I was at the end of more than a week of travel — two separate trips, one frantic day of laundry and work in between, flying, driving, more driving, new people, familiar people, introvert-stressing PEOPLE all over the damn place. Finally back at DCA ready to fly home, tired, grungy, grumpy … when I started hearing applause across the terminal. Sustained, widespread applause. Turns out a planeload of World War II veterans were flying in for some sort of ceremony. The airline had announced this, and all of my fellow frazzled Friday-afternoon flyers had lined up on each side of the path the vets traveled from the gate all the way to security and were enthusiastically applauding.
Some of the wildest applause came for the handful of female veterans.
And they had a lone musician — a French horn player — playing in each group of vets with a patriotic — or at least jaunty — tune.
After he had exhausted military and patriotic classics like High Flying Flag, that Marine tune that always comes through in my head as “Be Kind To Your Web-Footed Friends,” Battle Hymn of the Republic and — to my extreme joy — This Land is Your Land, he turned to random jauntiness: She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain; I’m a Little Teapot; Oh Susanna!
It was a truly wonderful thing. The vets were beaming, the crowd was smiling and — here and there — tearing up. It took all of us out of our various travel modes (grumpy; hostile; exhausted) and brought us together for a few minutes, appreciating the hard work and real sacrifice of these amazing people.