I remember the flight was exceptionally beautiful that night.
Flying out of San Diego on a redeye, as I had many times before, there was nothing unusual. We flew out over the Pacific, banked and rose higher. By the time we reached our cruising altitude, the lights of California's biggest cities were fading.
Somewhere over Southern Oklahoma, I woke up to the most amazing mushroom cloud with lightning flying around inside it like confetti.
As I dozed back off, we cruised into Atlanta just shy of 5am local time.
Normally, the doors open up relatively quickly on a flight that arrives so early. There's no waiting for any ground crew who might be tied up with another aircraft, because you're the only ones there.
But this flight was different.
My fellow passengers and I were growing rowdy, and that's when I saw it-- The Honor Guard and two fire trucks were pulling up to our cargo hold with their lights flashing.
I heard the click of the pilot's intercom, and a few seconds later, he cleared his voice. Then he let us know that we were on a very special flight, and had the privilege of accompanying "Lieutenant Katrina" on her final flight home.
She had passed away while serving in Afghanistan.
They carefully placed her flag-draped coffin onto the trolley specially built for this purpose. I looked away towards the glass that in just an hour or so, would house hundreds of passengers waiting to board this very plane. But right now, this boarding area was empty, save for a a few figures, faces pressed against the glass.
That's when I started to choke up-- it must have been her family. They were gone by the time I made my way to the terminal, so I can never be sure.
I tried to look her up later, and to find out more details about her life. I've always pictured her as a pretty black woman about my age at the time, with neat hair and a smiling military portrait instead of the coffin I saw that morning.
I never learned anything more about her. I don't know who she was friends with on Facebook, or if she preferred margs or beer, but at least I know the most important thing about her: she gave the ultimate sacrifice and it will never be forgotten.
It's always been hard for me to talk about these moments I shared with a total stranger, and how powerful it was.
It's always affected me in a way that makes me very emotional. The motto hand-painted on the back of the Honor Guard best sums up the feeling with it's aptly lettered, "All gave some. Some gave all."
One area we've been severely lacking in here at The Contract Shop® is our support of the United States military.
Today, we're fixing that.
I grew up as the daughter of a commissioned Army Officer of the 75th Ranger Regiment out of Fort Benning, Georgia.
While I don't remember my Dad's military career-- he was in the Reserves by the time I was born-- I've always been proud of his achievements and service.
Now that I'm dating an active duty service member, it's become clear the type of consistent sacrifices our military members make every day.
Their job comes first, even before their relationships. They don't get the luxury of many things civilians enjoy, like weekends off or complaining about their boss.
Ironically, the most American Americans don't get to live a typical "American lifestyle."
But, from the active duty military I've gotten to know, most of them are incredibly proud of what they're doing and the people they're working with.
Seeing firsthand the sacrifices our active duty and veteran service members make, I wanted to help out in whatever small way I could.
That's why I created a significant, permanent discount for these service members and their families. If I can help one active or former service member grow a business, or support one military spouse as he or she creates a location-independent lifestyle to move with their service member's permanent change of station (PCS), then I consider this new program a huge success!
To our US-based active duty service members, veterans and the family members that support(ed) their efforts: we appreciate you today, and every day.
If you are a US-based active duty service member, dependent or veteran, we now have a discount program available to you here at The Contract Shop®.
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