Is he thinking of his family? Because I know I’m thinking of mine

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sanjay Allen
  • 49th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Looking out the window of the American Airlines S80 from 36,000 feet at Texas below me, the lights from the cities and towns look like distant galaxies as if I was looking at the stars in the opposite direction. I was on my way home for a quick visit before heading to Combat Airmen Skills Training at Fort Dix, N.J., and a six-month deployment.

Not too long ago I was boarding my plane to El Paso, Texas, at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport and I took my seat next to a Soldier -- one of maybe 15 or so in their Army Combat Uniforms on this flight. As the crew was preparing the aircraft to taxi, which always seems like an eternity for me, I notice in my peripheral vision a Soldier, who's legs are shaking like a leaf, two seats away from me. They were practically bouncing out of his hip sockets!

I wonder if he is as nervous about flying as I am, which is weird since I am in the Air Force and at one time in my career was a flying crew chief. But that was different -- believe me.

So I glance over at this specialist sitting on the other side of the empty seat between us starting with his bouncing legs, and scan up further noticing the eagle below the American flag on his right arm which reads, "AIRBORNE" between the two. I think this young man surely can't be nervous about flying -- He's Airborne for goodness sake!

Before our plane pushed away from the terminal and taxied to the runway for my trip home, I asked him if he was going home to Fort Bliss.

"Yes," he replied with a tired, yet excited look in his eyes.

"From the desert?" I asked.

"Yep," he replied again with the same look in his eyes, his legs still bouncing off the seat in front of him.

To be honest I was hoping I could calm his nerves by talking to him. There is nothing like a friendly stranger who talks to you on a flight when you already hate flying -- just ask my wife about her recent flying trips.

I wanted to talk to him more, but he put his head back and closed his eyes.

I just sat there in my seat looking out the window looking at the flight line wondering why he could be so nervous. Then it hit me. There was a wedding band on his left ring finger. He's probably excited about seeing his family again. I imagine he's been deployed for God-knows-how-long and just can't wait to see his wife and children. I imagined the homecomings I've witnessed before where Soldiers, Sailors, Marines or Airmen get off the plane and their families rush them. They bend over and swoop up their child, spin around and hug them so tight. Then they lay eyes on their spouse whose eyes are welling up like a leaky faucet.

And that got me thinking about my family.

I started thinking about what Col. Will Nichols, the U.S. Air Forces Central Public Affairs director, told us in a conference call from Central Asia at my predeployment PA conference earlier in the day at Shaw AFB, S.C. The very first thing he said to us was, to give a sincere thank you to our families from him and his staff for making sure we are prepared to deploy. The message was from the bottom of his heart -- I could tell, because family is so important in our military today. The Air Force has even been celebrating Year of the Air Force Family since last July until this July.

Family is important to me too. My family is what keeps me ticking. They are the reason I go home at night -- the reason for me to live. Every day I can't wait to go home and hug my wife and hug my children. And when I do that, everything else no longer matters.

My family's honor is what gives me "integrity first."

They are the ones who help keep me happy at home so I can be focused at work, so I can do my job and give "excellence in all I do."

Having a loving wife at home who can take care of the house when I'm not home and still show me love from such long distances makes it possible for me to give "service before self."

To me, my family is everything I have, and I'm sure this Airborne Soldier next to me can't wait to see his.

God bless our families, and God bless us -- my fellow Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.

Thank you Elizabeth, Jaylen, Brandon, Prisha and Isaac. I love you.