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Gifts to soldiers reap many returns
By Linda A. Prussen-Razzano
In November of 2003, a number of troops were being rotated out of Iraq for some well earned rest and relaxation. The Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, a major hub for the south central portion of the United States and the primary airport for troops returning to Fort Hood, saw an influx of uniforms in the weeks to follow. As Operations Manager Bob Creighton, a partially disabled Vietnam-era veteran, and Guest Representative Claire Kohanow, whose brothers fought in two wars, saw the parade of troops moving through the airport, they felt compelled to help.
Both were employees of Supershuttle, a company that provided transportation services to the Dallas Fort Worth area. When the airport's own inter-terminal service was overwhelmed, Supershuttle was happy to volunteer their services. The long trek to Ft. Hood was provided for a pittance. But there was more they could do, more they wanted to do, so they contacted Steve Janicek, their manager, for permission to donate their time, energy, and the company's resources.
His reply? "Do whatever you can to help them."
The cost? Free.
What started out as a goodwill gesture of support quickly evolved into a labor of love. In the weeks that followed, Bob, Claire, and other Supershuttle employees worked with Captain Crawford and several military contacts, devoting countless hours to the troops. Whether it was giving them directions, taking them to their connecting terminal, taking them to the Dallas Love Field Airport, or taking them to the Supershuttle office to enjoy an early Thanksgiving celebration, Bob, Claire, and Steve enjoyed every moment.
They were not alone. Employees were soon vying for time with the troops. One employee left his family on Christmas to make the six hour round trip transport from DFW Airport to Killeen, Texas, just so troops could be with their loved ones for the holiday.
The spirit of goodwill did not stop with Supershuttle. Local fire departments saluted airplanes with water arches. Groups donated cookies, snacks, and other refreshments. A couple from Scottsdale, Arizona, gave the troops hand-made camouflage dressed teddy bears. Several airlines delayed their planes to ensure our men and women in uniform made their connecting flights.
Bob and Claire both recall one incident in particular. They had volunteered to come in during the holidays, and Bob brought his personal truck as an extra vehicle. One of the soldiers left his duffle bag in the back of Bob's truck. Bob dropped it off at Lost and Found, only to later spot the soldier. In that bag was a bottle of perfume the soldier bought for his mother. Airport employees retrieved the bag and sent the perfume to the soldier's mother, overnight, at their expense.
This overflowing spirit didn't stop with airport employees or those who service the airport. Passengers would applaud as soldiers disembarked. Grumbling passengers were suddenly happy to wait however long it took so the soldiers could retrieve their bags, catch a shuttle, or make connecting flights. People left their vehicles, stepped out of line, stopped whatever they were doing to shake a soldier's hand and thank them for their service.
According to folks who interacted with the returning troops, the troops stated repeatedly that things in Iraq were going much better than the American media would have everyone believe. Troops spoke of opening schools, hospitals, fixing pipelines and other infrastructure that Saddam's regime had let fall to disrepair. The women and children of Iraq, in particular, were reportedly delighted to have the troops on hand, bringing order and hope to a formerly terrorized and hopeless people.
But Bob and Claire remember more personal moments: like the joyous father who saw his week old baby for the first time, and how he cradled the baby with such fierce protectiveness that folks laughingly plucked the baby from his arms so he could give his wife a crushing hug, instead. The relatives that flew in from all over the country, just to see their loved ones for a few hours. The mother who returned from battle, only to discover that her one year old daughter didn't recognize her anymore, and the tears it brought to her eyes.
The sophisticates in American culture may look upon these events and considered them trite, but to Bob, Claire, Steve, and the many others who took part in them, the gifts of time and effort they gave to the soldiers have come back to them many times over.
And they would do it all again, in a heartbeat.
Linda Prussen-Razzano is frequent contributor to Enter Stage Right and a
number of other online magazines.
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