We went to Terminal D, the new international terminal at the airport, to get Seth on Monday, February 20th. That's where all the overseas flights land now, which is really a shame since they just built that nice new USO in Terminal B. But, the guys coming in aren't usually at the airport very long...just long enough to be picked up by their families or make connecting flights.
I'm sure all of you have heard about the Maine Troop Greeters... they've been mentioned in the papers and on the Internet. They greeted Seth's group on their way to Iraq with food and phones to call home. But, I bet not many of you have heard about the group that greets troops at DFW Airport...so let me tell you about them.
Being our first time to meet a soldier, we wandered into the terminal not knowing what to expect, what gate to go to, or anything. A very nice woman at the information booth asked if we were there to meet a soldier. When we said yes, she proceeded to give us a free parking pass for the day, flag pins, and all kinds of information about his arrival and when he would have to return. We ended up knowing more than Seth did..... :) As we waited, more and more people of all ages started gathering.....young Girl Scouts with boxes of cookies to hand out to the soldiers, a group of people from AT&T, a man with two young sons who carried flags and signs saying thank you, a group of teenagers, and assorted families and individuals. There must have been at least 50 or 60 people there, but most of them weren't meeting a particular soldier, they were just there to say thank you and welcome them home. How heartwarming!!!
As the time neared for the plane's arrival, we were moved to the front of a chute outside the doors leading from the international gate. Families of soldiers were first in line, followed by all the others. By the time the troops started trickling out, a gauntlet of people had formed. The soldiers and marines had to funnel through an ever-narrowing mass of people wanting to pat them on the back and shake their hands, and the whistles, yells, and applause were thunderous. What a rush!!!
Seth was attacked by Katie as soon as he walked through the door, followed closely by hugs from me and his dad. We stood for a while at the front of the line, until Seth had been hugged enough and said he was ready to get out of there. However, he had yet to run the gauntlet. Not only did the greeters want to shake his hand and thank him, they thanked us, too. I've never felt so humbled and so wonderful at the same time. What wonderful people they are to take time out of their busy day to greet our returning troops. I still get teary-eyed when I think about it. God bless all of them!!!Going
When Seth left yesterday, it was totally different. He left from Terminal B, where the USO is...but that's only for another week, then the troops will start leaving from Terminal D. I think it's pretty sad to take them away from the terminal where the USO is located, though. Let me tell you a little bit about the USO at DFW.
Someone from the USO greets each one of the troops as they arrive and gives them a place to store their bags until they manifest...which always seems to be at 1500. They tell them exactly what to expect, when things will happen, what the families need to do to go inside the secure area to wait with their soldier......and if you don't ask, they track you down and tell you. Then, after a very loud Sgt gives everyone instructions, checks their bags, and gives them boarding passes, the soldiers are free until boarding time. While waiting for their flight, the USO is there to help any way they can...provide a place to sit and hangout, let you call home, provide a snack or a drink, and just do whatever they can to make you feel at home.
We ate at Fridays (sound familiar, Casanova?) and then wandered down to the departure gate to sit and talk. After a while, two older ladies with carts full of snacks and other stuff tracked down each and every soldier in the terminal, no matter where they were, to see if they wanted anything. Not just for the troops, but for their families, too. The carts were full of goodies...donuts, jerky, gum, candy, you name it they had it, as well as toothbrushes and razors...and each soldier was told to take as much as he/she wanted of anything. Seth grabbed a handful of jerky and a package of donuts and proceeded to munch. Later, as each soldier loaded onto the plane, they were handed an extra-large ziplock bag full of stuff, including a calling card to call home. And both cart ladies hugged or patted each and every soldier on the arm or back and thanked him/her as they boarded the plane.
Ken, Katie, and I stood and watched until the last soldier boarded and then just kind of looked at each other. As we stood there, the cart ladies made their way over to us and proceeded to say how proud they were of each of the soldiers. Then they thanked us and asked about our soldier. They gave us each a hug, at which time I almost lost it, and we asked about their "jobs". They said they were volunteers, and that no amount of money could compare to the reward they get when they see the smiles of the soldiers and get to send them off with a hug and a wave. Man, it doesn't get any better than that. God bless our USO and all the wonderful volunteers!!!