Clarksville, TN – I attended my first “welcome home” ceremony this week. It won’t be my last. As a lifelong resident of Clarksville, and a military brat myself, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to join the celebration of freedom, and the return of warriors from battle who live right here in my community.
Like so many of us, “I’m too busy”, or “I don’t want to put up with the hassle of getting a visitor’s pass”. Let me tell you, those are some of the “lamest” excuses we’ll ever use, to deny ourselves an amazing opportunity to witness such emotion and patriotism, love and respect, and gratitude to those who risk their lives for us, and protect our freedom.
The ceremony I attended was the return of the Commanding General, John Campbell and his command staff. I picked a good one.
I broadcast my morning show from Hanger 3 at the airfield, and was one of the first ones there. As the morning progressed, more and more people began to arrive. The 101st army band was there, senior staff members were there, governors, mayors, celebrities, but more important, family members of those returning home. The wives were dressed up, the children were excited, the anticipation was overwhelming.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the flight is thirty minutes out”, said the voice of the Eagle, Sgt. Ron Waldo. Cheers rang out. The band played louder, the kids started to jump and cheer. Hell, I was into it.
I tried to not make it sound like this was any more special of a return than the others, but by god, this was THE commander of the greatest fighting force on the planet, and he was almost home. I would get a chance to meet him. I didn’t know what I was going to say. “Howdy General”, or “Welcome home sir”, or ” Air Assault Sir”. Thirty seven years of broadcasting, and I was having trouble figuring out the right thing to say.
Just before the plane landed, the families went out to greet the troops as then they returned to Hanger 3.
The plane landed and the soldiers disembarked. They marched to the hanger. The doors closed. The music played. We waited. Then the wives of the three most powerful men at Ft. Campbell skipped, (yes I said skipped) down the center of the hanger, shaking these cowbells and getting the crowd “into it”. Then they took their place on the stage where their husbands would join them.
A moment of silence, then the huge hanger doors opened and there they were. In perfect formation, with General Campbell at the forefront with his loyal soldiers right behind him. Together they marched in, and I was awestruck. These men and women are the reason I live in a free country. These men and women are the reason I get to come and go as I please. These men and women just sacrificed time away from their families and put themselves in danger for me.
Why haven’t I come out to say “thank you” before now? Why have I made excuses for not joining this celebration? I couldn’t answer those questions. I was ashamed of myself. It won’t happen again.
“Air Assault sir, Welcome Home!”