For those without relatives in the military, war news can become a blur of daily press briefings and TV news reports. For Teri Merickel, the conflict got up close and personal during a flight from Chicago.
She walked aboard her United plane to San Diego behind a Marine captain who was with a young woman. The officer was carrying what appeared to Merickel to be a beautiful trophy in his arms. The two passengers were seated directly across the aisle from her. Merickel admired the "trophy" but didn't have a chance to ask what it was because another passenger quickly came back from the first-class cabin and invited them to come up to that section. After they moved, the passenger returned and took one of the empty seats. He started sobbing.
After a few moments he composed himself, apologized to Merickel and explained: He, too, was a Marine en route home from Iraq. He informed her that the beautiful "trophy" she had seen was actually carrying the remains of a fallen Marine. The wife of the deceased and the urn were being escorted home by the officer.
The story doesn't end there. Merickel soon learned that the fellow who had done this good deed was returning home to San Diego on a brief 26-hour turnaround for the first time in nearly a year.
His 9-year-old daughter had saved all her money to help buy a first-class ticket for her dad. But when he saw the grief-stricken widow and her Marine escort sitting in coach seats, he asked a flight attendant if he could give his seat to the woman, and if the captain could take the empty seat next to it.
When the plane touched down, the pilot announced that a fallen Marine was aboard. Everyone was silent and the passengers remained in their places while the widow and her escort disembarked. As Merickel said goodbye, she asked the Marine passenger next to her if he was going to tell his daughter he gave up his first-class seat.
He thought and then softly replied, "Maybe someday."
Friday, September 05, 2003
PLEASE READ THIS