Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back from Iraq: Friend's Son Returns to Hero's Welcome

My friend's son came home from Iraq Sunday, and the whole experience is well worth writing about. Greeting him was a little bit of Americana so nostalgic and reminiscent of an earlier, more innocent time that I just have to put it down.

Apparently, the vision she had of his homecoming included friends, lots of friends, lining the entire cul de sac where they live, waving flags and shouting a heartfelt welcome. I'm happy to say that her faithful ward, neighbors, and relatives happily complied with both the flags and the shouting. (Flashlights and fireworks were added too, since his arrival was delayed until after dark, largely because he was giving interviews to the news crews who were there to meet him.)

I don't know much about the armed services, but this kid is a force recon marine. From what I can gather, force recon is the most elite unit in the marines, sort of like navy seals is for the navy. Seeing this tall, lean guy in camouflage and army boots was pretty awesome, and I've never been a pushover for a uniform, by the way. The thing is, he really does appear larger than life. Just looking at him makes you proud.

But I was even more proud to be a witness to the "entourage" that surrounded him with love and support Sunday night. A big crowd came out to assume their requested "cul-de-sac-lining" positions about half an hour before he was scheduled to arrive. It was a cold, autumn night, but parents brought even their youngest children to share in the experience of honoring a young man who had put his life on the line for our country. There was much joy and anticipation at the prospect of seeing him again, and a fever pitch of excitement electrified the air. As the lead car (yes, he even had a one-car escort!) turned the corner, flashlights went on and sparklers were lit as everyone began shouting and whistling and waving flags. (Though my friend had provided small flags for everyone, many had brought full-sized ones from their homes and were waving them in the wind.) I want you to know that being there was just spectacular. An honor. 

Suddenly, the car that held him stopped for a moment at the very head of the cul de sac. We all laughed and cheered as he came up through the sunroof to sit on the car and wave at everyone. In the glow of the flashlights, you could clearly see that he was both surprised and delighted. As he passed by, people greeting him on the sidelines would close ranks behind the SUV and follow it slowly toward the house. Because I was at the mouth of the cul de sac, I was walking right behind the SUV most of the time, watching the "parade" from the back. I had a great view, because shortly after he took his place on the roof of my friend's car, someone started shooting off fireworks, one at a time. The first one soared over his head like a comet and burst in the sky. Then another was let fly, and another, until the night air was thick with smoke. My throat was thick too, with (sort of) unshed tears. After all, I was trying to greet our hero with a smile on my face.

It was a spectacular sight, like a 4th of July parade in the pitch dark of a small town in the 1940's. I felt like I had stepped into the best, warmest and fuzziest movie I had every seen...complete with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed...to say nothing of Mom and Dad and apple pie. Frank Capra could have directed it himself.

Even better, Frank Capra didn't direct it! Love did. Love of friends and love of country. Tried and true values that are still alive today, even with all the trials and troubles we're experiencing.

And so, I'm grateful to report here for all of you that this wasn't a movie. It was real. My friend's son was home at last. He was safe and sound, and she was beaming so brightly she didn't even need a flashlight. When we all went up to hug her, she told us that this was the happiest day of her entire life, even better than the day he was born.

It was a happy day for all of us, one we will long remember. America is alive and well and doing fine in small town California, along with one of our native sons. Welcome home, Garrett. You make us proud.

And you remind us that we are all patriots. Still.


Julie said...

That was one of the funnest times I have had with my boys.

emily said...

that is so cool! i have become a daily reader of your blog:-) i am the one who loved that you went o'natur'all with your hair color and was getting the courage to do the same with mine. i'm one step closer now! i dyed it darker today to get the blonde out and LOVE it. i feel so much more like myself. back to the basics, that's what i say! thanks for your example.

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