Well, the third time was the charm for us for this project! For the past seven years, people have been gathering every day at DFW Airport to welcome home soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan through the Welcome Home a Hero program. The program will end on March 14, 2012, so I was dying to get this project done before we lost our chance.
We originally planned to go two weeks ago. Rob and Jake were going to join us, and we had two other families going with us. We made signs (“Welcome Home,” “Thank You,” and “Bless The USA”) and were all ready to go.
The flight was scheduled to arrive at 4 pm. I called the hotline earlier that day to check on the status, and unfortunately, the flight was delayed until 10 pm. I was so disappointed! Obviously, we couldn’t go with two little kids for a 10 pm arrival. So, we rescheduled for the next weekend – an anticipated 2 pm arrival. That morning at about 9 I called the hotline to check on the flight status. Much to my surprise, the flight’s anticipated arrival was changed to 10:30 am. Once again, we couldn’t make it.
Knowing that the program will end on the 14th, I was bound and determined that we would make it this weekend. I blocked out the whole day, and whatever time the flight arrived, Abby and I would be there. Today’s flight was scheduled to arrive at 2 pm but was bumped up to 1 pm.
We arrived about 30 minutes early to be sure we could get a good spot. There were a TON of people there. Girl Scouts were everywhere with cookies in hand to give to the soldiers. The group next to us (not sure who they were) had a cooler of water to hand out, and the nice boys let Abby help hand it out. We were also next to a group of military mothers. None of their children were arriving that day, but they regularly come out to welcome the soldiers. The wait was a tad long for a 4-year-old. (Okay, it was REALLY long for a 4-year-old. She just about drove me nuts. We probably stood in line for an hour before the soldiers actually arrived). But, once the soldiers arrived, it was wonderful.
Today we welcomed home 99 soldiers from Afghanistan and Kuwait. Everyone cheered and chanted “USA! USA!” Many of the soldiers shook hands and gave high fives. Abby loved handing out waters. (She was pretty dejected when someone didn’t want her water, so I spent a good deal of the time explaining that not everyone was thirsty at that time.)
It was so fun to see the families who were reunited. This dad was so cute with his little boy, decked out in a shirt proudly stating that his daddy was a solider.
I am so glad I managed to get this project done before it ended. It was such a wonderful experience that I will probably never forget. The program is ending because the military is no longer sending flights through DFW. I hope the people in Atlanta and the other airports where the soldiers will now be going will pick up this wonderful program and continue it!