Recently, a domestic flight left Charlotte for Kansas City with about 150 passengers onboard. Two of them had come a very long way. As the passengers were getting off the plane, there was the typical scene of people activating their cell phones and patiently waiting to disembark.
But the two travelers were holding up the plane. Their families stood with tears in their eyes as the other passengers waited to get off the plane. There were six friends waiting for the pair, as well. They held American flags and were dressed impeccably.
The six approached and waited as one of the travelers was unloaded from the cargo area. They placed a flag over his coffin and loaded him into a hearse.
The government forbids pictures of soldiers coming home with flags draped over their coffins for a reason.
As I walked into the terminal, the president was on TV talking about the "global war on terror." As the motorcade of family and friends drove away, I wondered if anyone else in the terminal was as outraged and upset as I was to see these sacrifices made in the name of our country, our freedom, our security.
I was near the front of the line at the rental car agency when one of the soldiers in uniform came in to get another car. He had the presence people have when they've seen and done unspeakable things—like being in battle and watching comrades die while trying to kill the enemy. He was a soldier following orders, fighting for his country, freedom and beliefs. Same as his enemy.
As he stood there, I looked into his eyes and said to him "I'm sorry you have to go through this." He simply shook his head and didn't say a word. What would he have said if he had permission to speak freely? Would it be something about being honored to protect the freedom and security of all Americans? Or would it be, "Why did America do this to us?"
He put the car expense on his credit card but said he might not have enough to cover the deposit.
We're in Bush country. Where a soldier puts funeral expenses for a colleague on his personal credit card. Where dead soldiers travel on domestic carriers to save money. Where the public is censored from the horrors of war, including pictures of flag-draped coffins of young soldiers because it would cause anti-war sentiment.
I was visiting my mother in a very small town in Kansas you've never heard of. These heroes are from similar places. Their family farms have been shut down and replaced by giant corporations. Manufacturing has been sent overseas. The stores in town have been shut down and replaced by the giant smiling face "buy everything here" store.
What remains is employment in fast food or the giant retailer. Or you can enlist to support your family. The risk is you may come back in a flag-draped coffin that only your immediate family will ever see, another necessary casualty.
Am I un-American? No, just one who thinks it's patriotic to question our government and its motives. Not supporting our troops? No, just not supporting the leader, who never even finished his duty.