Latoya

Have you read my last post?   My life is weird.   I ask questions (as in that post) and the answers come.

I wrote the post sitting in the Dallas airport watching soldiers walking by.  There was something wrong with the plane and I was sitting there hoping and praying I didn’t have to drive to Houston. I had a zero g flight to do after all, I needed to GET THERE, get some sleep etc.  I made a pact with a young woman next to me, that we would drive the 5 hours together if we had to. We’d be in Houston by dawn.
My IPod played Joni Mitchell Both Sides Now.  I wrote a post, watching the soldiers.  Feeling misty. 

 The plane was fixed! YAY! I sat in the tiny commuter plane and buckled my seat belt.  I crammed my backpack under the seat.  I’ll be in Houston late… no matter.. I’ll get there.

Latoya Jxxx (only fair to protect her privacy)  sat next to me. A gorgeous, very tall, woman. I didn’t notice the dog tags. We started chatting as women often do on airplanes.

It seems Latoya ran from another airplane to catch this one. She is on her last night before shipping off to Iraq for one year. Her last flight was an hour late. THANK GOODNESS we had maintenance problems – or she’d miss a last night with her friends who are waiting to send her off.
She showed me some pictures.  She is leaving a four year old and a twelve year old to serve her country.  She has been in the military for 10 years. She is a soldier, she says.

I couldn’t help but ask, as I watched her eyes tear up as she introduced me to Cxx and Jxx. “Can’t you get a pass or something so you don’t have to go?”

“Yes.  As an only child I am automatically (some military term here).”  She didn’t have to go.   “Well?”

“I thought long and hard about that.  I joined the military as a career.  What am I teaching my children, if when it is time for me to do what I was hired to do, I don’t do it?  I am a soldier.  This is what we do.”

“Lxx, they’d understand.  I’m sure they’d…”

“It is the solider in me.  I must go.  What makes me proud is I am going to dismantle two camps.  I am going so that others can be sent home.  They have families too.”

I couldn’t help but sob like a baby.  It turns out, the kids in fatigues at the airport, are going home.  She mentioned those on the way to Iraq wear their normal clothes.  I sobbed some more.

I told her, “The weakest parts of you are stronger than the strongest parts of me.  Thank you for what you are doing for us. ”

We talked about her motorcycle club.  Her past marriage.  She told me so many beautiful stories about her children, the 4-year old boy and the 12-year old girl.  She saved the best moments for stories about her mom and dad.  (Step Dad, also a soldier.)  She shared stories that indicated a deep love and affection for her family.

One year away from them.  One year.  Sure, she will have Skype, mail, e-mail and still. 

She turned to me as the flight landed.  “Thank you.  This would have been a really hard flight.. thank you for talking.”   Her phone kept singing.  (some club song I just am not hip enough to know.)  She ignored it as we finished our stories and moments with each other. 

I have heard people describe courage, grace, honor and integrity before.  I watched the true definition of those words walk off the plane on August 11th, 2009.  My only regret is that I was so touched and emotional I forgot to give her a way to keep in touch.

Latoya- thank you.

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