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The 2005 Super Bowl, between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles, was a hard-fought, smashmouth battle of two perennial powerhouses. After the high drama subsided, the Patriots emerged victorious and in so doing, became only the second team (after the Dallas Cowboys) to win three Super Bowls in four years. Yet despite the frenetic pace and Philly’s herculean comeback that almost was, the actual game, in my opinion, was overshadowed by a one-minute commercial spot paid for by Anheuser-Busch.

Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Budweiser, has brought us such Super Bowl delights as the Budweiser frogs, the Clydesdales playing football, and, of course, the Bud Bowl. This commercial, on the other hand, not only was different but also had the most powerful message I’ve ever seen conveyed in a mere 60 seconds.

There is a bustling airport, something all of you going into or out of LAX (where this spot was filmed) can picture only too well. A woman talks on her cell phone. A café worker retrieves a doughnut from a plastic case. An elderly couple smiles while waiting to board. As the humdrum unfolds, the sound of a lone clapper is heard offscreen. Since this is not the noise usually associated with an airport -- even in L.A. -- the passengers look around to see what’s going on. The moment they observe who’s on the receiving end of the acclamation, they immediately become animated and spring to their feet. The applause grows and spreads until the entire terminal -- passengers, airline employees, and airport workers alike -- are engaged in a standing ovation. A platoon of soldiers dressed in military fatigues exits a plane and walks through the terminal. At the end of the commercial, the screen fades to black, and a lone message appears: “Thank You.”

I’ve seen this happen in real life. In the months following the 2005 Super Bowl, I personally witnessed this impromptu tribute occur at airports in Phoenix, Fort Worth, Chicago, and St. Louis. And every time I saw it, every face in the crowd beamed with pride.

I don’t see these spontaneous patriotic acts as much anymore, which says something about the life-imitating-art element of the commercial. But I wish I did.

American Way is honored to highlight our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in this issue with two articles. First, New York–based writer Ethan Rouen got on his bike with wounded warriors for Soldier Ride, a program designed to help impaired troops become reacquainted with an athletic lifestyle despite their debilitating combat injuries. Charismatic like a squad on R&R yet humbling like the applause on the commercial, this story (Click Here) is a must-read. Also, columnist Cathy Booth Thomas tells the inspirational tale of B.J. Jackson (Click Here). Jackson embodies the enduring spirit that has made the U.S. military the best in the world, and he continues to live the fullest of lives in spite of the fact that he lost his legs in Baghdad.

Some of you are fortunate enough to be sitting next to a person in uniform this very minute. I’d like you to stop what you’re doing -- stop reading the magazine, as it’ll be here on your return trip -- and take a moment to thank him or her for his or her bravery, commitment, and love. These warriors place themselves in harm’s way to achieve the ideal of liberty around the globe. And when you step off this plane, take a moment to cherish the freedoms you enjoy -- and be the applause starter.

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Adam Pitluk