What a way to end the year!

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, December 28, 2011

It was a quick trip to Boston. With the plane for my return flight delayed, I was just sitting in the terminal near my gate killing time. I saw the big Delta jet finally taxi up to Gate A-16 and waited a bit impatiently for the passengers to disembark so we could begin boarding for Atlanta.

Minutes later, I heard a scream and then spontaneous applause. I looked up to see one of our soldiers holding his wife and child. Everyone seemed to realize that he had made it home for Christmas.

The applause grew as people realized what was happening. As the young couple began walking, hand in hand, down the terminal others joined in the cheering. Before long, everyone in the terminal, no matter where in the world they were headed to or from, were joined in the special moment of the homecoming.

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Then the applause started again. Another young soldier hugged a girl with his father beaming and waiting his turn.

Again and again the scene repeated itself as dozens of soldiers returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan, all being greeted by someone they loved.

A father grabbed his young son and held him up to see the crowd that cheered in response. Yet another father walked down the hall with his two daughters holding his hands so tight like they never wanted to let them go again.

One solder kissed and held his wife tight. After a few minutes of holding each other, he walked straight over to what was almost certainly a buddy of his. His leg had been injured and he was walking on crutches. The tears on their faces were joined by the tears on the faces of everyone that could see.

It was a very public observance of some very private events. There were students from Harvard and MIT, young and liberal, cheering in support. There were old soldiers from wars past that shouted out, without any embarrassment, telling the returning warriors how proud they were of each of them.

I looked around and did not see one person that wasn’t clapping or cheering. Without getting to the politics of these two very long wars, it was good to see our young men coming home in time for Christmas. For many of them and their families it will have been a year they will never forget.

Indeed it has been a year many will never forget and others hope to forget. Our economy has continued to struggle, with many of our citizens and friends just getting by. At the same time, Wall Street and big banks are making record profits again.

It has been a year where Americans have continued to lose faith and confidence in our elected officials. The pending election of next year could drastically change things or leave them close to the status quo. Polls seem to tell us that we don’t really know what we want to do yet.

It has been a year for drastic weather events. Tsunamis, a word I don’t even recall from my childhood education, have killed thousands of people behind a massive wall of water coming ashore. Powerful earthquakes have occurred in places no one remembers them ever happening before.

We have had record high temperatures and record cold. Parts of our country have endured devastating droughts, while other parts survived damaging floods.

As we look forward into the next year, we are not certain that things will get any better with the economy, the weather, or the taxes.

Yet, the person entering the plane ahead of me said “Happy Hanukah” to the clerk at the desk. Two ladies in burqas entered the plane, their faith very different from mine.

A plane load of people from around the world were taking off to parts unknown. There were different faiths, skin colors, education levels, and political leanings represented.

All had been given a gift, however. They had all seen the beautiful sights of families being united together. It put everyone in a good mood. Everyone was smiling and happy.

Perhaps that is my wish for all of us in the coming year. There will be continued trials in our lives and the life of our country. Some things will get better and some will not.

But, hopefully, we will get to enjoy those few moments that slow us down and cause us to reflect on the important things, those things that make us happy and eager to look to the future.

If not, I’ll have the memory of a young soldier hugging his wife and children to help remind me of the important things in life.

Happy New Year and Best Wishes for a safe, prosperous and happy 2012.

Dan Ponder can be reached at dan@ponderenterprises.net