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Welcoming Home a Fallen Soldier

Emotions were even more palpable Saturday as we were welcoming home a fallen soldier in order to say farewell.

On Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, when most families are running out to the neighborhood barbecue, one Wheaton family sat in an airplane hangar waiting for their son to return home from war. 

Sadly, they weren't able to greet him with hugs, kisses or the promise of a weekend filled with new memories.

They were met with a flag-draped casket, only to be left with memories past.

Memorial Day weekend is the one time of year when Americans are supposed to remember, reflect and give thanks to those who fought so bravely for this country. So on this holiday weekend, emotions were even more palpable as we were welcoming home a fallen soldier in order to say farewell. 

A gentle breeze ushered the chartered plane into a silent hangar filled with veterans and volunteers holding American flags.

A hearse near the exit set the tone and reminded those gathered what type of homecoming this was.

Patriot Guard riders with flags flanked the rows of chairs, protecting family and friends from the prying lenses of the media, who were asked by the family not to snap photographs of them as they greeted the body of their son.

Not every military family allows the press to private moments such as this so we remained to the side. I had covered a few homecomings but none like this.

We all waited in silence.

The weight of the situation fell heavy on my heart as soon as those hangar doors crawled open. My eyes welled with tears. An uncommon occurrence for a journalist like myself. Maybe it was because Samuel Watts was only two years older than my only brother and had siblings mourning his death. Or, maybe it was because it was Memorial Day weekend. One chance when all those who take advantage of America's freedoms should commemorate those who gave their lives for us.

It was in that moment that I wished those rushing to the block party were here to be reminded of the true reason for the holiday weekend.   

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Michele Smith May 28, 2012 at 05:23 PM
This was such good food for thought on this Memorial weekend. A reminder to all of us what it is all about. Thank you for spot on observation.

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