Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Marine's flight home

(This post was written on Friday January 16.)
I am writing from Southwest flight 577, from LAX to SJC on Friday at 3:03 pm. This flight is one of the most unique in my experience, having just taxied through a "water cannon salute" in honor of the deceased Marine who is being flown in this plane to his final resting place. His family is accompanying him, seated in the first two rows after watching the loading process on the tarmac.
I've never witnessed such an event before, but it lends a particular note of respect and contemplation to what would otherwise be a rather mundane SoCal-NorCal transit. I heard very little talking as we gained altitude, and assume that I am not alone in feeling struck by this surprising event. Maybe it's telling that it was, in fact, a surprise to me. It's all too easy to forget, from the safety and comfort of my living and working environments, that there are so many Americans who put their lives at risk in unfamiliar, inhospitable environments every day, and have done so for many generations, that in this country I may walk the 12 minutes through Westwood Village and into lab with the peace of mind that freedom (and, frankly, privilege) afford.
So I take this as a reminder to be grateful for this Marine's sacrifice, and for the sacrifices of his fellow servicemen/women and their families. Thank you.
(Upon arriving at SJC, we taxied through another water cannon salute, creating a rainbow, and the Marine was met with a receiving ceremony on the tarmac. The plane and half the terminal were silent as everyone quietly disembarked and then stood, watching, next to the windows.)