fourbroadsinabus

Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

Day Six — Privacy? What Privacy?

Heading for Hugs

So far we’d indulged ourselves in rather nice motel rooms, mainly because they were right off the highway and we were too tired to shop around. Actually, we weren’t all that impressed by some of them. They were nice enough; I don’t mean they were bad, just nothing really impressive. So we decided to try something on a lower financial tier. Even though it was a Friday night, pretty Virginia at the desk was able to give us a room that was, on most levels, pretty close to a couple we paid twice as much for. I didn’t realize until we checked in that they didn’t have a pool, but Melissa bravely substituted long walks for therapy in the pool. In this heat, bless her heart. And we had to hunt up a wastebasket. Virginia said one had come up missing, and she’d been borrowing from one room to another. Pretty bad when you don’t have an expense account for one wastebasket. Oh, and when we moved in we discovered there’s no door on the john. So we will know each other very well by the end of this trip. Skylar is mortified, of course, at her age.
By nine o’clock Saturday morning we’d followed Pam Tate’s directions to the YMCA Military Welcome Center just outside the terminal in Will Rogers World Airport, which is a hub for other destinations for the military. She couldn’t be with us right away because the Patriot Guard Riders had been asked to help welcome a triple amputee who was coming home. It was a private family affair, so we took a hint and stayed away. When we got to the door of the center, we found it had a serious lock on it. We got someone’s attention and were welcomed in and introduced ourselves. Millie, who was womaning the front desk, explained that just the week before someone had gotten through the regular locks after hours and stolen a fifty-inch flat-screen TV, another flat-screen in the mess room, and the X-box and all the equipment that went with it. These were all donated items, folks. Donated to be used by our military, kids far from home, waiting for a flight to God knows where, or just in off a flight, tired and waiting for a bus to base. As Millie said, how do you go back to the people who donated these items and say, “Gee, ya got any more?”

Waiting. And waiting.

When a flight was due, we followed the PGR over to the proper gate and talked to some of the military kids coming and going. I say “kids” deliberately. Melissa met a seventeen-year-old who had just finished her basic training and was now going home to finish her last year of high school before being deployed. These are the things that break our hearts on this trip. As Melissa says, some kids go to summer camp. This one went to boot camp.

Then Melissa proudly did flag duty while Skylar and I took pictures of the waiting families and then the troops coming in. The PGR is strict – they do not bother anyone, they do not even offer to shake hands or in any way bring attention to themselves. They simply stand with flags at attention, applaud each service member as they pass to their waiting loved ones and say quietly, “Welcome home”. As Pam Tate says, “It’s not about us, it’s about them.”
“People join to bring the patriotism back where it needs to be,” she said. “It died with Viet Nam. And many of our members are Viet Nam vets who joined because they want to make sure what happened to them never happens again.”
After an emotionally exhausting day, we came back to the room and collapsed in front of the boob tube. And nobody cared by then about lack of privacy. It does seem trivial compared to what our kids go through to ensure our freedom to travel around in safety and comfort.

catching a nap

baby Sterling was born premature while Dad was still deployed

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