I spend a lot of time bashing the ne'er do wells who ride my trains, so today I want to praise Pvt. Luis Feliciano, Army-82nd Airborne. He was on my Waterbury train on Friday night, September 11th (of all days), returning from a stint in the God-forsaken mountains of Afghanistan. He told me that he was heading for his home in Winsted, CT for 30 days of R&R before reporting to Fort Bragg, NC.
"I'm surprising my wife" he said," she has no idea I'm coming home, and hopefully, I can talk her into coming to Ft. Bragg with me."
I thanked him for his service and asked how things were in Afghanistan. He said conditions were rough, considering we had to climb snow covered mountains, twenty five thousand feet up where the air is thin..it makes it hard to breathe. "We were trained for these conditions at Fort Drum," he said, "but nothing prepares you for those mountains."
When I asked if he'd seen any action, he nonchalantly said that he'd been in a few fire fights...only one scary one...but he acted like it was no big deal. He then changed the subject and asked how much a cab ride would be from Waterbury to Winsted. I was about to say that I had no idea, when another passenger, a fellow Army vet, chimed in saying that Winsted was about 30 miles north of Waterbury...and that a cab ride would cost a bundle..."but don't worry," he said, "cause I'm driving you home tonight."
I helped Pvt. Feliciano take his bags off the train, while the army vet got the car and a soft rain began to fall. A street lamp shone upon two silhouettes walking to a late model Ford and loading duffel bags into the trunk. I thought about Luis' unsuspecting wife waiting at home and the surprise that awaited her. I thought about all the members of the service who never made it home. I thought about the families of those lost in the terrorist attacks on that clear, crisp morn eight years ago. It was September 11th...and I got a sudden lump in my throat.