I am picking up a Turkish friend from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas. His arrival happens to coincide with that of a planeload of U.S. soldiers back from a foreign theater of operations, in what appears to be a regular occurrence given the giant Welcome Home plaque permanently installed on the wall here in the arrivals hall, thanking troops for their service.
Family members have gathered with American flags and are being shepherded into two rows, forming an aisle in preparation for the arriving troops. The shepherds consist of a pudgy blond woman with a clipboard and a grey-haired military veteran with a baseball cap and an earpiece via which he is tracking troop movements toward the baggage claim.
The veteran is also in charge of the stereo that has been set atop a trashcan off to one side. Following confirmation by the earpiece, the stereo starts to blare music appropriate for a carousel. Behind the trashcan is a television screen featuring footage of previous troop homecomings and children hugging their fathers, lest the emotion of the actual moment not suffice. On hand are several video cameras to capture shots for future emotional recycling.
The soldiers trickle in through double doors and make their way down the aisle, beaming graciously. The receiving lines cheer, hug, wave flags, and give high fives. Arriving passengers not clad in camouflage are shooed into a detour route around the aisle, aside from an elderly Indian couple greeted as national heroes due to some oversight by the veteran with the earpiece.
The troops are presented with individual Ziploc bags of Halloween candy and proceed out of the spotlight. Twenty minutes later the spectacle has come to an end, the aisle has dispersed, and the stereo has been shut off and removed from atop the trashcan. When two camouflage-clad stragglers emerge from the double doors, the remaining components of the welcoming committee muster a smattering of applause. Perhaps it was the circus music that sustained the victory.