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Welcoming back the troops

Until Friday, I’d never watched a soldiers’ homecoming before. I highly recommend it. When you see hundreds of soldiers and thousands of family members reuniting, it personalizes the reality of war. It humbles you. It warms you to see the joy — and grieves you to know that not everybody comes home in a bus. Some are carried out of the belly of a C-17 at Dover Air Base with a flag on their casket.

Flags were everywhere at the Lane County Fairgrounds in my hometown, Eugene, Ore. And proud relatives wearing “Proud Grandfather of a Soldier” and “Welcome home, Brandon” shirts.

As the eight buses arrived at 11:25 a.m., a motorcycle brigade in front, it reminded me of football teams arriving for a game — or home from a game. A few months back, when I called football players “heroes,” a reader chastised me. That, he said, was overstating it. I thought he was overreacting.

But as I watched the soldiers get off those buses, as I was reminded of the hell many have been though, as I saw them hug their loved ones, I realized this:

The man was right. Football players are minor-league stuff. These are the real heroes.

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