Back in December, Cooper's Cub Scout den gathered early on a Sunday morning at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to welcome home troops flying back to the U.S. from Iraq and Afghanistan.
We lined up outside ropes inside the terminal, saving room inside the ropes for family members and veterans. We all held American flags; many of the Scouts held posters they had created.
When the uniformed men and women started walking from the secure area of the airport into the welcoming area, we cheered and applauded. The boys stood close to the ropes, eager to shake hands and give high fives.
Most of the troops were on their way somewhere else, but a few of the troops had reached their final destination, and family members were right there to smother them with hugs and kisses.
The experience would be emotional under any circumstance. But when I saw daddies reunited with the children and wives they'd left behind and then looked over at my own two children, who will never feel again feel Steve's warm embrace, I was selfishly overwhelmed.
I hadn't considered how difficult it would be to watch these tender reunions. I felt guilty for feeling so sad while these families were so relieved, and I felt guilty for taking Cooper and Katie to watch the reunions so soon after Steve's death. Cooper especially struggled for the next couple of days, though he didn't have the awareness or words to express exactly why.
As we prepare to celebrate Memorial Day, I think again of the troops who come home -- and the troops who don't.
I remember my grandfather, Bill Thomas, who served in World War II. I think of my brother-in-law Greg, who served during the Persian Gulf War. I am thankful that they came home and mindful that over the years there are thousands of dads, brothers, sons, uncles, moms, sisters, daughters and aunts who didn't.
Grief is personal. I think of mine every day, and I share a fraction of those emotions here. And my grief over Steve's death and absence is a fraction of the collective grief experienced by everyone who loves him.
So just imagine, over time, the collective grief over the death and absence of the men and women who have died while serving our nation. I am thankful for their sacrifice and the sacrifices of all those who love them.