It was an exhausting whirlwind tour of 9 countries in 14 full days of high level meetings. I was reinvigorated by the fact that within 9 hours, I’d be home with my family again. I was sitting at my departure gate when a sight caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. Engulfed in my own little world, I only barely noticed the pony-tailed, old biker arise and stand at attention peering out the window. I could have sworn I saw a tear form and quickly run down his cheek.

I usually mind my own business, but it isn’t everyday you see a grown sixty-something biker standing at attention, emotional. I thought about getting back into the magazine I had open, but curiosity held a firm grip on me. I looked around. The departure area was now completely full. Meaningless conversations on various topics flared up all around me. I put the magazine on the seat next to me, stood, and walked over to investigate.

When I arrived, he was still entranced, still teared up, looking intensely out the window, down to the tarmac. I asked him, “sir, are you OK? Is there something, somebody I can get to help you?” He looked at me. Shook his head no. He said, “I’m just paying my respects. I don’t know if you’d understand.” Then he turned his head and looked back intently down to the window. At first, I thought, what a weird thing to say. It would have been easy to be offended or put off by his reply. But he said it with such a dignity, I had to see what he meant.

As I looked out to the tarmac, I saw an amazing site. Old Glory was draping the coffin of a young soldier taking his final trip home, down the baggage ramp to an awaiting honor guard. As quickly as I could with a military reflex, snapped to attention and gave a salute. It must have been a weird site to the people in the departure lounge that afternoon, seeing an old biker and business man standing at attention by the window because soon a crowd came over. We were quickly joined by other veterans, standing in solemnity, saluting. They had just about cleared our sight when I overheard a young boy ask his dad, “What is it Daddy?” The father replied, “I don’t know son, but I think we should stand quietly until they are done.” For that one moment, the entire gate in Houston stood silent and united.

The hours ticked by quickly as I made my way home. I was thrilled to see my family at the airport and gave them a big hug. In the back of my mind I carried the memory that I enjoyed the luxury of a homecoming paid for by an unbroken line of patriots who had dared to die that freedom may live, and by the knowledge that another family’s reunion would be far less joyful than mine.

As a veteran, I salute all of you who have lost a loved one in service to this nation. I sincerely hope that one day we, as a nation, have the courage to deserve the sacrifice they have made for the freedoms we allow this government to steal every day. I pray that we have the courage of our forefathers to preserve, protect and defend that which was entrusted to us for the benefit of future generations of Americans. I fear that if we don’t, we will not only dishonor the memory and the sacrifices of those fallen heroes, we also dishonor ourselves. May God have mercy on our nation.

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