Soldiers Return Home for Thanksgiving

E-mail Maggie Lineback
VIDEO: Soldiers' Thanksgiving Homecoming, Part I
VIDEO: Soldiers' Thanksgiving Homecoming, Part II

Thursday, I’ll sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with family in Ohio — and I’ll appreciate it.

I’ve worked in television news since I was 17. Consequently, for most of my adult life, I’ve worked on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s — you name it — and usually a million miles away from home. When you finally do get those days off, they really mean something to you.

I was thinking about that this morning as we videotaped U.S. soldiers arriving at DFW Airport from Iraq and Afghanistan. Each day, a plane carrying more than 100 soldiers lands at DFW. They land only here and in Atlanta. The soldiers are coming home for two weeks of “R&R.” Most are not from Dallas and are just making their way through the airport to find the plane that will finally take them home. You wouldn’t know it from the greeting they get here. Today, there are about 100 people whooping and hollering and cheering for the soldiers as they arrive.

VIDEO: Click over to watch
soldiers' homecoming:

Part I I Part II

At first, the soldiers look at little confused — it's like they're thinking, "Who are all these people?" Then, smiles break out and they go down the line, shaking hands, hearing, “Thank you,” and making their way on to the buses outside that will take them to their terminals. The greeters are a mix of young and old, family and volunteers, some Boy Scouts, some veterans. There is a group here every day, meeting every plane. They have hand painted signs and flags and ribbons. Mostly what they have is appreciation, appreciation for the sacrifices these soldiers and their families are making.

It’s hard not to be moved. Or rather, it’s hard not for me to be moved. Standing there among all those people doing something so kind for complete strangers reminds me of my own father, a Vietnam veteran, telling me about his experience coming home. He walked through the airport in his uniform. He wasn’t spat upon. He said that people, "Looked right through you, as if you weren’t there.” It makes me sad and angry to think that a 22 year old should have had to experience the worst of his country after having just given his best. My Dad got back just before I was born.

As I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner Thursday, I will thank God that I even know my father, and not from pictures or stories like other little girls whose Dads did not return home, but really know him from our now 37 years together. I will also be thankful that my three brothers, if not all sitting next to me, will at least be out of harm’s way. And I will be thankful for the service members and families who do not have this luxury, who — apart from the turkey and stuffing and football and pie — do not have the most precious thing this holiday season — time together.

Maggie Lineback is a Dallas bureau producer.