It's the time tested trope--military guy coming home for the holidays, delayed by weather, sleeping on the floor at the airport--but as we found out today, it happens. Son 1 on the way home from the Marines, got stuck at ATL thanks to a blustery east coast. After a weary night of crisscross phone calls and web searches that left us all both weary and sleep deprived, I find myself at CVG awaiting his arrival.
As always, parking near baggage check is all but impossible, but lucky timing put me in a recently vacated spot not too far from the door. A shorter walk in the 7-degree morning air will be much appreciated by the boy who hasn't worn a coat since 6th grade proved to him it isn't cool. Inside, the terminal was abustle with families greeting their travelers to the background din of sanitized holiday tunes.
Approaching the holding pen, an inconspicuous area made almost comfortable by the careful addition of two massage recliners, I see out the corner of my eye the camouflaged embrace of a returning daughter or sister. At the same time, to her right, I get to glimpse a joyous reunion between a uniformed dad-to-be and his burgeoning family of three. I'm both surprised by the number of military arrivals at an airport so far from a military base, and reminded that patriotic, midwest towns like mine is where America finds much of its cadre.
As I impatiently pace off the final 5 minutes, it strikes me that while this might be the first of many anticipated homecomings for my Marine, at least this time he's being delivered to us from peacetime training. As I'm reminded that many other families-in-arms are not so lucky, I find myself immediately thankful and grateful. We live in the embrace of freedom's glow, the embers of which are stoked by the relentless patrol of America's guardians. While this Christmas finds our world at relative peace, I know this condition is just not possible without the gift of service that young men and women like mine willingly offer a mostly ignorant and only occasionally appreciative globe.
For me, Christmas is a time for family, and a time for celebration, but mostly it's a time for gratitude. I work hard to recall and to demonstrate thankfulness for all the gifts of a Season, that has its now-mostly-downplayed genesis with a similar self-sacrificial gift of freedom. Like all such acts that change the world forever, our Lord's benevolence on Christmas morn 2,000 some years ago, is remembered and appreciated less and less as time goes on. But just as defending America's interests falls to a few of us loyal and willing, preserving and sharing the essence and glory of God's greatest gift is my both my duty and privilege.
So, as I watch my son's arrival closing the physical distance between us, I bow my head in thanks, for the blessing of two sons, neither of whose love and charity I deserve, but for which I remain incredibly grateful. Merry Christmas.