“Welcome Home”

Thirty nine years ago I returned home from my “time at war.” Deplaning in Chicago after more than 24 hours of travel I was met at the gate by…no one. I couldn’t understand why no one had made it to meet me at the gate. The emptiness was overwhelming. I waited on the curb with my sea bag waiting for my father to pick me up.

Recently the 186th Oregon National guard returned from their “time at war” in Iraq. American flags, yellow balloons, signs and families waited to welcome them home.  I was there as a     photojournalist to document the emotions, tears, smiles and tender moments that I missed when I deplaned in Chicago almost a lifetime ago. In reality, I wanted to be  there to share in  this  welcome home as if it was my own.

I wanted to feel the excitement of coming home to a “grateful nation.” At least that is what I thought I was there for. God, fate, the Universe, whatever you want to call it….mine is  God…He had sent me there for a different reason.

As I swam through the sea of emotions, recording the reuniting families, I saw me…er him. One lone soldier was sitting of the curb. His eyes were misty, the tears growing and his face showing the strain of being alone…alone at a time of reunion and renewal. I recalled the feeling from so long ago. I waited a moment remembering being alone on the curb, waiting,   waiting… I couldn’t help myself and I crossed the line from journalists to “brother.” I reentered the family of soldiers. I hung my camera by my side and walked over to him.

I offered my hand, he took it and I said “Welcome home soldier.” I saw some small sign of thanks in his face. I hope he understood my feelings of gratitude, my feeling of joy that he had returned home alive.

I now understood the unknown reason for my being there, I felt my purpose complete. My time on the curb had some meaning. I felt good inside.

In my welcoming this lonely soldier home I truly had  become part of and truly felt the emotion of the moment. I heard that distance voice I wanted hear, the words I wanted spoken to me when I deplaned so many years ago…the words so many returning Viet Nam vets wanted to hear…the words I waited to hear my father speak when he met me at the curb…

“Welcome Home”


4 thoughts on ““Welcome Home”

  1. An awe inspiring reminder to all soldiers that they are not forgotten; they are thought of and appreciated, and people out there relate to what they have experienced, are experiencing and will experience. God bless and watch over each of you.

  2. Richard,
    Thank you for sharing this story. I was unable to be there when my husband returned from Iraq the first time and he has told me about that lonely feeling too. Such a good reminder to support our friends and family who are in the service all the time.
    Thank you for all your service.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s