After a month spent in Minocqua and Madison, Wisconsin, the kids and I (as well as Tom, who joined us for the last three days of our journey) have returned home to College Station.
Our flight left Madison at 6:30am on Sunday morning, so we arrived at the airport around 5:15am. I expected empty terminals because of the ridiculously early hour, but when we stumbled through the sliding glass doors we found ourselves in line to check in behind a deploying United States Army unit. Had the circumstances been different - if our check-in had been delayed because of a group of teenagers on a choir trip or college students on spring break - I'd have been annoyed about the wait and worried about missing our flight. Instead, I found myself taking advantage of the relative quiet (the only real noise was Hallie singing like Ariel, The Little Mermaid) and reflecting on the gifts these soldiers were about to give - had already given, really - to our country, to me, and to my children. Freedom. Choice. Hope.
I "awoke" from my distracted state when, as the first soldier finished checking in and moved away from the counter, the line shifted forward. I watched this soldier walk toward the escalator at the end of the terminal, and I wished him strength and courage and luck in my head.
When he was about 25 yards away, he turned around to look at me (perhaps he'd heard Hallie's singing) and we locked eyes. He continued walking, but brought his left arm up and across his chest, stretched his left hand over his right shoulder, and with two fingers, gave me the sign of peace.
To be honest, the 24 hours leading up to that moment were not my best. The details aren't important; what's important is that I was struggling. As I lifted my own two fingers to mirror his, the meaning of the sign washed over me. Peace. As if he hadn't given me enough already.