the ramp out of the back of the Starlifter.
The Army green blankets were wrapped tightly around him, and the large white instruments that sat on his chest blinked and whistled as his medical team walked with his gurney to the waiting evac bus – a dark-colored old school bus with a white cross on the side. His doctor, nurse and two orderlies efficiently held the various instruments that monitored his vital signs.
One, two, three, up and he was slowly lifted into the back of the bus to lay in the dark, awaiting his comrades who would join him in the ride to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center – the U.S. hospital that readies all wounded for return to their home units or for transit to Walter Reed Medical Hospital in Washington.
All I could think was that I didn’t know his name.
I knew he was wounded by a suicide bomber who penetrated the perimeter of a U.S. air base in Iraq and unloaded his devastation in a crowded mess hall. But as more and more stretchers appeared, one after another, all I could do was stare. My heart swelled with pride for these men. These are the true heroes of the war.
Behind me, news camera’s carried the story live: CNN, BBC, ABC. My job is to help the Air Force tell its story and this was one story I wanted to make sure the world knew. These heroes needed to know that Americans cared about them in spite of anti-war sentiment and constant negative war news. If my meager contribution can educate the American people about the sacrifices that real human souls are making for liberty and freedom, then other small gestures can go a long way.
The yellow ribbons, American flags and signs that are splashed all over small American towns mark a unified community. They are a genuine symbol of appreciation for the generosity of our military men and women and say that what we are doing isn’t going unnoticed. So, to the proud citizens of who show this type of appreciation, I say thank you for making each of my homecomings special and those who may not see them by displaying your personal signs of thanks.
(this was published in the Sparta Expositor two years ago and my mother asked to see it again. So Mom, this one's for you.)