I can’t stop thinking about a boy I met on a flight I worked today, and no, I didn’t meet my future husband. He had the cutest face that almost resembled a slightly older version of the main character from “Leave it to Beaver”, and you could tell he was in the process of turning into a really handsome young adult. He was just one of a whole group of these look-alikes. I was working the back of the plane and he was sitting in the last row, which doubles as the prime spot for getting sucked into having a conversation with me. As I was standing my post watching the boarding rodeo happen, he turned to me with a half smile trying to hide a serious tone and said “Miss, is it in your job description to hold my hand while we take off? Because I’m scared.” This almost melted me. It was his first time on a plane, and I joked with him and told him that his fellow look alike next to him would be happy to hold his hand. The flight was a quick 55 minutes, so I spent the rest of it playing waitress and garbage woman without much time to chat, but I couldn’t stop the thought of these boys going to basic training from running through my head.
Most of them were eighteen and could easily be my little brother, and somehow 55 minutes was enough for me to strangely feel this attachment towards them. I don’t know if it was their politeness or the eagerness in their baby-faced eyes, or both of those things compared with what goes on at war. The one I jokingly assigned to make his seat-mate feel better about flying was telling me about what happens after basic training when I asked, even though I almost didn’t want to know for some reason. He said that a lot of them were going into infantry, and that’s when they’d learn how to fight. This is all a positive thing. They’ve chosen to give up so much of their lives to do something for us, and it really hit home for me in that moment. I almost wanted to tear up. I got selfish really quickly, wanting to give them all a sisterly hug and not let them catch their connecting flight. They were so sweet and so seemingly innocent that it was like I wanted to protect them somehow, from some arbitrary something in their futures that I don’t even really have a clear picture of other than a foggy vision of exposure to harsh scary things. That eighteen-year-old that asked me to hold his hand during takeoff is about to train to do something incredibly brave, all for me and for us and for our country, while I go on doing my job, working these flights that are just routine for me. The way these people sacrifice so much for others became very real for me on that flight, and I still can’t quite wrap my head around it. Those faces are going to be etched in my mind for some time, and I’m hoping that someone up there is taking care of the sweethearts I had the honor of serving today.