It was impossible not to notice all the new recruits going to San Diego to be in the Navy. Twenty or so men, dressed in regulation blue, sat in the boarding area waiting for their flight. They surrounded another navy man--but this man seemed to have a higher rank and was dressed in white pants and a traditional white navy shirt. I wanted to lean in closer and listen to the advice he was giving his juniors.
When they boarded the plane, the blue clad lads made their way to the back; the white-uniformed man traveled solo.
It seems to be a regular event when army or navy personnel are on a flight, the attendants acknowledge their service to our country with an announcement over the PA system. Everyone claps, especially if the soldiers are returning from active duty in Afghanistan or Iraq. I often see other men and women reach out to give personal thanks. It's warm and fuzzy respect for the men and women who make such sacrifices.
An hour and a half later, we are close to landing, and the flight attendant is rattling off the usual: seat backs forward and the tray table in the locked position. Seat belts secure. All carry-ons stored beneath the seat. This day however, there is an addition to the same old announcements. Our navy man in white is returning home after a year of duty. Applause makes its rounds, but there is more than just a man coming home; it is a homecoming, and his intentions as soon as he reaches the outer bowels of the airport are to ask his girlfriend to marry him. I am only a row away and I hear the congratulations and the good lucks.
Our soldier admits to everyone around him how nervous he is for such an important occasion. "This is crazy, but it's easier getting shot at in Afghanistan than asking my girlfriend to marry me."
He has a unique perspective. I had assumed she would say yes, but maybe not.
That he's more nervous today than he has been dodging the enemy in a war zone, speaks volumes about the opposite potentials that lie ahead.
Relationships require vulnerability. All relationships.
Whether it's marriage, sisterhood, parenthood, friendship, or a work relationship, each one requires care. The moment in the airplane has made me pause and reconsider what it's like to approach me.