If you see a Soldier traveling...

by Kelly Hutchinson, a proud Army Mom from Kansas

I talked to a friend recently about my son's trip home for R&R. He was traveling from Afghanistan to Kansas. She was amazed that it took seven days to travel, he slept in airports and holding rooms, and he didn't have a cellphone or laptop to contact me most of the time (it was stowed under the plane) He got bumped from several flights on various continents, and he had only one change of clothes with him, which he saved until the last leg of the trip because wanted to have fresh ACU's on as he arrived home. 

She asked, you know, when I fly I see a lot of soldiers/military. Often, they look frazzled and exhausted. What should I do for them? 

So, if you see a military member in an airport, train or bus station, what can you do? They're a proud, humble bunch, never looking for assistance or handouts. You may get politely turned down, but please offer!

  • Offer to buy them a sandwich and a cup of coffee or a bottle of water. 

  • Offer to let them use your cell phone to call home.

  • Offer to let them use your laptop to log on and check messages.

  • If you have an iPod and you're on a long layover, let them listen to it for a bit. They may not like your brand of music, but they may be grateful for the distraction!

  • If you have a puzzle book or magazine, offer it to them to help them pass the time. 

  • Be understanding of the fact that they carry a lot of bulky gear with them. I know, you're in a hurry to get home, get to that business meeting or start your vacation. But they are on their way home after months in a war zone. Or worse yet, they just left their precious loved ones to report for duty. Be kind and don't cut in front of them at the baggage claim. 

  • Be understanding about the fact that they may not smell freshly showered (they usually aren't because they can't!) They may look rather rumpled and exhuasted, may have a headache, cold, allergies or otherwise be not running at 100%. They've been off fighting for your freedom and believe me, if they could shower and clean up, they WOULD, but there is never the time or resources!

  • If you have any hygiene items like travel sized facewash, wipes, shampoo, foot powder or toothpaste with you, offer to give it to them so they can freshen up.

  • If they are sleeping, leave them alone. They get precious little sleep and while they're used to that, there's no need to interrupt a soldier catching some quick shut-eye. 

  • Strike up a conversation about their family, where they are going, where they've been. You'll know fairly quickly from responses and body language if he or she doesn't want to talk, so please respect that. But a kind word and a bit of conversation can help pass them time for them.

  • If you are a tobacco user, offer them a dip or a cigarette. I know, it's not healthy, but most of them use tobacco in the high stress environment they work in. 

  • Tell them you will pray for them and their families. And then do it.

  • Thank them for serving our country and offer a handshake!
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