“Flyover Country” is that pejorative term used by the so-called coastal or urban elite to describe those vast swaths of our nation that are not cool or hip. Sophisticates simply want to pass over such areas as quickly as possible. No interactions with the denizens of those zones is needed, let alone wanted. These regions have little to offer. Geographically and culturally, North Platte, Nebraska is right at the heart of “Flyover Country.”
Perhaps its relative obscurity is why this editorial from the Wall Street Journal caught my eye. I had no idea that in World War II North Platte was a major rest stop for troop trains traveling east or west. That the citizens of this small city took on the monumental task of offering respite and refreshment to millions of soldiers, sailors and airmen is a remarkable footnote to the history of that “greatest generation.” But it is history and at this point just about the only people with much recollection of that period were children at the time.
Maybe communities have a collective memory. Perhaps it is something in the culture. It’s something, however. This summer an Arkansas National Guard unit was returning from training in Wyoming. A brief stop was planned in North Platte. More than 70 years after the last troop train rolled through that city, the citizens mobilized to welcome 700 guardsmen on their way home. And their hospitality was expansive indeed. Reading this article, I was really touched and so was my wife when I shared it with her.
Most of us say we respect and care about those who serve our country. We frequently offer “thank you for your service” to veterans and service members. Those might be sincere expressions – and they usually are - but how many of us are willing to go beyond words and actually do something? Well, the people of North Platte were certainly willing.
Offering hospitality to a traveling soldier is a fine way to thank them for their service in a real and helpful way. It is a lesson I will try to remember in my travels about the country. If I have the chance to do something for traveling service men and women, I will try to do so.
So, “Flyover Country” may lack sophistication. Some of us can make jokes at their expense, but the people of North Platte, Nebraska gave us an example that all of us should take to heart. God bless them!
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