We had all waited about 45 minutes in the cold and rain/snow, but we all knew it was nothing compared to being away from family on Thanksgiving and then being shipped off to a war zone in the next week. Besides the girl and boy scouts, there were retired military, bikers and people not clearly associated with any particular group waiting. Spirits remained high.
I didn't really know what to expect. I figured it would a good way to get some perspective on Thanksgiving, but I didn't realize how personal and moving the experience would end up being. Each soldier walked through the crowd in a single file line shaking people's hands, thanking them personally for coming out and even taking pictures of us.
Meanwhile, the assembled crowd of supporters was wishing them a happy Thanksgiving and thanking them for their service. It was so personal and intimate. We were all looking each other in the eyes and connecting. There were many smiling faces and sometimes people holding back tears, both soldiers and supporters. More than once, I heard a soldier make a reference to their children back home or compare the ages of their kids to those in attendance. Some soldiers were moved to hug someone or instigate a group hug with a troop of girl scouts.
There we all were in a random parking lot feeling connected and thankful.