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An e-mail, reprinted by Southern Utah Vets Aid:

I’m blessed to work at the Salt Lake City International Airport. And I must admit there are a few perks to my job. One of those is seeing LDS missionaries come and go. You’ll hear cheers and see banners as these Elders and Sisters come back home to family and friends. It’s a fun time. However, I have often thought that the one thing that is even better than the missionary return is when a soldier comes home from being on duty. The cheers and banners are much like the missionary’s homecoming, but the hugs seem longer and tighter while the tears seem to be filled with so much more emotion. I figured that was the ultimate perk of my job. 

Well, I was wrong. I was sitting in our break room on the second floor mezzanine enjoying my lunch today when I heard a loud applause. That isn’t unusual in itself but this time the applause didn’t stop after a few seconds. There was no loud shouts and cheers, just a prolonged applause. It was incredible. I had to see what was going on. So I went to the break room door that overlooked the baggage area of Terminal One to see what the noise was about. 

What I saw was an honor guard of twenty or more American Legion Riders standing in two lines of formation, each with a flag at attention. They weren’t welcoming home an entire unit as the applause might have suggested. The only person they were there for was an attractive young woman in a wheel chair with a Bob Marley shirt on. It was apparent that she was recovering from having both her legs amputated from above the knees while in the service of our nation. The applause was just tapering down as she finished hugging her parents and a young child. Once those familial connections were made, this young soldier wheeled her way around the entire American Legion honor guard saluting and embracing each and every member. It was a humbling, knot-in-the-throat type of experience.

I stood there and watched for a good fifteen minutes. It was almost mesmerizing to see this young soldier honor her Honor Guard and then return to her immediate family for more hugs. This woman was facing a life without legs and she yet she wasn’t obsessed with herself at this time of returning home. That effort of individually acknowledging the veterans in her Honor Guard before finally setting off with her family spoke more about her spirit than I could ever explain. The emotional waves that slammed through my being were a mixture of happiness, patriotism, humility, reverence, admiration, awe, and even a little guilt. 

I know that this is a moment in time that I would be remiss if I didn’t share it with my friends. As I write this, we are two days shy of commemorating 237 years since our forefathers declared this country as an independent nation with the intent to protect many of the most sacred liberties that we enjoy. While our country has had its share of ups and downs, one thing that is constant is the willingness of so many men and women who are willing to put aside their own safety, their own concerns, and even their own lives to serve this nation that the love and pledge honor to. I hope that I might always remember the young soldier I saw today and cherish her sacrifice among the many others that have and will be made by other heroes to serve our country and protect that which we should hold so dear. Whether you participate in your community’s firework display or not, I hope that you can take a spark from the example of this young soldier’s story that I witnessed today and have that further build the light of patriotism and honor that our country stands for. 

God bless America! 

Matt Jensen

July 2, 2012

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