When we welcome them home
I was among the many who stood along the streets of Wellston Tuesday for the funeral procession a fallen soldier killed in the line of duty. I was impressed to see the many who came together to wave flags and honor the man who gave the highest sacrifice as a result of his service to his country. I stood among many. My face blended into the crowds of a number of people I know and and even larger number of those I do not know. We were all there for one cause — to welcome a soldier home.
When I was a child, I remember the heated rivalry between Wellston and Vinton County. For students, especially, there was a great deal of persecution for belonging to one area or the other. One of my school teachers used to even tell the joke, “You know where you’ll go if you do bad things, don’t you?” and before we could give him an answer he would laugh and say, “Wellston.” He obviously didn’t mean it. It was a jest based off an intense rivalry. Tuesday, as I stood on the streets of Wellston, where a giant American flag hung from the ladders of two firetrucks and countless residents waved their flags to honor the fallen soldier, I couldn’t think of any place in the world I’d rather be. It didn’t matter to me that our sports teams are rivals with each other. It didn’t matter that we are from opposing counties. The two areas may tease back and forth, but when it really matters, I think we rub elbows well together. Tomorrow, I may cheer when a Vinton County basketball player dribbles around three Rocket defenders and finds the basket for two points. I may boo when a Wellston football player breaks a tackle and runs for a lengthy touchdown. Today, though, we are neighbors and we are one. A man who gave his life is home. We were there to honor him. How could we possibly focus on the differences among us?
As I stood there with my neighbors from Vinton and Jackson counties and all the residents of other areas, I took a moment to look at myself. I was standing there with many to welcome a soldier home. After giving the ultimate sacrifice, he was now home. He wasn’t driving home. He didn’t have friends and family pick him up at the airport. He came home in a casket. None of us along the street that day were shaking his hands or embracing him upon his return. We could only hoist up our flags and stand together to show our support for the sacrifice that was made. Today, there are still soldiers offering their services for us throughout the globe. Some will drive home or have family pick them up at the airport. Some will have residents lining the streets like we all did on Tuesday. As I continued searching my inner self on the street that day, I wondered when is the last time I showed a soldier this much appreciation when I had the ability to do more than stand on the corner with a flag? Did I shake his or her hand or offer that embrace? I believe that no matter how they get home or who brings them, we should welcome them all. I was proud to stand there in Wellston Tuesday with the crowd who welcomed one soldier home. The town did a wonderful job of honoring him. Now, let’s continue to give such effort when we welcome the rest home, no matter how they get back.