Last week, I found myself standing in a quiet Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as the sound of bagpipes playing filled the terminals. America’s heroes were being honored with applause, thank-yous, hugs and tears.

I was heading out of town, and as I walked through security I saw a few TV cameras and airport staff standing together. I walked along to grab a juice before heading to my gate and saw more people lined up, some of them holding flags. I stopped to ask a lady and she told me they were preparing for an Honor Flight departure. They invited me to stand with them and handed me a flag.

Before the bagpipes started playing, I watched as people talked on their phones, typed on their computers and walked to their gates. I watched as they went on with their day. I became even more grateful for the service of our veterans.

Honor Flight Austin is a nonprofit that pays for veterans of World War II and the Vietnam and Korean wars to take one-night trips to Washington, D.C.

I happened to be lucky enough to be at the airport for the 52nd Honor Flight Austin.

It was overwhelming. The emotions I felt took over. I was crying. I was saying thank you. I was proudly waving a flag that the kind lady had handed to me.

As I was documenting the moments on social media, I felt a pang of regret for not giving all my attention to the heroes. Then I watched as the notifications on my phone popped showing me all the people watching the live video I was streaming, and I felt happy I could share this moment of gratitude.

As the wife of an active-duty service member, I watch how people approach my husband when he is in uniform to say thank you or offer to buy his coffee or lunch. I have witnessed first-hand the appreciation our nation has for our military today.

I also know this wasn’t always the case.

These veterans that were headed out on the Honor Flight had not felt the love, kindness and compassion when they served and when they returned from war.

It’s often hard for to me wrap my head around the lack of love and appreciation these heroes felt.

I can’t imagine returning from war without the gratitude we see today.

Thankfully, nonprofits along with the private sector and Americans everywhere are finding ways to show these veterans love and gratitude.

As this group passed by me in the terminal, I watched as tears were streaming down some of their faces and others were smiling. The emotions for everyone in that moment were so very special. Each and every person was dwelling in the same place in their hearts, that we all became one.

It got me thinking about making an effort find ways to show gratitude to our veterans. As military spouses, it is in our nature to give back anywhere and everywhere we can.

Find ways to show gratitude — it might be with a thank-you and handshake when you come across that veteran proudly wearing his Vietnam Veteran cap, or it might be getting involved with an organization or it might mean donating money and time.

Whatever it is — do it. Show gratitude. Show love. Be brave. Be the light.

From this military spouse, I am thankful for your service. I am saddened by the lack of love you felt when you served and returned from war. I am determined to show you what gratitude looks like.

Reena O’Brien is a military spouse and Herald Correspondent. She lives on Fort Hood.

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