When my husband dropped me off before dawn at our small airport on Wednesday for my early morning flight to Florida, I noticed that there were several soldiers in uniform milling about just outside the terminal. A few were looking at the screens of their phones or quietly talking with one another, some were smoking, and all were likely stretching their legs after the long overnight flight. I paused to thank the two soldiers nearest the entry door for their service. I made my way up the escalator to the departure gates and found the rest of the unit taking up most of the waiting area. The one video display on the wall above the moving stairway was tuned to CNN and I quickly realized that the uniformed men and women staring up at the screen were just learning the results of the Presidential election. What did they think about their soon to be commander-in-chief? Were they happy? Were they concerned how it might affect them personally? Or are they simply resolved to accept the authority of the new president as a mandate of their jobs.
I have a personal vested interest in how the president-elect will interface with the military, both active and retired. During the campaign he claimed to know more than the generals. Will that false bravado and his insulting comments poison his ability to develop a good working relationship with the joint chiefs of staff? My reason for flying to Florida is to help my daughter drive across the country and move some of her belongings to her new duty station aboard an aircraft carrier on the West Coast. Will the new president get our young service men and women into needlessly dangerous conflicts to satisfy his hubris? Mr. Trump has also vowed to fix the Veteran’s Administration but has provided precious little information regarding what or how he intends to do that. My father, a WWII veteran, was dependent on the VA for much of his health care during the final years of his life. I continue to believe that we need to treat all our Veteran’s with the dignity and respect they deserve so I hope that what we heard during the campaign was more than just lip service.
Military flights regularly stop in Bangor to refuel and clear customs after overnight flights from US bases in Germany, though the they could have actually started their journey home from deployments to the Middle East, Africa or other European nations. So many of these flights stopover in Bangor, that I am no longer surprised to see soldiers here. But I always feel a sense of gratitude along with a bit of motherly joy in my heart that these future veterans have made it back to the states safely. I am also glad that a strong community of “troop greeters” have organized in Maine to insure that they are always welcomed home with handshakes, hugs, refreshments, loaner cell phones, and the assurance that their service is appreciated. These soldiers are just a small part of what is arguably the greatest military organization in the world. They deserve our gratitude and respect, not just when they are on active duty, but also as veterans when they are no longer wearing the uniform. And not just on Veteran’s Day.