I watched them embrace.
He held her like he’d never let her go, and she, fighting back the tears, stared with starry eyes that held no resolve as to why he had to leave.
Feelings are purest when saying goodbye. The flight attendant also watched; there were tears in her eyes. As she held the microphone she lingered and seemed reluctant to announce the final boarding call for American flight 2270 for Chicago.
He was a young soldier dressed in desert camouflage with three stripes and a rocker sewn on his sleeve. I knew where the sergeant was heading and knew soon he would change from one person to another.
And she, his young wife, wore a simple blue dress, showing they would soon be a family of three. They held each other and spoke volumes and continued to say nothing. I could see the struggle in their faces; they were trying to find the words to say goodbye. Shakespeare was right, “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
I continued to watch and so did the flight attendant. But, she could no longer linger. With a sense of forlorn, I saw her key the microphone and announce, “This is the final call for American flight 2270 to Chicago.” With one last kiss and a loving caress to his young wife’s belly, the soldier turned, casually glanced back and was then on his way.
As I watched him disappear into the tunnel, I spoke a line from Shakespeare’s, Henry the V, “Touch her soft mouth and march!”
The young wife was free at last to express her anguish. She disappeared into the terminal. The flight attendant who had seen this scene too many times moved efficiently from that harsh reality and prepared for the next flight’s departure.
Oh! How I wish I could stop this damn war, for their sake, for everybody’s sake.
My dear reader, when we get too caught up in the business of our world we lose connection with one another and eventually with ourselves. The key to sustainability is connection. Making mental connections is the essence of human intelligence. When we forge links and go beyond the given, we see patterns and relationships and thus see ourselves in a contextual relationship with others.
Understanding the pain of a soldier in saying good-bye to a pregnant young wife is a connection to a painful reality. Every day our soldiers leave their families heading to harm’s way. We should know their pain and share their pain; not to do so insures its continuance. Perhaps if humanity was more in touch with this anguish we would be reluctant to send them.
It was a long time ago, but I have vivid memories of my peers saying goodbye to their wives and girlfriends. We were in the officers’ club; going crazy, celebrating graduating from infantry training. Most of us were shipping out the following day, heading to Vietnam.
In the waning hours of the evening John Kennah and his fiancee, Alice, were asked to sing. They were folk singers in college and always the hit of any party. John began strumming some melodic cords and the two gently floated harmoniously to Peter Paul and Mary’s, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.”
I can still hear them: “So kiss me and smile for me…tell me that you’ll wait for me…hold me like you’ll never let me go...’cause I’m leaving on a jet plane, don’t know when I’ll be back again…Oh babe, I hate to go.” After they finished, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The party was over; everyone just went home.
Years later, I find myself standing at the gate watching American 2270 taxi down the runway. Once again a soldier leaves on a jet plane and his young wife laments.
God bless you, soldier.
JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor specializing in students transition to college. He is a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or write him in care of the Valley Sun, P.O. Box 38, La Cañada, CA 91012.