Last night I had the honor of participating in Operation Welcome Home, Maryland, at BWI Airport. I went with the Youth/Parents group from my church, there were about 21 people with just our group. Quite a number of other people were there too. I took a bunch of pictures, but that section of the airport is really dark, so not many came out.
This is where the Men and Women Soldiers/Sailors/Marines/Airmen start their walk through the gauntlet of seriously grateful American Civilians.
This is the Wall of Visual Evidence of Our Gratitude.
The people who organized this were amazing. It was all set up when we got there, they had way cool shirts, the posters were up, the gift bags had been sorted and were repacked for easy distribution and we were welcomed and thanked generously just for showing up to clap. I felt like a poseur, but they remained gracious and kind, and really, I wasn’t there for them. So I thanked them even more just to get back at them. Sweet revenge. 😉
This is what they walk under.
The stack of gift bags. Everything in the gift bags is donated, either the products themselves or the money to purchase the products. I have no idea what’s in them and I forgot to ask.
These are the people who led the OWH last night. They were organized, clear, concise and then lead us in the pledge of allegiance with the cub scouts and girl scouts who came. (I have a feeling they drew the awesome pictures for the wall.)
The kids got into it too.
These people even had coloring books and crayons for the little kids. Seriously, I’m deeply in love with them.
They had us line up next to the rope once they got word the plane had landed and the men and women (and families) were going through customs. There was an alternate escape route for non-military peeps. They were all asked as they came through the doors from customs if they were military and then sorted accordingly. When the lady at the door got a “Yes!” to her military question she rang a bell. Seriously. And then we clapped. Like crazy people. Lots of people yelled, whistled and hooted.
Some soldiers just walked down and acknowledged us a little. Some of them fist-bumped everyone, one lady soldier wept. Since this flight was also bringing home quite a few families, pets included, we got to say thank you to them also. One girl must have been able to go back to customs to greet her soldier man, because he wore her all the way down the greeting aisle and for a bit after:
They were like this for quite some time.
There was a lot more, one wife was obviously introducing a man to his child for the first time. She was weeping pretty hard, he was intense and I looked away. That’s totally not the time for some random civilian snapping pictures of their family time.
I got clapping calluses and shouted a lot. It was the best Friday night I’ve had in a long time. If you get a chance to do this, do it.
Cause these guys? They are worth it.