Families: Take advantage of military gate passRecently, after my wife and I saw our No. 2 son off to Iraq after his mid-deployment leave, I wrote how airport security has made a shambles of the traditional farewell.
By: Dale McFeatters, The Dickinson Press
Recently, after my wife and I saw our No. 2 son off to Iraq after his mid-deployment leave, I wrote how airport security has made a shambles of the traditional farewell.
I described how we arrived at the airport early because of the two variables that can delay you — checking in with the airline and clearing security. We stood clustered at the entrance to the security checkpoint and watched awkwardly as he shuffled back and forth though the maze, too far away to talk to, too close to wave at.
We stood on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of him as he hoisted his pack onto the conveyor belt, disappeared briefly to take off his boots and then reappeared in the crowd on the far side of the metal detector, now too far away for all but a token wave. It was all very unsatisfying.
I noted in the column that the way most airports are set up, at least the ones I use most, the best bars, restaurants and shops tend to be on the far side of security, available only to ticketed passengers. I would have liked to buy my son a couple of beers so I could point out that these were the last ones he was going to have until next year.
The week following the column I received a lot of e-mails from people commiserating with me, including parents of service members who had the same experience. I also received a smaller number of e-mails, including eventually one from the Transportation Security Administration itself, saying I was wrong, that the families of service members can get a pass from the airline ticketing counter allowing them to go through security and accompany their loved one to the gate.
I’m happy to be wrong. But — perhaps I’m more inattentive than most — I’ve never seen a sign or notice to this effect. And no airline agent, checking in a burly young man in camouflage, clearly en route to Iraq, accompanied by his parents, ever suggested, “Let me fix it so you can go to the gate with him.”
The information is on the TSA Web site, but pretty far down, beneath the instructions for a unit checking its weapons and ammunition, not a problem I’m likely to have.
Now that we know this, I urge all the families of arriving and departing members of the military to get passes and go to the gate for decent farewells and welcome-homes.
As a family, we’ve got two tours of Iraq under our belt, and since both of our sons are planning on making careers of the military, we’ve undoubtedly got more partings ahead of us. A couple of beers would help.
— McFeatters writes for Scripps Howard News Service.