Surprise

By Bill Lee

When this story was told to me I immediately thought of the Bible (Prodigal Son) story recorded in the New Testament, 15th chapter of Luke and in particular the concluding verse (v. 32), “…for this thy brother was dead and is alive again…”
The ‘brother’ in this story was a classmate of mine who upon graduation was awarded an athletic scholarship to Wofford College where he was a member of an Army ROTC unit and upon graduation was commissioned as an officer.
He joined the local National Guard unit and when the unrest on the Korean peninsula turned into a police action (war), he along with his comrades were federalized and sent for additional training to prepare them for an overseas assignment.
Since he had previous ROTC training, he was reassigned to another unit and ultimately he ended up serving in Korea.
When his tour of duty was completed, he returned to California where he subsequently was ordered to return to South Carolina.
It was a happy homecoming occasion for him, and he informed his family of the time and place of his return, the Columbia, SC Metropolitan Airport.
His mother and other family members traveled there and anxiously awaited the return of their hero family member.
Those returning were assigned on two flights, one military and the other a commercial operation.  At the time of departure, it was understood that the young officer was scheduled to arrive on the military flight.
The details were precise as one might expect from a military operation.
The family knew not only the time of landing but also his flight number.  So they anxiously waited for the joyful reunion.
There were four aircrafts involved and the local officer was scheduled to be on the last flight, but the last flight missed its arrival time and anxiety grew.  The wait extended to an even more alarming delay.
The public address announcer broke the silence when he asked for those anticipating the last flight to gather in an assigned room for an important announcement.
The dread was magnified and finally the grim news came.
The last aircraft had been involved in a crash and details about survivors were sketchy.  The local contingent was now desperate to get further information when an answer to their grave concern came unexpectedly.
The mother felt a touch on the back of her shoulder and when she turned to see who was behind her, she got the most joyous surprise of her life.  It was her son.
How could it be?  He was thought to have been on the downed aircraft.
The explanation was simple.
As an officer, the returning soldier was given the option of either taking a military flight or traveling on a commercial plane that had landed at the airport about the same time as the others.
Indeed it was a happy reunion thereby the recollection of the Bible verse, “…for this thy brother was dead and is alive again.”
Perception is reality.
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Bill Lee
PO Box 128
Hamer, SC 29547