Last week I was heading to San Francisco; a young couple caught my attention. I watched the young lovers embrace. He held her close, and she, fighting back tears starred with starry eyes with no resolve as to why he had to leave. Feelings are purest when saying good-bye. A ticket agent flight also watched; there were tears in her eyes. She held the microphone, lingered, and seemed reluctant to announce the final boarding for American flight 2270 for Chicago.
He was a young Marine with three stripes on his sleeve. I saw the French Fourragere so I knew he was with the 5th Marines. I knew where the Sergeant was heading. 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 seemed to speak but never uttered a word. I could see the struggle in their faces; they were trying to find the words to say good-bye. Shakespeare had it right, “Parting is such sweet sorrow!”
I continued to watch and so did the flight attendant; she could no longer linger. 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 Marine turned and then casually glanced back and was on his way.
I watched him disappear into the tunnel and spoke a line from Shakespeare’s, Henry the V, “Touch her soft mouth and march!” Don’t let him see you cry I thought! She kept a still upper lip, and when her husband was out of sight she began to sob. She disappeared into the terminal. The flight attendant who had seen this many times moved efficiently from that harsh reality and prepared for the next departure.
How I wish I could stop this damn war…for their sake…for everybody’s sake.
My dear reader, when we are 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 wife is a connection to a painful reality. Every day our soldiers leave their families heading to harm’s way. We should know 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.
Let me share a memory that happened long ago; it’s of my peers saying good-by to their wives and girl friends. We were in the officer’s 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 fiancée, Alice were asked to sing. They were folk singers in college and always the hit of the 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 bade I hate to go.”
After they finished couples held each other; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The party was over; everyone just went home and John and I left for war the next morning.
John never made it back; Alice disappeared from the friendships we forged. More than 42 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 speed, Marine!