Sunday, March 14, 2004


Received via email...

It would be easy to dismiss stories like this, to just hit the ‘delete’ button and get on with our day. That’s what I almost did when I got this email. But something about this one gave me the feeling I should stop and read it, and I’m glad I did, and you will be too.

I was flying home from a business meeting recently. It had been a long week, full of meetings, schmoozings, and wheeling and dealing, and I was exhausted. I was looking forward to nothing more than getting home, taking a long shower, and getting straight to bed. In short, getting back to my normal life. I was praying that nothing would happen on my flight to delay or inconvenience my trip home.

So far it had gone okay; I got through the security checkpoint (which I saw as a necessary evil since the cowardly attacks of 9/11) with no problem and got to my seat. But, just as they were about to close the door and taxi the plane onto the runway, I heard those words no air passenger wants to hear…

“This is the Captain, folks, and the plane will be delayed a few minutes while we wait for some very special last-minute passengers…”

A collective groan went through the plane. Who were these yahoos, who couldn’t be bothered to make their flight on time, and who did they think they were, holding us all up like this? No matter who these “very special” passengers were, there was no way, we thought, that they would be worth this delay.

How wrong we were!

A few minutes later, the Captain came on the intercom again. “Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I hope you’ll all join me in welcoming aboard the brave men and women of the 501st Infantry Battalion, coming home from Iraq.”

The door opened, and we all sat in awe as a dozen men and women in immaculate United States Marine Corps uniforms came trooping down the aisles.

After quickly and efficiently stowing their bags in the overhead compartments, the Marines took the few remaining available seats on the plane and we finally taxied to the runway and took off. As it happened, one of the Marines sat next to me. He introduced himself as Lance Corporal Sean D. Roberts, and we talked for most of the flight. He was an unfailingly polite and courteous young man, who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. Corporal Roberts and I talked like old friends through the whole flight, and it wasn’t until we were getting ready to land that I thought to ask him about his experiences in Iraq.

Wasn’t it terrible over there, I wanted to know? How could they stand to be over there, with the heat, and the danger, knowing that the Iraqis wanted all Americans dead?

Corporal Roberts looked me in the eye, and said quietly, “We never even thought about that. Our Country asked us to do a job, and we did it. That’s all that matters.”

I was awestruck. All this time, I had been filled with selfish thoughts about “my” needs and things that inconvenienced “me,” when these brave young men and women were over there, risking their lives to protect the freedoms “we” take for granted, without a thought for themselves.

As we arrived at the terminal, the Captain came on the intercom one last time. “As a favor to me,” he said, “I would ask that you all remain in your seats and allow our very special guests to deplane first.”

Like he even needed to ask; we gladly allowed these American Heroes to exit the plane first. As the flight attendants opened the doors, Corporal Roberts turned, looked me in the eye, and said, “ it’s been a pleasure talking with you sir. And I want to tell you, don’t go to any malls around Thanksgiving.” He offered me his hand, and I shook it, though I was too awestruck to speak.

A tremendous cheer rose through the plane as these courageous Marines collected their gear and filed off the plane. Many of us had tears in our eyes as we watched them go. Finally, as we all rose and left the plane, many of us ran through the terminal, hoping to catch these Heroes for one last handshake or word of congratulations, but they were already gone.

Over the next few days, my thoughts continued to return to my conversations with Corporal Roberts. Even as I returned to work, the deals I made and the meetings I took seemed empty compared to the sacrifices these Heroic men and women made. I finally decided to call the local Marine Corps base, in hopes of doing something special for the brave Marines of the 501st Infantry Battalion. But when I did, do you know what I was told?

The 501st Infantry Battalion was killed in battle near Baghdad.

We all have times when our life seems too stressful, when we feel like we’re being overwhelmed by forces all around us. From now on, though, I urge you all to think of Corporal Roberts and the 501st Infantry Battalion, and the sacrifice they made. They didn’t give up, they didn’t complain, their Country asked them to do a job, and they did it heroically. They made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

If you forward this email to 15 friends, you will receive a phone call at 7:13 this evening with good news. Don’t ask me how, but it really works!

Copyright 2004 Rich Bowen

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