Welcome Home 2/25 Marines!

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We had the honor of participating with the Patriot Guard Riders in a welcome home for the 2/25 Marines In Garden City, New York, today.  The weather forecast was for rain, but just a brief sprinkle fell and that before the buses arrived!

A huge and enthusiastic crowd filled the parking area in front of the Headquarters.  Large tents had been set up with tables and seating in the event of rain, while smaller tents had teams grilling hamburgers and hot dogs.  Big Ice coolers were stocked to overflowing with soda and water.  Other tables had information brochures teaming with information on how to assist your Marine reintegrate into daily life.  Nothing was lacking, especially proud Marine families and flags!

Fire companies from across Long Island sent tower ladders to erect huge flags over Stewart Avenue and in the entryway to the Marine Corps Headquarters building.  The Nassau County Emerald Society band was out in full force, bagpipes at the ready.

As word spread that the buses were nearly here, the families streamed from the large tents and joined us, the firemen and the Patriot Guard Riders manning a flag line along the route the troops would follow into the compound.  It was a happy raucous crowd that cheered as each of the six huge yellow buses rolled past with Marines peering out the front windshield and the side windows trying to catch a glimpse of their loved ones in the crowd.

The sights and sounds of joyous reunions filled the air as the Marines were released from formation after they were marched off the buses and into the reception area in the parking lot.  It was a moving experience even for those of us who were not greeting a loved one.  It made you proud to be an American.

Updated:  A letter from a Patriot Guard Rider to the Ride Captain about how being present moved him:

Subject: RE: TONITE!!! HOME COMING,**** An open letter of thanks
Russ,

You said it would be a feeling like no other. Well that was an understatement. To be there to honor those marines, to talk to the mothers, fathers and families. To hear how happy they are, what preparations they made for dinner, the repainting of the marines room, and Ooh my it’s sand color and we need to add different colors to not make it look like
Iraq. To hear Mom talk about what she has been briefed on as far as her son might act or how he sounded between the lines of the video cam or the letters. To Hear Dad speak of the pride he feels when he speaks of “His son”. To see the little girl jump up and down when she sees “Daddy, Daddy that’s Daddy Mom” in the window of the bus and mom is standing there with her hand over her mouth holding back the tears and says “Yes that sure is your daddy”. To have the honor of sharing a few precious moments of this joyous reunion and home coming with a few of the families and to hear the families say thank you to us, I was truly privileged to be there tonight.

I was very fortunate tonight to ask for the 10th time just like many others when we saw a marine with his Pack, Duffel, and Carry on etc. “Can I carry some of that for you?” Well this marine was with his wife pushing a stroller with their youngest and her ‘Older’ Sister of about 4 and he had all of the above plus a Garment bag. He said Sure and thank you.

As soon as he put it down for me to carry I knew I did the right thing because his daughter grabbed his hand before I got near the luggage. She did not let go until we crossed the street, went to the parking lot, and went to almost the back corner to their car. Both He and his wife could not stop thanking me. Me! All I did was offer to carry a piece of luggage for a man who just spent a year from home and 7 months of it in Iraq!

We had a few minutes to talk and when he thanked us for being there for the 3rd time I asked if it had done some good (Us being there). He stopped on the side of the road and, while holding this cute little girls hand, with his wife pushing there youngest daughter in the stroller behind, said “You have no Idea! It was Out Standing!”  He resumed walking and turned to me and said “If you were on the bus and heard them, some of the ones that were thinking about getting out. What this meant to them. That people other than there family cared what they did. They know it is important but to have all this, I really believe that some of them might stay in.”

I spoke to the wife for a little while because they did have to park all the way in the back of the lot across the street (Now I know that I’m no spring chicken but I switched hands twice and was out of breath for about ten minutes after carrying 1 garment bag, while he carried a pack, Duffle and some other bag on his arm and kept his other arm and hand free to hold onto his daughter’s little hand, carry on a conversation with me, and wasn’t even a little winded). When we got to their car he said thank you again and I said goodbye to him and his wife and started to walk back.

I realized that their was one part of the family that I did not say goodbye to so I turned around and she was standing by her little sisters stroller while Mom AND Dad packed the car so I bent down and asked “You are proud of you Daddy aren’t you?” to which she stood up straight, A big smile went across her face and she said “Yes Sir, You bet I am very proud of Him!” to which I was able to muster enough calm for the 1 second I needed to say “Good, you take care of him” and I made my hasty retreat back to the truck. Later, while I was driving home, I could not remember the last time I felt so ‘GOOD’ just seeing what makes this country what it is.

I really want to thank you Russ, John & Dave and now you, Joe, as well as Col Lee (I Know you will see this even if you say you stepped down) for doing what you do in order to make these missions happen whenever and wherever they are needed.

Russ like they say you are “Semper Fidelis”.

To the people that I ride with, Thank you for allowing me the privilege and the honor to associate with a group of people that get nothing but satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishing their duty as each one sees it.

Jim

TV News vans were clustered in the area and there should be substantial coverage available in at least the local media.  Those reports will be linked here as they become available.

Here are some of my photos.  The later, better photos in that album are by Alice of the PGR.

For awesome pictures and video go here.

Newsday has a report and video here.

Fox has a report and video here.

Here are some short scenes of the buses on Stewart Avenue about to enter the Marine Corps Headquarters.

Video 1Video 2 And a longer one from a different perspective.

Here’s the best yet of the arrival of the buses on Stewart Ave.

More photos are here.  And here.

The NY Islander Hockey Team members also helped welcome the troops.

And some more photos on the Nassau Fire Departments’ message board.

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