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Recently, I went to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport for the arrival of our beautiful “international daughter” Aliena. We had the privilege to meet Aliena when she became part of our family for one year through a foreign exchange program. Of the many programs available, we hosted through http://www.afs.org/ . I encourage you to consider the opportunity http://www.wikihow.com/Become-a-Foreign-Exchange-Student and see if your life can be just as enriched as ours has been.
But, I digress (for good reason though)
All international arrivals come through one gate in terminal D. I watched the status board to anxiously see if Aliena’s flight had landed and it showed the baggage claim information. I knew when that appeared, her plane was grounded on US soil and she was somewhere behind those frosted glass automatic doors.
Oh, those doors—frosted glass automatic sliding doors.
Eagerly watching those doors each time they opened to see if, maybe, just maybe, she was walking my way. My heart pounded and my stomach had butterflies for the daughter I had grown to love and missed so much for two years since she returned to Germany at the end of her US school year.
If you know me very well, you know I do not cry easily. BUT, two things will make me cry like a baby- memorable sports moments/movies/occasions and anything patriotic. (without getting political here, I’m very proud to say that no matter what your platform, political biases/favoritisms, opinion on the current status, blah blah blah, I LOVE THE USA for reasons that extend back way before the current crises began.)
Standing there, heart pounding, I scanned the gathered crowd. It overwhelmed me to see so many people, anxiously waiting, like me, for their someone to materialize from the frosted glass. Every time it opened, the body language of every person tended to lean forward, just a bit, like a tree in a gently blowing breeze. The broad, expectant smiles spoke volumes about why they were there and the sheer joy of seeing their loved one emerge from behind the glass radiated from their collective beings.
It felt magical.
Suddenly, the doors parted and two men briskly walked up the welcoming aisle—IN UNISON, three children maybe around the age of 4 all yelled, “daddy”, in perfect unity. (the crowd of admirers waiting their turn emitted a collective “ahhhhh” witnessing such a heartfelt moment—Hallmark got nothing on DFW) The kiddos ran forward almost too far into the “NO ENTRY” zone, but, those daddies ran up to catch them. One man scooped his daughter up and squeezed her so tightly, I thought her ponytail would stand straight up. He wept silent tears in the sweet embrace of that beautiful little girl. The other man scooped both his sons into his bear hug and kissed one’s head to the other before embracing and just taking in the miracle of their existence and the privilege of being THEIR daddy and how much they loved each other.
One beaming man met his very pregnant companion and just after their embrace, he gingerly rubbed her belly, grinning ear to ear. Priceless.
It felt as if we, the crowd, were voyeurs to such precious moments each time a new person arrived to the hugs, handshakes, tears, and hearty hello’s of their expectant ones.
No one allowed their pride in the way of their moment.
While waiting, I noticed a large dedication area and a television replaying the arrival of many US troops that came home from long tours overseas. I knew many volunteers gathered for the arrival of US troops, but, until I read the information in the dedication area, I had no idea what an amazing and grand scale the project at DFW really was. http://www.dfwairport.com/heroes/
I found more about the program history here: http://www.ntc-dfw.org/meet_troops_dfw.html
“In June 2004, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the Colleyville Chamber of Commerce and the North Texas Commission launched the Welcome Home a Hero program to greet U.S. troops returning for two weeks of rest and recuperation. What began as a modest effort to honor our soldiers became an outpouring of community support to demonstrate gratitude to the men and women in uniform.”( From NTC.DFW.ORG)
And, check this out http://www.tsa.gov/press/happenings/dfw.shtm in 2007, DFW Intl reached a milestone by welcoming home 500,000 arrivals- all greeted by flags waving, homemade signs flashing, cheers roaring, laughter ensuing, and tears flowing. Yes, it was THAT awesome.
I felt a moment of human connection in that airport that I’d not felt in a very long time, and it was extraordinary.
In March 2012, DFW closed the official Welcome Home a Hero program. Thankfully, due to the reduction in US forces abroad, the organized daily operations no longer require the same multitude of assistance. However, troops do return daily and still have needs that volunteers meet every day and people still participate to welcome home our service members.
I read the information, watched more marvelous reunions and kept waiting and waiting and waiting for my international arrival. All the while thinking of how many perfect strangers felt happiness as we gathered in that terminal with other people we would, in all likelihood, never see again.
Then, it hit me, most of those volunteers greeting our troops would never even know their names and probably never saw them again, after that brief moment of welcoming. Do you realize how un-selfish and loving that truly is? What a remarkable display of not only humanity, but, patriotism at its’ best, untainted by politics.
I won’t lie to you, when Aliena finally hit that welcome aisle, I ran in my high heels on the slick tile as quick as I could get to her and we both released tears of joy as we hugged and just reveled in the moment.
My international daughter was home, even if only for one month. Our family is complete once again.
Just as many service members revel in being home, if only for one week, one month, and for a grateful few, forever. But, in that long awaited moment of arrival, it feels like eternity.
And, it’s grand. Happy Fourth of July my Fellow Fathomers!