I saw the soldier walking down the concourse in front of me, wearing the gray and white BDU's that appear to have replaced the old green on green. (I'm guessing green uniforms would stand out in the desert). There was a ratty old and obviously very "loved" stuffed animal of some sort strapped to the top of the soldier's pack. It was very obviously not a new gift for a child. It struck me as odd. The soldier was very small. The pack was so large I could only see the top of the soldier's head.
I saw the same soldier later in the gate area and understood the stuffed animal: the soldier was a freckle faced girl, who could not have been more than nineteen. She was returning on leave from a tour of duty in Iraq.
When our plane landed, the stewardess asked the passengers to welcome her home. As cranky and surly as we all were after our delayed flight, every person on the plane applauded.
The last time I saw her she was lifted off the ground in the arms of her boyfriend and surrounded by her joyfully tearful family.
I respect the kids who are willing to serve their country, and honor the sacrifices they and their families make on our behalf. I sincerely hope there is a special place in hell for political leaders who send teenagers (female or male) to wars half way around the world for no good reason.