25 January, 2007

A Steeler and a Soldier

[UPDATE: Welcome, Titusonenine and SteelCityInsider readers. Please feel free to look around. In particular, I invite you to check out Valour-IT, a charity project that helps provide voice-activated laptops to severely wounded troops.]

For a deployed soldier, the thought of leave is often a shining jewel of hope during the first half of deployment. But leave is punctuated by pain, as when it is over the soldier must once again say goodbye to loved ones and return to the war. Some say that goodbye is even harder than the first one.

But for this soldier, a post-leave journey back to war will be remembered as one of the highlights of his life, thanks to a very special football player [I've reproduced and reformatted it here for readability]:

Let me tell you about one soldier’s return flight to Iraq. He saw a man go into the bathroom at the Pittsburgh airport and he thought he recognized him. When the man came out, he went over to him and said, “Excuse me, sir, but are you Franco Harris?” The man replied, “Yes, I am.” And then, being such a big Steelers fan, [the soldier] asked him if he could have a pic of him. Franco was agreeable to this.

After taking the pic, they talked for a few minutes and [the soldier] told him he was on his way back to Iraq. Franco acknowledged [the soldier’s] sadness and gave him encouragement and safe return. They then shook hands and parted on their ways…

The end of the story, you would think, but not so…

You see, after awhile the soldier’s name was announced over the loudspeaker to come to the desk… which he did. Once there, the lady behind the counter informed him that there was an empty seat in First Class and she was going to bump him up to that seat if it was ok with him. He said he didn’t care where he sat in the plane as long as he made it to Atlanta to catch the Army plane, so she informed him that he was now going First Class to Atlanta. He thanked her and went back to tell everyone as he waited to board the plane.

Once he was seated on the plane, he was waving out the window to his Dad and Pap as he felt a hand on his leg. He turned to his side and there was Franco sitting in the seat next to him!!! Needless to say, they talked all the way to Atlanta about the Steelers and then parted with Franco taking his address and giving his signed ticket stub to the soldier as validation of their trip together.

This was a trip not of sadness and loneliness, but one this soldier will never forget and will talk about forever, thanks to Franco Harris. This act of kindness and generosity from this man is one that words cannot express. In my opinion, Franco Harris is “The man of all men!!” I wish I could thank him for making a soldier's lonely flight back to war one of his ultimate lifetime experiences that he will talk about forever. Thank you, Mr. Franco Harris.

--A Soldier’s Aunt

[h/t Barb of Righty in a Lefty State]