As I sat at my gate, a full two hours early eating a $5 McDonalds chicken sandwich that tasted like grilled dust, I began to rant inside my head. Why does flying have to be so difficult? Why do I always seem to get sexually harassed by the security guy? Since when does fast food chicken facsimile cost five bucks? I put in my headphones in an attempt to drown out my rage and prevent the voices in my head from overtaking me and inducing schizophrenia. I sat back in my blue plastic chair and stared straight ahead.
Across from me were two soldiers coming through security. When I say soldiers, I mean children in uniform. The girl looked like she was 14, and the boy should have been firing a football across his high school’s end zone, not firing a weapon across enemy lines. They were both being shipped out.
While I stared at the teenagers on their way to defend our country, more and more uniforms entered the terminal. Some of them were old; some of them were young. Some were with their wives; others were with their parents. A few were alone. They were different races, genders and ranks, but they all had two things in common – a uniform and a mission.
As I sat completely mesmerized, a toddler in pink with pigtails ran across my feet and tripped. Before I could reach down to see if she was alright, a desert camo-clad colonel swept down and scooped her up in his arms. He walked his daughter back to their family and kissed her on the forehead. I couldn’t help but wonder when he would be seeing her again.
An hour and a half later it was my turn to board the plane. The ever-enthusiastic ticket agent called my boarding group, and there was a mad dash toward the motionless line onto the gangway. Two passengers in front of me was a boy about my age in his dress uniform heading to Carson army base in Colorado Springs, Colo., then to Iraq.
“Are you on this plane?” the ticket agent asked.
“Yes, Ma’am,” he replied with an enthusiasm that only a new recruit still has. The agent asked for his ticket and began typing something into her computer. Then she handed it back to him. He looked at his ticket, looked at the agent and then ran out of line toward his stoic family standing behind us.
“They put me in first class,” he exclaimed with his mid-Texas twang. “I get to fly first class; how cool is that!” Each family member took their turn looking at the ticket and giving him one last hug. He was motioned to the front of the line and all the passengers smiled at him as he gave one last wave, a salute and walked out of sight. The instant he could no longer see her, his mother broke down into tears.
I was proud of him when he got on that plane. We all were. As I walked past him in his leather clad first-class cabin, handing his coat to the flight attendant, I realized something.
It does not matter if you think George Bush is a gift from God or the harbinger of the Anti-Christ. I don’t care if you think the war in Iraq is a monument to America’s fostering of new democracies or the biggest foreign affairs disaster since the Bay of Pigs.
There is a line that must be drawn between supporting the war and supporting our troops. It is not an all or nothing proposition. These men and women do not create our country’s policy – they enforce it. They leave their parents, wives, daughters and sons behind to go fight for our country. That alone should never be overlooked.
In the DFW terminal there is a sign that reads “To America’s brave from America’s proud, our hearts go with you.”
So, to the men and women of the armed services: thank you. I don’t support the war, but I support you. Whatever you do and wherever you go, my heart goes with you.
Christina Ruffini is a junior international communication major from Colorado Springs, Colo.