Monday, July 18, 2011

The Rest of America Should Take Notes

You might remember my good friend, Chelsea, from my post back in January.  Yesterday, after a twelve month tour of duty in Afghanistan, her husband Joe returned home.  And what a return it was!

Small Town, Illinois, you did it again!  I brag on you a lot... noting how charming and easy-going the folks here can be.  Everyone's willingness to do anything for anyone never ceases to amaze me, and the rest of the country should take notes.  Here, if you need to borrow a lawn mower, someone will more than likely go the extra step and do it for you.  Or if your on bed rest, a parade of folks will be in and out of your home the whole time to cook and clean.  I would know... I've experienced both.  And when one of our own returns home from deployment, people line the streets in 95+ degree heat to give a hero's welcome.

Yesterday I was in awe (once again) of how a community can come together.  Chelsea had made a few phone calls to a few folks just a couple of days before to see what we could do to really give Joe a deserved welcome.  From there the whole thing snowballed and by the time they rolled into town, it was perched on top of a convertible behind a fire engine with its sirens blaring, about 50 motorcycles, and followed by several decorated vehicles that had jumped into their convoy on the way back from Clinton, Iowa.  It had been announced in the local paper that they would be cruising down Main Street around 3 PM and the residents here were encouraged to make signs and line the streets to honor the family.  Sure enough, the streets were lined with people, many waving flags, and when we heard those sirens and saw the family we all cheered, shouted words of thanks, and in my case (and many others) teared up at the sight.  It's easy to forget that we have thousands of men and women overseas everyday risking their lives to protect our country.  It's easy to forget that these men and women have spouses at home that do all that they can to make that void feel small for their children.  It's easy to forget that these men and women have children who change so much in a year and are totally different kids when they return.  And even though we can't make it up to them, I hope that yesterday helped show one family how appreciative we are of that sacrifice.  I cannot imagine being away from my husband for an entire year and being home by myself with the kids, but here in Small Town, Illinois, I know that I would be taken good care of, just as Chelsea was.  America should take notes.

I won't do a good enough job trying to describe the fanfare, so I won't try.  Chelsea wrote a great recap on Facebook, but I'm not sure that you could access it, so I'll leave that for her friends and family to enjoy... it's her story to tell anyway.  But if you'd like to see more pictures and read more about the festivities, you can check out these articles and photos here and here.

Today was the first time in a very long time that my heart really swelled with pride for America.  I grew up as an Army kid, so my patriotism runs deep, but we take it for granted all too often.  Even more than that, I'm truly proud that I can call this family my friends.  And most importantly, I'm really happy that this daddy is back where he belongs- at home with all five of his girls.  Welcome home, Joe!  You were truly missed!

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