By Quinn Murray, TSB Contributor
Every day, hundreds of soldiers on two-week rest and recuperation leave arrive at DFW International airport. And every day, Donna Cranston awaits those soldiers in terminal B, gate 23.
Since her son and nephew were deployed overseas (her son to Iraq, nephew to Afghanistan) in 2004, she has driven from her hometown, Coppell, to the DFW airport every day–365 days a year– for nearly eight years.
The scene is powerful. Tears are shed. Families reunite for the first time in months — years, even. Donna never fails to stand by, greet and thank each and every troop.
“I pretty much plan my days around being out there,” Donna said. “I like to take the opportunity to look these guys in the face and see who defends our country, and let them know that they’re appreciated and supported. ”
Oftentimes, past war veterans and grateful citizens join Donna in welcoming troops home.
“I think it’s important for our troops to know that they have support when they step back on American soil,” Donna said. “It’s great when a lot more people come out [to the airport] on their own initiative.”
Showing gratitude of her military support, President George W. Bush invited Ms. Donna to the White House in 2006.
“It was incredible. I never would’ve imagined in all of my life that I could’ve been there,” Donna said. “[President Bush] was so very gracious and warm. He went around and asked about what I did and thanked me.”
On top of her tireless efforts at the airport, Donna is the founder of Defenders of Freedom, a 501 c 3 non-profit organization that provides emergency assistance to destitute or wounded soldiers waiting for their benefits to start.
The date of the final soldiers flying into DFW from the Middle East is fast approaching, so Donna is refocusing more of her time on Defenders of Freedom.
“We try to keep them stable and maybe pay a car or house payment,” she said. “Or give them gift cards and stuff.”
The organization is always seeking outside assistance and donations. To help contribute to her cause, visit her website, DefendersOfFreedom.us.
Photos by Shelby Tauber, TSB Contributor