Dad, you will never guess what I just saw!
On the other end of the telephone was Christine, our newly married daughter who lives in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. She was returning from McMinnville, Tn., a town of 13,000, about 75 miles southeast of Nashville. She is a sales rep and had traveled to McMinnville that afternoon to do some work. When she got there, she came upon something she had not expected.
When I was just outside of McMinnville, I began to see yellow ribbons everywhere. There were tied to trees, mailboxes–they were everywhere. No one was traveling on the road. They all had pulled over to the side. Cars lined both sides of the highway. I quickly pulled over behind the last car.
Many people stood by the highway holding American flags. Children stood by these cars holding flags. Then they came…
After 18 months in Iraq, soldiers with the Tennessee National Guard’s 278th were returning to Tennessee. Charter buses were carrying these troops, 98 soldiers, from Camp Shelby, Mississippi and were dropping them off all over the state. Now a bus carrying 24 soldiers, was coming toward McMinnville. On this November, Friday afternoon, these soldiers were coming home.
Dad, I wasn’t sure what was about to happen but then the cars began to approach where we were waiting. There was a long line of cars slowly coming down the highway. The Tennessee State Police were escorting this bus. There must have 20 to 30 State Police Cars. A few were in front and then the bus. They all had their patrol lights and sirens on. As they passed the people on the side of the road, the people standing by their cars began to cheer, scream, and wave their flags. Other people sat in their cars honking their horns.
The bus and State Police escort finally entered the town. Hundreds of people had come to greet these soldiers. The businesses in the town had virtually shut down. Yellow ribbon, flags, and signs reading "Welcome home 278" were everywhere. The Kroger and Wal-Mart parking lots were full of people, waiting for their soldiers.
These people had waited 18 months to see their loved ones. Finally they were home and what a homecoming it was.
One soldier, Matt Conn, said, "It’s a whole different experience. Until you’ve been there and come back home, it’s nothing you can explain."
This is a great story. It is a reminder of how we are made. We are made with a longing for home. On this earth, we have inklings of that longing. At times, we also have a foretaste of a homecoming. Whether we are coming home for a war, coming home for Christmas, or coming home after being away on a long trip, it is good to be home.
And–I suspect that one day, when the children of God are ushered into His presence for eternity, it will feel like we have finally come home.
In the meantime, these homecomings are very special moments.