However, this commercial, which aired several years ago, never failed to tear me up.
For some reason I was thinking about this commercial the last time I was at the airport, seeing off family. Maybe it was the large flags hanging in the check-in area, maybe it was the fact that I was there with my new little ones and was feeling protective. Whatever the reason, it should have prepared me for what happened when I left the airport. But it didn't.
As I pushed the button for my floor of the parking garage, a strapping young man in a full khaki uniform and a bulging duffel bag stepped on the elevator. We rode in silence for what seemed like forever. I thought: I should do it. I should say welcome home. Clapping would be weird. Don't clap. But welcome home might be weird too. What if Portland isn't his home? What if he wasn't in Iraq or Afghanistan? Am I presuming too much? I know! I'll just say thank you.
But when I thought of that, "Thank you," the full weight of what it meant hit me and the words caught in my throat.
Thank you for risking your physical and psychological health for us. Thank you for leaving your friends and family for a hostile environment and a hostile culture. Thank you for doing your duty for your country while the rest of us actively ignore the fact that we are fighting two wars. Thank you for being willing to make the ultimate sacrifice knowing that we can never repay you or your survivors for it.
The door opened and the moment was gone. Even a simple thank you would have been better than nothing and I kicked myself all the way home for missing the opportunity.
So here I am, saying thank you Guy at the Airport. Thank you to all of our fighting men and women who have been deployed far and wide.
And, welcome home.