The eagle, the courageous and the blind.

How’s your vision?

You can see clearly if you know what you’re looking for. And you’d have to know what you’re looking for to see the most significant thing in this picture.

It’s a light post, right? Just a big old light stanchion, in this case, on the ramp in the gate area at Orlando International Airport. Is that it?

Look again. Hard to see, but on top of that light post, patiently, quietly and with silent dedication to his task: a bald eagle.

He’s pretty well known among the ground staff and many of the flight crews who pass through the airport. I look for him when we taxi in; he’s usually perched there between flights, something I can relate to, but most folks at the airport don’t know he’s there.

Probably they don’t know because they’re too busy attending to their own travel, their own vacation or business or whatever reason they’ve come to the airport. Not surprising, really.

Unlike the solitary eagle, this is hard to miss and in fact this is mostly what you see in the Orlando airport. But more important than the overweight sunburned vacationers is what makes the magnificent eagle  so difficult to spot: quiet pride, dedication, deadly strength, deliberate discretion, maybe even a camoflauged exterior that blends in with the surroundings. Qualities that like the perch on top of a light stanchion are difficult to see unless you know they’re there and are willing to look hard to see them.

But I do. Maybe because I look with different eyes, because I care about what the solitary dedication and quiet pride in an obscure picture can show you if your eyes are open and focused.

Maybe since unlike most travelers, I’m not there for my own purposes, and as with the Orlando airport, I’m there a lot and so I see things, I take time to look for things others passing through don’t consider. Like the eagle.

A light stanchion, a pay phone, saying goodbye to families–you just have to look, and care. But I have to say, it’s more than just seeing what’s in front of your face. What you don’t see, but which if you care, you know is even more important.

I see this too. On our airline ramp, as one of our fallen eagles makes his way home. Not from vacation, or business, or whatever reason most people fly these days. But from sacrificing everything in the world for you, me and the unseeing regardless. Whether or not we care, or see, or know. The price is paid daily, by our best, brightest, youngest, most courageous and dedicated.

I don’t have a picture of this, but I can’t forget the image of our ground crews as reverently as humanly possible, removing a soldier’s coffin from my jet’s cargo hold, then solemnly placing it on a special, curtained cart to proceed to a waiting, devastated family downline. I don’t have a picture, because I’m usually standing in reverent silence near the cargo hold.

I stand on the ramp, escorting the military escort who stays faithfully with the remains in transit. Then, after paying my respects, I go upstairs into the terminal once again. And that’s the part I hate.

Because there in the terminal, no one knows what’s going on below, on the ramp. No one sees the eagle, no one looks; everyone’s about their own vacation or business or trip. If it were up to me, the flag draped caskets would be raised into the terminal and solemnly carried through while every unseeing self-absorbed passenger in the lounge put down their cell phone or iPod or laptop and stood in quiet respect for the best and strongest among us sacrificing all so that we might go about our travel, our lives, our future. But that’s just me.

I guess it all comes down to what you see, and what you look for. Anyone can see the eagle, and everyone should. Thank God, it’s there regardless.

Donate time or money to the U.S.O., the organization that cares for our military men and women: click here.


8 Responses to “The eagle, the courageous and the blind.”

  1. Damn fine post my friend. Thanks.

  2. Deb Cheney Says:

    I have never told anyone this – I cry in airports when I see men in uniform. Whichever way they are going, I know they are about to face fears and challenges that I can’t even begin to imagine. I want to give them all a hug, a pat on the back, a Thank You. But I never do. This is a very poignant piece, Chris. And, I have seen the eagle. Thank goodness I can still see through the BS.

  3. You’re kind of judgmental, aren’t you? You don’t know who’s upstairs, even a military member in civilian clothes, do you?

    That said, I do share your spirit of gratefulness to the troops.

    • You’re the second person to bring up that comment and you’re right–it’s a valid point: I don’t really know and I am being judgmental, maybe too judgmental. Thanks for the comment.

  4. You made an excellent position with what you mentioned. People ought to read your article to allow them to obtain a better viewpoint about this topic. It was perfect of you to provide fine details and supporting justifications. After reading this, I know my mind is pretty certain on the subject. Carry on the truly amazing work!

  5. mjones52 Says:

    Grew up an Army brat, maybe primed to a few things. Many adult relatives had fought overseas; half my friends in Viet Nam, now mostly gone, too early, from the aftereffects. In the quiet hours the eagles bring a lump to the throat. Good post, good lesson; thanks.

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